09 February 2010

On Learning Mandarin


I cannot see anything – anything! -- outside our windows. Fog. This happens once in a while. Sometimes I like it. It feels like we’re living high up in the clouds. Nothing to do with the topic. I just felt like sharing, ‘kay?

The wait is over. Josh has been accepted into our primary school of choice. We heave a sigh of relief. I can now move on from the what if’s and start living. This is the school in which, out of the three schools that we had applied to, I could picture Josh the most happy. The only concern we have is that this school is not known for its strong Mandarin program, although we’ve heard that there are moves to strengthen it within their system. Yet, despite how strongly we feel about Josh (and Zoë) learning Mandarin, we feel that this is the best school for Josh. All things considered.

Chris and I both speak Mandarin passably well and we know enough characters to get by. We are not asking that Josh become a master of the Chinese language. If he could speak, read, and write reasonably well, we would be more than pleased with that. If later on, he takes on a much higher interest in learning beyond what the school could teach him, that would make us more than happy and we will be supportive.

I know how hard learning Chinese can be. I’ve been there and I hated it. In time (much, much later on!), I grew to love it. I want Josh to enjoy his learning of Chinese and not be turned off by it. He is the type of child who needs to enjoy and appreciate the lesson to truly learn, as opposed to some who might be more open to drills.

And then there’s the whole debate between learning traditional characters vs. simplified characters. The truth is, I don’t much care. I learned traditional characters, but was also taught simplified characters. The rare occasions when I write Chinese nowadays, I use simplified characters where I can. Josh has been learning traditional characters in his current school. I haven’t checked whether his new school will use traditional or simplified, but again, I’m not too concerned. Either way is fine with me. There is beauty to the traditional characters, but learning to write Chinese characters is hard enough and if using simplified characters would make the children much more open to and less stressful about learning Chinese, then I am all for it.

Those who of you whose children are/will be learning a second or third language, what are your expectations?


Ruth said...

Congrats! Learning Chinese seems to be an uphill battle.

I can't help comparing my kids' situation to that of the South Asian immigrants I went to school with in London. Whilst their parents never picked up English, their kids were immersed in it at school and became native speakers.

What's going wrong in HK when we have generations of non-Chinese born here, growing up here and working here with a whole host of pathetic excuses as to why they don't operate in the local language?!! And now it's happenning in ethnically Chinese families too! Parents are so keen to put their kids into the schools that support English that their Chinese is suffering.

LPC said...

Congratulations! They are LUCKY to have Josh as a student.

Dandy said...

Yay!!! congrats. What language does the school teach in? Just curious. I really wish I had been taught a second language from childhood.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I think language immersion is a great idea. I took two years of Spanish in school and was very glad that I did.

Because the both of you can work with Josh and with Zoe too, then he will be able to learn it with ease. Even when the teacher leaves off, he can still continue at home.

I am trying to learn Mandarin Chinese (with Rosetta Stone), brush up on my Spanish too. It's been challenging but I'm starting to recognize word patterns now. As for writing it...that's another story!

It's a great idea!! Congrats that he's going to the school of your choice.

Wanda said...

When we got home with Dahlia, we spoke only English and now that she's in school, she really struggles with French. So, we switched with Milana. My husband only speaks with her in French - me in English. Her comprehension is about the same with both languages. I wish we had done that with Dahlia.

Congratulations on being accepted into your favorite schoolfor Josh. Like you said - now you can start living.

Lindy said...

Congrats for you and Josh!!

Foreign language was an option when I went to school. I make it mandatory for E. It's important to me that she has that when she gets older.

Of course, there is quite a different between Spanish/French/Latin and Chinese.

Nezzy said...

My lovely DIL home-schools four of my precious grandchildren. I'm not sure of the curriculum she uses but they are are learning Latin. She does use flash cards with it and it is amazing what the youngest picks up from the older ones.

Congratulations on Josh and the school who is blessed to have him.

You have a fantastic day!!!

Alicia said...

Congratulations!! That is wonderful news!!!

My kids have Spanish as part of their curriculum, and I love that!!

golonghorns said...

Hooray about getting your school of choice!!! Kudos for working on a second language. I only wish I could teach my children a second language. Spanish would be so helpful here. I saw so many bilingual families in Canada, what a blessing for them! Mandarin will be an asset in the workplace according to a workshop my husband attended for work leadership training and they recommended if you were to teach your kids another language that Mandarin was the most useful for business.

I finally am posting a how to for you on the treasure keeper necklace. Hope you can do it with your kids!

Sarah said...

OMG! I think about this all the time. My husband is fluent in Mandarin so we are hoping that the little one can learn. I would like her to be conversational. The problem is, I know nothing! Daddy tries to talk to her in Mandarin as much as he can. It's still hard, though!

blueviolet said...

I think it's so fabulous to have the ability to speak more than one language and if they're learning it as such a young age, they'll really be able to master it. :)

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