Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #4.8: I wish my child had more time learning Chinese. It takes a lot of time away from her regular studies…

October 2, 2010

4.8 Main Article

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Situation #4.8: I wish my child had more time learning Chinese. It takes a lot of time away from her regular studies.Reality: It is true that learning another language can pose more time on the regular studies. There is a solution to this: bilingual (or dual language) classes. When a child learns content while learning the language, the knowledge stays. It will be ideal if she can attend a school where the main curriculum is woven with both languages, but these are a rarity. Also, this method is much slower in achieving literacy if used as a standalone mechanism because of the high demand of character recognition as an essential prerequisite to beginning reading in Chinese. But these two strategies, purposeful content acquisition through reading, writing, speaking and listening, coupled with effective character recognition, formulate an ideal method in learning Chinese. The very last ingredient that completes the picture, and that will help one truly acquire the essence of the language, would be its artistic part—the way Chinese characters can be composed poetically, rhythmically, and meaningfully (see Situation #4.3).

Since the ancient canonical classic texts are rhythmically arranged sections of verses with embedded topical meanings composed by a high percentage of non-repeating characters (70% versus 10% in modern textbooks), they (or any similar curriculum of this kind) are truly an ideal combination of valuable content learning, efficient character recognition, and artistic essence.

Family support is of utmost importance in supporting this model. In a way, you should also maintain your language competence, especially if that is your child’s sole source of Chinese input. All that is discussed in this booklet is also applicable to you as well in view of language acquisition. Learning Chinese can become an essential, enjoyable and natural part of living for you and your child.

Considerations:

  • Where can I find a bilingual (or dual language) program that would help my child learn content in both Chinese and English? What would that look like?
  • How can I make effort to plan and weave Chinese into my child’s current academic content that is taught in English if I cannot find such a program?
  • What about the other two ingredients of the ideal teaching method: character recognition and artistic essence? What would that look like if those are also weaved into the dual-language content-based curriculum?
  • How can I expose my child to the ancient canonical classic texts? Are there versions that exist today that are more updated with current usages of words and context?
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