Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Attempts to teach Maylin some Chinese

My Chinese is very poor, I know, but I try my best. The last couple of nights, after I've read to Maylin her chosen book (usually in English, but I'm trying to switch into French without her noticing -- she notices immediately in the beginning and protests, but later she seems to give in), and I've turned off the lights and we're cuddling together in her big double bed, I toss out some Chinese words for her to repeat. We're starting off with body parts (and body functions that are hilarious to preschoolers). She does a pretty good job imitating my sounds, not perfectly, but I'm not going to push her to perfection yet. The last thing I want her to do is develop a resistance to learning Chinese. We're just having fun at this point.

One of my friends gave me a Chinese language acquisition DVD for kids which we'll take a look at pretty soon. I also have tons of Chinese folk song and story CDs that I have to dust off, too, from our last trip to Taiwan.

When we move back to Berkeley, California, I was planning on enrolling her in Saturday Chinese school. And hopefully, I can convince my parents to speak to Maylin mainly in Mandarin.

There's a French-American school in Berkeley, but before we moved to Paris in 2004, I had heard some disappointing reviews. Maybe things have changed over there, but I don't know. The other option is to seek out French speakers through local organizations and hope to find a little French buddy for Maylin to play with regularly, or even better, a French-speaking play group (I wish).

Would it be language overkill if I tried enrolling her in a Spanish immersion primary school for her weekday educational experience? Probably not. One of our neighbors speaks about seven or eight different languages --fluently! I think just getting the sounds in a child's ear at an early age is critical.

One of my regular readers, Sarah, has taken an interest in Maylin's language acquisition since last year. She is teaching her one year-old nephew French (you can never start too early) and keeps a blog on bilingualism and children. You can check out what she wrote about Maylin here:


ColourMeCrazy said...

Wow, Maylin is going to end up multilingual. Kids pick up languages so easily and the earlier the better. My husband's French cousins were forced to speak only English at home (English father & French mother) and are completely bilingual now - accentless french and english!
How old is Maylin?

Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Maylin's four. My parents stopped speaking to me in Chinese when I was five because they got worried after teachers at school thought I had some speech impediment (duh, I was probably speaking Chinese to them). My younger brother got even less exposure to Chinese, but remarkably, I think by just listening to my parents speak to each other in Mandarin, he kept it in his ear, which is enabling his learning Mandarin now much faster than otherwise.

ColourMeCrazy said...

It's great that she'll be picking up these languages while she's young. I remember my parents used to make me go to mandarin school in the evenings when I was in primary school and I absolutely hated it. I never paid attention or did any work and did by best to skip it. Now I'm totally regretting it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sis, I think Mandarin and Spanish will be a useful combination for Maylin. Although I must admit, French is probably the prettiest sounding of them all, but that is beside the point. If Maylin has been passed down some of your art genetics, then maybe continuing French may be useful. It may be difficult for Maylin to pick up Mandarin, if you're not speaking it to her. So you should enroll in some mandarin classes as well, and that way Maylin will feel connected to you that you will both be taking Mandarin. Well, I think multi-lingualism is never a bad thing.

lil bro

cecily said...

I have a couple students who are french speakers, or who lived in France. They're older boys. Perhaps she'd like to hang out w/them. Or my mom has connections to the foreign students/scholars at Berkeley, mainly the ones with kids. my Sat lang. sch. experience was terrible, but hopefully they aren't all like that. I'm still waiting for the day when I am 'grateful' I went...

Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Hey, Li'l Bro, I wish there was a Mommy and Me class in Mandarin. I'd love to learn together.

Hey, ColourMeCrazy, maybe if I studied at the same time as Maylin, she might enjoy it more?

Hey, Cecily, those French connections will come in handy, thanks! What language were you studying on Saturdays? Japanese? Too bad you didn't enjoy it. Wonder what's so unappetizing about these language schools.

Anonymous said...

It's funny to see Cecily not liking language school/class at one time. ;) I went to Saturday school as well (not English, since my school is bi-lingual already). My mom sent me to learn International phonetics! That was REALLY boring for a 4th grader! I don't know where she got that idea... but now I wish I can remember anything. A cousin of mine hates language school, but his sister is taking Chinese in High School. Remembered my roommate Anita? Her now hubsband learnt to speak Cantonese (can't read or write) perfectly, slang & all, in one summer in Hong Kong, watching cartoon. Of course it didn't hurt that he was CS major & hung out w/ all HongKongese (?) friends.
As to why language school is so unappetizing, I will have to ask my mom, she teaches in Chinese School. :)


Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Hey, May, you were studying IPA? That's actually useful for classical singers since we're always singing in foreign languages -- it's handy when teachers are correcting our pronunciation and want to be precise. But for a fourth grader, I have no idea how it could be useful. Sorry, don't remember Anita, but her husband must be linguistically brilliant to learn Cantonese in one summer from watching cartoons!