We have a 1.5 year old boy in an English-only household. We'd like him to learn Chinese (Putonghua / Mandarin) over the next ten years or more. What are some of the best ways to get him exposed to the language (and at what rough ages should we start that exposure)?

Bear in mind at this stage he is developing quickly his understanding of English and starting to speak basic English words. So we don't want to confuse his English learning and development but want to offer him the best opportunities to learn Chinese at the appropriate stages.


My wife and I are Chinese. I'd like my boy to learn English and raise a bilingual child. I think the best time for children to start learning a new language is on their first day. Older children can still learn new languages, but unless they are gifted, they will never be as fluent as native speakers. Take myself as an example. I started learning English when I was 14 years old and completed my university and postgraduate studies in Canada. I can speak and write English, but I will never be as good as the natives.

According to my reading, if toddlers are exposed in a bilingual environment, they will initially be confused and they will speak later than other children. But gradually, they will catch up. At school age, they will be able to master the both languages, and even have a better understanding of their native language than the other kids.

  • Thanks for your response. What ideas would you suggest for "toddlers [to be] exposed in a bilingual environment" given my wife and I are English-only speakers? TV shows in Chinese (although he haven't introduced TV to him yet)? Chinese radio? – kmccoy Nov 28 '20 at 2:38

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