Dear Parents of “Xue Zhong Wen” Chinese Classroom:
It’s hard to believe we have come to this far--Lesson 6 in Book 2! I think everyone deserves a pat on the shoulder for a job that needs so much effort and commitment. Indeed learning an extra language that’s not spoken outside one’s family is a very demanding task and often comes with some degrees of failure. So if the child learns any Chinese language at all, it’s because you have done a good job as parents.
Since it is not an easy thing to do to push our kids to learn this language, and every now and then we found ourselves at the edge of total giving up of the seemingly fruitless effort (“why bother at all”?), we need think over why we want them to learn Chinese. Perhaps by doing so we’ll be encouraged to keep going with this mission.
We may not need to be reminded of the value or importance of learning our mother tongue--Chinese.
First of all, there’s the emotional tie. Even though the language is almost a foreign language to our children (because they don’t use it in their school, playing, camping etc. except for listening to their parents talk), the language is our mother-tongue. We have rich emotional and cultural goldmine embedded in this precious language.
Second, learning Chinese can help build their metalinguistic sense. Learning two languages has the benefit of knowing about language in large. Researchers find children who speak two languages tend to reach higher level of cognitive achievement (Papalia & Olds, 1996). Knowing Chinese does not interfere with learning English and learning Chinese does not rob a child of fluency in English. As one observer commented, having two languages is more like having two children than like having two wives (Fallows, 1986).
Third, learning Chinese can help children perform in math operations. Scholars have been puzzled why east Asian children do so much better than their counterparts in America in mathematics. Except for the different attitudes and practice to math education, one inherited advantage lies in the natural languages they use. For instance, the number “eleven” virtually means “ten one” in Chinese, “twelve” means “ten two”, etc., this simplifies the operation procedures if you use Chinese to do those math operations than if you use English.
Last but not the least, learning Chinese will help build their sense of identity. I have been working on the adolescent psychology course over the year, and my greatest finding from the field that relates to our “Xue ZhongWen” Chinese classroom is that some day our kids will step into adolescence (when they are 11) and they are going to face the identity issue that none adolescent can escape--the question “who am I?” Chinese Americans will consist 3% of the general population in the USA in 2050. We are certainly a minority group. If every adolescent has to go through the identity crisis, the minority adolescents have a more difficult time with this issue than the majority adolescents. In addition to the issues like gender identity, occupation identity, and ideology identity that every adolescent has to deal with, our children also have to come to term with their ethnic identity. If they have a positive sense of their cultural background, then they will have an easier time coping with this identity crisis. Taking Chinese lessons, hopefully, will help them build up the sense of pride of their heritage, and help them grow into a person with high self-esteem.
So, having listed the reasons why we want to insist teaching our children Chinese, we are then facing how we could help them learn. We also acknowledge that English is their number one priority. They do need spend time on reading, writing for learning the survival tool. If we could make sure each child spend three hours learning the Chinese language per week (like reading the text, writing the new words, writing the text, making sentences with the new words, playing games with the wordcards etc.), or even if only thirty minutes, which is better than none, we’ll see their progress, slow perhaps but sure.
Thank you for your attention. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for teaching methods.