Those of you who have been following this blog for a while now know how important it is to me that my children learn to speak Chinese. I put a lot of effort (and money) into getting them to class on time, practicing with them at home, seeing that they receive the proper encouragement from other family members, nudging my husband every now and then to murmur the proper elated response when they speak Mandarin, etc. etc. They put effort in by just staying in class at Language Stars* without mom (no minor task, let me tell you), speaking a few words for Mom every now and then, performing little poems and songs for the family, AND ACTUALLY LEARNING SOME CHINESE WORDS!
Well. Given my strong desire for my children to go to class, learn something, and then regurgitate it to me, I was very sad when I learned that we had a 2-week class break at Language Stars*. I guess I made a very strange face when our Center Director at Language Stars* told me that we would be on break for 2 weeks. She said, "And the look on your face is why it's only 1 week next year." All I could think was how many words they would lose. How many I would lose. You've heard of the "summer slide" in education, right? It's the concept that students lose a lot of the gains they've made over the school year because of summer break. That's what I saw in my mind: Chinese words sliding quickly down the slippery slope of too long without a Chinese class. But, I composed myself and said something about how I more than anyone else (because I am a teacher, too) knew how much the teachers needed and deserved a break. I tried not to sound too worried or panicked. My kids wouldn't forget too much. Their Mandarin would be okay, right?
Looking back on it, I suppose this story is a little funny in a too-enthusiastic-soccer-mom sort of way. At least my husband certainly found it funny, even as it was happening. I, however, did not find it funny at all (at least, not at the time). I know I got at least 2 or 3 more gray hairs from worrying that they'll never learn Chinese.
I just throw out Mandarin words at random sometimes. Or, I'll point to an object and ask what it is. Well, a few days ago, I asked my son what color his toy was (in Mandarin). He just stared at me. Stared. I mean, he gave me the blank look of all blank looks, like he had never heard that word before. He understood what I was asking in Chinese, which was reassuring, but the strange look on his face told me that he could not find that word floating around in his brain anywhere! (I know exactly what that face looks like because I'm sure I make it a lot in class myself.) Yikes! My worst language-related fear had come true! It was the evil, two-week slide monster! As my husband watched and later reacted to this second horrible look on my face in 2 weeks, I could hear money and effort being flushed down the toilet. My son finally broke the silence by saying in English, "Orange." "No, in Chinese," I said, desperately awaiting a correct response. "I don't know," he said. I said "orange" in Chinese a few times, had him repeat it, and tried to mentally will my hair to not turn gray. I later complained to my husband. "What does he mean he doesn't know? We've been taking classes for a year! We use the Mandarin color words every time we play Candyland! (And he LOVES to play Candyland!)"
So I did what any good, Mandarin-obsessed mom would do: I found some new ways for him to practice his colors in Mandarin. In fact, there happen to be several decent apps just for that. And, I quiz him on colors every chance I get. My husband (after laughing at me, of course) did his job of reassuring me. "He just named several things in Chinese for me this morning," he said, listing 4 or 5 objects. I felt better. Plus, he usually does really well, so I can name many more words that he DOES know. But, I won't feel totally happy about avoiding our "summer slide" until we are back in class. Lucky for me, we start tomorrow. Perhaps I should have my son wear his Language Stars* shirt. It's orange! :)
Thanks for reading,
*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our experiences at Language Stars.* But rest assured that all opinions are my own. I LOVE their classes!