Monday, September 8, 2008

Learn to Speak Chinese, Volume II

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're trying our best to raise William to be as bilingual as my faltering Mandarin will allow. His comprehension, evidenced by his basic vocabulary and responses to our questions, shows that we're off to a good start. In the process, it has been really great to see how Andrew, who has been raised hearing English 95% of the time, has picked up pieces of the language.

However, I realize my limitations and know that a day will soon come when our conversations must move beyond, "Look, Mommy sees a big, white dog!" or "Who farted? Was it you?! It wasn't Mommy!" Since kids minds' are like sponges at this age, now is definitely the time to enroll the boys in Chinese school.

With William, there is an added incentive to learn. Unlike most adoptees from China, there is a very real possibility that he may be able to reconnect with his Taiwanese family one day. I have been following the blog of a young lady named Meiling, who herself was adopted from Taiwan by a Canadian family. She has made contact with her biological family and experiences a great deal of anguish over not being able to communicate effectively with them. While she is working hard to learn Mandarin, she has found the language difficult to pick up as a young twenty-something. I'm saddened for her and am reminded this may very well be William's reality one day.

Thus, I've been researching Chinese language schools in our area. Thankfully, we're blessed to have a few different options from which to choose. In fact, there is one that meets just a mile away on Sunday afternoons. As easy as it would be to get there, I've already nixed that choice. We're trying our best to keep Sunday as a day of rest and going to school is anything but relaxing.

Plus, looking through the website and having spoken to a representative of the school, it strikes me as a very traditional program, much like the one I attended for about 7 years of my younger life. The children are predominantly first generation Chinese-American. Many of them have the advantage of speaking and/or understanding spoken Mandarin. The families all "match." Browsing through the photos on their website, it's hard to spot adoptees or any Hapa children. I don't want my kids feeling like anomalies. As it is, there are already too many threats against our children's self-esteem in the world. I don't need to pay for another one.

Another school that has caught my eye is located about 25 minutes away. Its student population seems to have a broader representation of adoptees, mixed-race children, and non-Asian kids. Its language immersion classes encourage parent participation so that the children aren't the only ones learning. The school also offers classes to children as young as one year-old, so both William and Andrew could attend.

However, the classes and homework stress the use of a lot of Mandarin DVD watching. Since William is not yet a big fan of television, I don't know how well this will go over. I don't want to force him to watch t.v. just so he can do his "homework." The school also meets on Saturday mornings, thereby obviating any possibility of Andrew joining any Saturday morning sports teams. Sorry, Andrew. I guess that's what middle school sports teams are for.

I figure we'll try out the latter school when it starts up two weekends from now. If it's not a good fit, we may consider rounding up some local families with adoptees and/or Hapa kids and hiring a tutor to teach them. I might look into some of the nearby universities to see if there are any students there who speak both English and Mandarin fluently (growing up, I found those Chinese teachers who couldn't speak English well to be less credible). I want a candidate whose experience includes working with young children, someone who is energetic and creative. Learning the language must be fun.

Whatever we opt to do, I know that we need to strike while the iron is still hot. By the time our kids become tweens, they may very well start to complain about giving up their free time to learn Mandarin. Who wants more homework, anyway? They may just want to "fit in" with everyone else and not have to sacrifice their weekends for something that stresses their differences.

But for now, while their minds are young and pliable, they are under Mommy's dictatorial thumb, and Mommy says it's off to Chinese school with them.


Tish said...

very interesting! i called our local school andthey said they won't take any kids under 5. so i should really start doing more research...thanks for posting on this!

Precious Wonders and Little Monkeys said...

Who farted!? HAHA That is something everybody denies until I ask if anyone needs help in the bathroom and then suddenly they all farted! I have to learn that in CHinese!

momwithfaithandhope said...

Good for you! Send them now before they fight back! Tiff