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Sunday, November 6, 2011

An "Ah-ha Moment" is Hard Work

     "Does someone at your house speak Chinese?" I was asked this week.  That was after my son had his "wake up" moment during Mandarin class at Language Stars*.  All of a sudden, it was as if a light bulb had come on in his head.  I mean, you could literally SEE him reach some understanding about the language.  His "Ah-ha Moment" had come.  He was answering almost all of the questions the teacher directed toward him--and some of everyone else's!

     "No," I answered, "But we work on his Mandarin a lot."  That's the simple answer.  The more complicated one is that Grandma (Nen Nen) speaks Chinese, but Cantonese, not Mandarin.  She took some in school, of course, but it seems that her Mandarin is about as good as my French.  Which means it isn't.  But, she has also jumped on the bandwagon of learning a little Mandarin in order to help her grandkids learn.  That helps a lot because, even though Cantonese and Mandarin are two completely different languages, I think her pronunciation would have to be better than mine.  And, the more people who at least try to speak the language at home, the more the kids will see it as important and "the thing to do."
"Xiāngjiāo," he says the word for banana in Mandarin.

     The other part of the complicated answer is that, as a teacher, I know a few of the "rules" for learning something, whether it's math or a language.  One of the big ones is simple: "Use it or lose it."  All of the vocabulary my son was using were words that we have practiced or used extensively at home (at least 30 or more times).  He knows some colors, several fruits and a few vehicles.  He can also answer a couple of simple sentences, such as "What is your name?" "How old are you?" and "What is that?"

     Of course, the words that my son does not know are the words that I have not practiced enough with him.  During class, I realized that there is a collection of words that I know that he does not.  Who is this for, anyway?  I have dropped the ball on that one.  We need to be working on those words.  And, as talented as the teachers at Language Stars* are, I can't expect 2 hours a week (we attend 2 parent & tot classes a week) to do it.  If you don't use the word at home, your child simply won't retain it.  Well, I guess they would get it EVENTUALLY, but who wants to pay for that many classes?!  Sooner is better, in my opinion, so we work hard at home.  And, obviously, our hard work showed up in class last week.   "No, we don't speak Mandarin at home---but we TRY and that's worth a lot."

As always,
Thanks for reading!
Teacher Tam

*I receive 50% off our tuition at Language Stars for sharing our experiences on this blog.  Despite that, the opinions expressed here are my own.  I was a fan long before the blogging began.  
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1 comment:

  1. So true about if you don't use it you lose it. My son used to be able to count to 31 in Japanese because calendar time was done it every language represented in the classroom. Lost. He used to be able to use a fair amount of sign language when he was younger. Lost.