Maintaining Chinese Language Skills for Kids

I am very proud that my older daughter can now speak fluent Chinese. This is the characterization of our Chinese friends, not me, since I can’t understand what she is saying as her Chinese language ability far surpasses mine. A major reason that we came to China was so our children could be exposed to the Chinese language. Well, it seems that a 4 year old who has complete immersion can pick-up the language in about 9 months (speaking, not reading or writing, though she’s working on that). But now that she’s achieved this feat, and her younger sister speaks Chinese better by the day, how do we maintain the language in Vermont?

I think there’s a Saturday Chinese School in Burlington, but I know very little about it. Does anyone out there know more? Should we hire a weekly Chinese tutor in Montpelier? Should we start to let our kids start to watch TV, so long as its only in Chinese?

Any ideas from our readers?

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4 Responses to Maintaining Chinese Language Skills for Kids

  1. Ben Wang says:

    Hi Jason, I live in Burlington and teach Chinese at the Vermont Commons School, the Community College of Vermont, and soon at St. Michael’s College. A friend happened across your blog online and sent me the link. Your conundrum is an increasingly common one, and I don’t have any great answers for you. My best suggestion is period visits back to a Chinese-only environment for your kids through the years — summer camps in China or Taiwan, for example. I would be happy to continue the discussion, but, in the meantime, this is the link for the Vermont Chinese School in Burlngton:

    This is a link for my friend Alison who lived in Taiwan with her family for a year and has had to figure out ways to maintain her daughter’s Mandarin:

  2. Andrea Voyer says:

    Thanks, Ben. We will definitely be enrolling in Chinese school – its great that there are classes on Friday evening! I notice that there is nothing offered for children under 4. Mei-mei is just 3. Can we enroll her all the same?

  3. Ben Wang says:

    Hi Andrea,

    I have attended some Vermont Chinese School events and gave two guest seminars on Chinese history, but I don’t know any details about the language classes. Please direct any questions to the school and its principal George Tang. I also wanted to add that Alison (mentioned above) has hired a tutor for her daughter and a few other kids, and she can give you more information. The teacher, Zhenyan Li, is a colleague of mine at the Vermont Commons School and is excellent.

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