Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #3.6: My child already goes to Chinese school, and she knows Chinese, but I don’t understand why she doesn’t use it outside of class…

October 2, 2010

3.6 Main Article

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Situation #3.6: My child already goes to Chinese school, and she knows Chinese, but I don’t understand why she doesn’t use it outside of class.Reality: A language needs to be meaningful in life to be used. If there is no immediate usage, the child would naturally drop using it altogether. It is very desirable, and almost imperative, that the family should be learning and using the language together to help make the language a fact of life. At an early age, a child may accept very satisfactorily the bond and affection associated with the home language. As she grows older, she may need more formal explanations, and that is where your original mission of the necessity to learn the home language comes to place. It emphasizes the importance and the value you place on her learning the language.

You may communicate your concern with her Chinese school teacher, and work with the school to see how they can help. The issue is definitely urgent and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A child needs outside-of-classroom experience to take full advantage of all that she is learning from the school. Otherwise, the progress will bound to be very slow and dissatisfactory for both of you. The process may turn dull and learning Chinese will eventually become just another academic subject.

Considerations:

  • Besides family conversations, are there other opportunities where my child can master the language in various contexts with other adults or children?
  • Have I spoken to and discussed with my child about her interest in speaking Chinese? What is the main reason she is not fully utilizing the language? Are there others who know her well enough in this context to offer any extra insight?
  • Are there any emotional and developmental concerns that need to be addressed in relation to her speaking the language? Has she been laughed at when speaking? Is she considered of lower status when using the language?
  • Are there specific immediate and long-term goals and reasons that I can inform my child about why she is learning Chinese (e.g. to speak to a relative, to be able to use it in a home country that my family visits frequently)?
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