|How to Choose the Right Chinese Language School for your Child|
By Dr. Nelson Chao, MD
You are thinking of sending your child to a Chinese language school. You are ready to commit several years of your time and effort hoping to achieve a positive outcome. But, you do not know how to choose the right school for your child. This article will provide you with important information that will help you decide which school best fits your goals for your child.
Language Instruction: Historically, foreign language instruction has tended to emphasize literacy (reading and writing) over conversational proficiency (oracy), despite stated goals to achieve both. Think back to your own experience in learning a foreign language in secondary schools. Could you converse better than you could read or write?
In recent years, recognizing the importance of active communication among people in this age of globalization, language instruction has shifted its emphasis towards a more communicative, interactive, learner-centered and task-based skills set, or what is called "performance-based instruction". The content is relevant, and the learning effort more rewarding as students readily apply what they have learned.
Your Background: Success in learning a language has as much to do with quality instruction as it does with opportunities to practice the newly acquired skills. Students from different backgrounds have varying opportunities to practice the language. As a parent, you are likely to fit into one of the following categories:
Your child's background: Your child's early exposure to Mandarin Chinese affects his/her mastery of that language. Use of Mandarin Chinese at home leads to a better contextual handling of this language. Use of other Chinese "regionalects" at home does not necessarily make your child's acquisition (proficiency) of Mandarin Chinese easier. Generally, a child growing up in the US and attending American school before age 7 will inevitably acquire English as the first language and Chinese will be treated as a second language. This shift depends on how the Chinese language is being used and reinforced at home.
Your expectation: Depending on your background, your goals and expectations will be very different from those of other parents. Language is communication. Generally, PW, PA and PO parents aspire to have their child acquire proficiency primarily in the conversational aspect (oracy) of the Chinese language, while PC parents, with their conversationally fluent child, and some PW parents aim to have their child acquire mastery in reading and writing (literacy).
More than any other language, Chinese in its written form ( text ) has played a very important role throughout the history of its people and culture. Able to orally communicate in Chinese without adequate mastery of reading and writing Chinese text makes one literately inadequate, yet, acquiring mastery of reading and writing without adequate oral communicative skills makes one poorly functional. The time constraint of a weekend school may preclude the achievement of more advanced proficiency in reading and writing. Formulating and instituting a balanced curriculum that is practical, functional and relevant always pose a big challenge for every language school.
Curriculum: Chinese language schools generally operate on weekends. Classes are held for 2-3 hours. The curriculum and approach to instructions can vary greatly among schools. The variables to keep in mind for schools teaching Chinese Language are:
Generally, there are two types of schools:
Recommendations: You should choose a Chinese language school for your child only after you:
We hope your child will acquire basic proficiency and a lifelong interest in Chinese language.
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