Of course, I have some experience to help me out. Although I have a BA in Psychology and a MA in Speech Pathology, what has really made me fortunate is the wonderful professors who have taught me- particularly in child psychology (Sandy Hale and David Balota), in literacy development (Richard Hurtig), and in research-based practices for teaching Chinese as a foreign language (Michael E. Everson). Oh, and I need to add a new name to this list, Melissa Glanz- who is/was my son's kindergarten teacher and a fountain of great ideas. She has shown me the practical side of teaching.
Some readers may wonder what I mean by "teaching" my children Chinese. Let me answer this by first setting the stage . . . My husband is from Taiwan, but he arrived in the US when he was six. Unfortunately, that means that he can speak Chinese but he doesn't feel comfortable holding a professional conversation or reading in Chinese. Most of the reason for the stunt in his Chinese development is because Chinese is not so widely spoken in America as it is in Taiwan. Fast forward to the arrival of our oldest child- I realized that if I wanted our children to speak Chinese, I was going to have to learn it first. My husband is the bread provider and he simply isn't home enough to provide the linguistic input they need.
So my husband and I started a plan. We had set phrases that we used when our kids were babies (sit down, stand up, come here, let's go, etc.). We bought a ton of Disney movies in Chinese and swore we would only let them watch movies in Chinese. We invested in sending me to school to learn Chinese (although I had to stop attending when my second child was born). And we've enrolled them in the local heritage Chinese school to stress upon our kids the importance of Chinese as a language and culture.
But with all that said, the most important thing to date that we have done was to traveled to Taiwan with them last year. Because, learning Chinese isn't about learning just the language; it's about the culture and the people too. Since last year, I have seen an explosion in my children's drive to learn the language. They get it- they understand that there are people in this world that don't speak English.
So, what do I mean when I say that I'm teaching my children Chinese? Well, I don't mean that my children will be fluent speakers. I don't mean that their pronunciation will be perfect. What I do mean is that my children will understand the Chinese culture and be proud of their heritage. They will have the tools they need to continue learning the Chinese language if they choose to after they leave home. And yes, I am trying to teach them as much vocabulary and grammar as I possibly can before they get out from under my thumb because I believe that Chinese as a language will be vital to America's survival in the 21st century.
Did you know that Chinese is the most spoken language in the world? Did you know that Chinese is the 2nd most spoken language in the United States following Spanish? Did you know that poor foreign langauge skills have often hampered economic growth, national, security, and social stability? Did you know that the United States government agrees with me and that is why America has funded The Language Flagship programs, which aims to make more Americans proficient in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Urdu, Korean, Persian, Russian languages, and African languages.
If you are a mom who doesn't speak Chinese but wants to help her children learn, this blog is for you. I'm hoping to encourage materials of quality, not quantity, to be written for our children so that they can be competitive in the next generation. I hope you find this blog useful too.