Teaching my kids Chinese

My two kids were born in the U.S. English is their native language.

As an immigrant from China, I want my kids to know their heritage. So I try to teach my kids Chinese. It’s hard.

Once my son started daycare at age two and learned English, he speaks English most of the time, and exclusively with his younger sister. They only speak some Chinese then they have to with grandparents. When I speak to them in Chinese, they respond in English. They can understand Chinese, but they don’t like to speak the language. They find it hard to learn. It doesn’t come natural to them.

Both went to Saturday Chinese school since they were five years old. On Saturdays during the school year, they had two 50-minute lessons of Chinese.

But starting with this school year, they both quit going to the Saturday Chinese school, at age of 12 and 10.

First my carpool partner decided to quit for her two boys. After some consideration, we decided to quit as well and do homeschooling.

My kids didn’t like going to Chinese school and doing Chinese home work. And it was a big commitment for us parents to drive one hour back and forth on Saturdays to the Chinese school and wait for three hours (They had math in addition to Chinese). It was always a hassle to get them to finish their homework during the weekdays. It added more stress to life.

Since we quit going to Chinese School in September, our life has become a little more relaxed. Now they learn Chinese at home.

This summer when we were in China, I bought Han Zi Gong on 5 DVDs. Han Zi Gong has 720 lessons. Each 6-minute lesson teaches about 5  Chinese characters. The lessons with a teacher and two kids as students are really fun to watch. The teacher does a super job explaining the origin, meaning and pronounciation of each character. Han Zi Gong is really a simple, effective and enjoyable tool to learn Chinese. I enjoyed watching it myself and had so many “Aha!” moments after I learned something new. Even though I know most of the Chinese characters and how to use them, but I don’t necessarily know the orgin of each character.  Chinese language is a beautiful language. It’s really interesting to learn the story behind the characters.

Besides watching a few lessons of Han Zi Gong every day, my kids have to read 1-2 stories in Chinese to me. Because they don’t go to Chinese school any more, I feel more responsible for their Chinese learning. So I actually spend more time helping them with reading than I did before.

So far they are doing good. I think our current homeschooling is working better. They are learning more effectively and we are not as stressed as before.

Read An introduction to Chinese language