Why I Stopped Learning Chinese
There are so many reasons to learn Chinese but let’s start with why I STOPPED learning Chinese when I was a kid. I didn’t have a supportive learning environment. Chinese class was uncool. I was scared of the bullies that made fun of the “FOB” kids. There was a girl, Shelby, who seemed to always be waiting for me at recess. One day she had me in a headlock and I struggled to break free. I didn’t want to be uncool anymore. I didn’t want to be Chinese anymore.
Now I am struggling to learn Chinese so that I can teach my children. It takes effort and dedication, and a lot of time to plan each lesson. Teaching does not come naturally to me, nor does speaking Mandarin for that matter! I have to constantly remind myself to speak Mandarin. The hard work is paying off because both my kids speak Mandarin as well as they speak English. I believe that having a supportive environment is the most important factor for learning.
Ty and I are taking a solo trip to Italy for 10 days. We are so lucky to have his parents take care of the kids while we are away. Since they do not speak Mandarin I ordered a C-pen and planned to record a few books and songs to incorporate Mandarin into their time while I was away. It was a big disappointment when the C-Pen did not arrive in time. Although we limit screen time, I installed a couple Chinese learning apps. My son already knows how to watch Mandarin shows on YouTube. I also created a channel on Netflix, created a list of approved shows, and changed the profile to Mandarin.
In the midst of my preparations, Ty’s mom says, “We aren’t going to watch those shows. I have no interest in Mandarin.” Of course she didn’t mean anything by it. She just doesn’t want to watch programs with the kids that she can’t understand. My son immediately says, “Yeah, I don’t want to watch Chinese. I don’t want to learn it. It’s too hard.” It CRUSHED me. Kids are so perceptive. He adores his grandmother. Grandma doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t like it. I started wondering if I’m being too selfish wanting them to learn Chinese because I didn’t.
So, here I am in Sorrento, Italy without the kids, missing them terribly and wondering if I’m making the right decision prioritize learning Chinese. I was surprised to see menus and posters on shop windows written in Chinese! Even the instructions for the outlet adapter are in Chinese. Not French, German, or even Spanish! It really made me think about how Chinese has really become a global language.
Why I Want My Children To Learn Mandarin Chinese
I want my kids to learn Mandarin Chinese for the same reasons the world’s wealthy and royals alike are learning Mandarin. Why are Mark Zuckerberg and his children, President Obama’s daughters, President Trump’s grandchildren, Prince William and his son Prince George learning Mandarin? Because China is the second largest economy in the world and still growing. In addition 4 of the top 20 economies are Chinese speaking countries. To be globally ready we must learn Mandarin.
According to several sources including britishmuseum.org, babbel.com, Ethnologue.com, more people speak Chinese (all dialects) than any other language in the world. Mandarin is the most widely spoken Chinese dialect. Almost 1 billion people speak Mandarin as their native language, while there are only about 360 native English speakers. There are 1.3 billion Mandarin speakers worldwide excluding those that learn Mandarin as a second language. The US Department of Education reports that Mandarin is the second most popular dual-language program.
Almost half the world’s countries have incorporated Chinese Language Studies into their national education systems. In 2015 the US government initiated the “1 Million Strong” campaign to create greater opportunities for Mandarin language learning for elementary school student. Universities.com lists 120 U.S. colleges and universities offering Chinese Language courses, including Middlebury, U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Penn State, Johns Hopkins, NYU, and Cornell, just to name a few. With so many non-Chinese people now learning Chinese I am more determined that my children need to learn it!
What it comes down to is I want my children to be better than me in every way—smarter, kinder, stronger, happier. Learning Chinese is just a small part of that.
Thank you for reading this long post/rant. Here is an infographic I created that highlights some of the important reasons to learn Chinese.
For more info here are the articles I read while researching data for this post: