My son’s Chinese exceeded my expectations

During our trip to Dallas for spring break, I was pleasantly surprised that my first grader’s Chinese is better than I expected.

My son was in a Japanese immersion Montessori school for pre-school (3-4) and kindergarten (5). We put him in the Japanese immersion program because Japanese is as close to Chinese as I could get when there were no good Chinese school in close distance. I am sure there are Chinese schools in Naperville or Palatine, but they are a long drive, especially with bad traffic. I also have to admit that him knowing Chinese didn’t seem so important to me when he started pre-school. (And there is no Swedish school in close distance either, given that not too many people use it in Chicago.)

As I am getting older and he is getting bigger, I gradually realized that it is very important for him to know both Chinese and Swedish. And I gradually intensified my effort toward that end (Chinese). I bought the BBC Mandarin Chinese program Muzzy and games called Wawa Yaya. Those are great programs. At the same time, I started introducing simple phrases and sentences in our daily conversations. One thing I learned is that I need to be tactful. I do not want to turn him off. It is a lot of fun to play and interact with him, so I need to do more of that.

So when we were in Dallas, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I spoke our local dialect (not too different from standard Mandarin), mixed with some Mandarin, for his benefit. To my surprise, he understood a lot of simple questions. And he seemed to be able to figure out what we were trying to tell him in Mandarin. He did have trouble differentiating some sounds initially, for example, the word hungry (饿 e) and hot (热 re).

I think his Japanese is fluent at his age level. His English is good. He knows some Swedish and probably a little Spanish. It is up to me to help him improve his Chinese.

Any ideas, tips, and suggestions from my readers will be greatly appreciated! If you have Chinese speaking children between age of 5 and 7, maybe we can arrange playdates together. Also, please do not hesitate to contact me (haidong.ji AT if you have questions on this subject. I will do my best to help. Or maybe we can even form a group on this.

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3 responses to “My son’s Chinese exceeded my expectations”

  1. Hi Alex,

    It’s probably a bit simplistic for him at this point, but I’ve found the Rosetta Stone line of computer-based language training to be outstanding. Right now I’m working on Arabic, and moving to Mandarin shortly. The program, the workbooks included, are ALL in the language being taught. There is never an “translation”. All text and all spoken language in the program would be in Mandarin. You can focus on listening, reading or speaking skills (the last of which I find remarkably accurate in grading you, judging from the French version which I fairly fluent in).

    Even if it is somewhat simplistic, it may be a good reinforcement. It is somewhat “game like” in it’s presentation as well. Like I said initially, he’s probably way beyond it (there are only 2 levels of Mandarin available), just thought I’d throw it out there.

  2. Thanks a lot James! I will have to look into that…

  3. […] 我想在他的年龄段,他的日文应当没问题。日文学校的一个好处是他接触了汉字的书写,并且字意也差不到哪里去。所以他在汉语书写上有少许基础。汉语口语方面,我们一起看过BBC的Muzzy中文视听教程,一起玩过WawaYaya的游戏软件,我随之引进更多的汉语说话。绝大多数情况下,他不会用汉语回应我们的对话,但他倒是可以听懂一些。他的汉语听力和口头表达能力是跟不上同龄的在家讲汉语的孩子的。我跟他讲汉语时还要讲究策略,否则只会造成孩子的反感和抵触。 […]

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