English is not Ah Lok's first language. It is his preferred language. I believe his mother speaks to him in Cantonese.- the first language he learnt is Chinese. Cantonese is his mother tongue. This is my understanding of first language. The language a child FIRST learnt. My children were born in Canada and we speak Cantonese at home. The principal in my sons' school told me that my sons' first language is Chinese not English. May be it is different in USA.回覆刪除
The term 'first language' can mean different things. I know in Canada it is often used to refer to the first language a person earned at home in childhood and still understands. But it can also be used to refer to the language a person speaks the best and most naturally. I am using the term in the latter sense here.刪除
yes, it's true that the term "first language" is ambiguous, even to researchers. but even in the field of Second Language Acquisition, labels like "L1" and "L2" for "native language" and "acquired language" are still used for convenience's sake. what's more descriptive and accurate, however, is to discuss language fluency in terms of not which language is learned first, but of which language a person is most comfortable with (and so proficient in). of course, it just so happens that for the vast majority of people, what they speak at home is more or less what they speak in school and, later in life, at work, so what's their first language (i.e. "mother tongue") is also what they are most fluent in.刪除
but we can take this even further to say that how early a language is learned actually has no bearing on how fluent the person is when using that language. many people are more fluent in their "second language" (or third/fourth/whatever ones) if that language has become the "dominant language", meaning that they communicate in it the most for both their professional and private lives and as a result has become the most fluent in it, hence someone who's spent significant number of years abroad could lose considerable fluency in their [yes, i use "they" as a singular pronoun whenever necessary] native language.
sorry for being verbose, but there's yet another oft-overlooked (and interesting) side to this "bilingualism" debate. i personally don't really believe that there are indeed true "bilinguals" for a very simple reason: we all have only 24 hours a day and we all can interact with only our immediate surroundings, but what we speak (and how we speak) at home is very different from what we do at school and vice versa, so unless a child has the luxury of having both proficiently bilingual parents and going to a bilingual school (and when as an adult has worked in both cultures), it's unlikely that the child could learn all the nuances between the formal vs. informal varieties of a language. (of course, if you had the resources, it's conceivable that it can be done, but most people don't, so...)
admittedly, this bar is very high (and perhaps impractically so), but i do believe that once people realize what a tall order it is to be "bilingual" for most people, they'd go easier on themselves and actually have a healthier attitude toward both their L1 and L2 (the chinese are not the only ones who have hang-up's about english; almost everyone who's not a native English speaker does). in doing so, their learning experience might be more enjoyable and their own performance should accordingly improve.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments.刪除
// i personally don't really believe that there are indeed true "bilinguals" //
- Your standards are probably too high. I would consider myself bilingual even though I speak English with a rather strong Cantonese accent.
母語也學不好,想學好第二語言,頗難. 請位洋人天天補習吧, 把洋文変成第一語言.
first language second language 。。。。。how about mother tongue ！！！回覆刪除
"Mother tongue" is ambiguous too.刪除
In terms of TOEFL scores among Asian countries, Hong Kong is better than mainland China and Taiwan, but worse than Bangladesh, Bhutan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, India, and Singapore, in that order.刪除
For the full report, http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/test_score_data_summary_2009.pdf
If we compare the whole mainland with Hong Kong, I think it is obvious that Hong Kong students' English is better (considering that so many students in mainland don't receive very good English education). But I think we should compare Hong Kong with, for example, Shanghai or Beijing.刪除