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What can I do to support my children’s language interests if I don’t speak the language?

Thank you for your interest in the gift of languages for your children! This interest deserves recognition and encouragement from your gray tortuga community. Language learning is a lifelong journey and as parents, we have decided to start this journey in our children’s early years.

My family embarked on our Mandarin language adventure nearly a decade ago, and with every year, there are new curiosities and connections to the language and culture. We are fortunate to have a Mandarin immersion school as our partner and reside in a city with the oldest and largest Chinatown in the US but the question still lingers: What can I (as a non-Mandarin speaker) do to support my children’s interests and growth as a Mandarin speaker and global citizen? I am not alone in this quest of understanding the parent’s role (when you don’t speak the language yourself!) in supporting language learning so I humbly invite you to the dialogue by sharing some tips…parent to parent.

What I have discovered to be most meaningful is to express genuine interest in your children’s language learning experiences. Simply, be on the journey together. How?

-Learn the language and culture alongside your children: I learn constantly with and from my children who feel empowered and proud to teach their mom the correct pinyin tones and share cultural stories about Autumn Moon Festival and the Chinese Zodiac.

-Create a language-rich environment: Children learn about themselves and the world through their five senses and social relationships so we have Mandarin books accessible at home, popular Chinese music in the car, gray tortuga bilingual labels in their bedrooms and bathrooms, cultural Chinese games mixed in with Monopoly and Uno, and cultural food and cookbooks (including my chef-in-training son’s “I love to cook” chef apron and hat in Mandarin).

-Build a network: Language connects people and human experiences so whether it’s a native-speaking tutor or family member or a friend of a friend, language truly comes alive with others.

-Be in the know: Multilingual education is growing rapidly and so are online resources and tools, research, local in-person opportunities, and immersion schools or language programs.  

Fostering a multilingual home culture IS a commitment but it deepens beautiful relationships with our children with fun, joy and love! We look forward to helping you give your children the gift of another language. Join us. Sign-up, share the site with friends and family, buy our products, and share your stories at


Jane Choi

Advisor to gray tortuga and parent of multilingual family, October 19, 2018


Oct 19, 2018

Thanks for these helpful tips!

Jennifer V.

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