Saturday, October 01, 2011

Bilingual girl

I went to a Chinese kindergarten as a child. My parent's rationale was that it would help me in the uphill battle with Chinese as a second language in school. So, for the first few years of my academic life, I spoke fluent Chinese. But because no one at home spoke it to me, Chinese stopped being a language to me and instead became decade long vocabulary list to me.

I hope that all three kids don't have to go through the struggles Packrat and I did with Chinese. He more than myself. Perhaps because of the Chinese kindergarten or perhaps the SBC Chinese serial repeats at 3 pm every afternoon when television transmission opened for the day.

So how much can we do for the children, seeing that our own Chinese standards leave so much to be desired? I had a variety of options.
1. Send them to the Chinese kindergarten I went to, although the wait list for that one circumnavigates Singapore a few times.
2. Be the designated speaker of Chinese for the kids.
3. Hire a Chinese tutor to come over and speak to them, read to them and generally speak to them.
4. Bring them to Beijing for six months and ensure they pick up, not only Chinese but Beijing Chinese.
5. Send them to a Chinese enrichment class that doesn't intimidate them.

1 Was out of the question because I wasn't going to send them to two schools within a day. (I would be broke) And there was no way to get in anyway. Plus I heard it was a place where worksheets were abound and I was not going to be party to that.
2, While I am the one who converses with them in Chinese, I am hampered by the inability to name a lot of things are called in Chinese. I had also read that for bilingualism to really be taught at home, one parents must speak nothing but that language. Often the children are not as close to the parent who speaks the weird language.
3. Tried that but home is too familiar for them so they don't settle and listen to the teacher. They monkey around and the teacher got extremely exhausted and it was unproductive.
4. Packrat is unlikely to get posted any time soon to China, let alone Beijing, so I wouldn't hold my breath on this one. And if he ever did, the entire family would have to spend a fortune learning Chinese from scratch.
5. This is eventually what we chose to do. We picked an enrichment class that taught Chinese in a fun way and they seem to like it, enjoy it and get something out of it. And there isn't any pressure, at this age, for them to perform and excel or score full marks.

And from all evidence, both of them are getting something out of it. I don't think, I could at their age, read so fluently in Chinese.

Jordan is slightly weaker than Evan when it comes to reading because she is distracted. But even she is able to show off what she has learnt in class.

It's not reciting Chinese poetry or anything. But from a household whose combined Chinese standard might be Primary 4, it's something we are very proud of.

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