Chinese is a difficult language to speak AND to read so why should we insist that our kids learn the language?
1. Chinese is the native language for 20% of the world’s population.
Learning the language creates an immediate connection between your kid at 1/5 of the world’s population. That’s amazing! Even if you have no plans to set foot in a Chinese-speaking country any time soon, there are nearly 50 million Chinese who live outside of China so chances are, you will bump into someone who speak the language soon enough (if you haven’t already).
2. Chinese isn’t phonics based. Learning it is memory-intensive.
By the time most people (especially mothers) reach age 30, they know that their short-term memory is virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, kids have the best memory capacities in the world. The Chinese language isn’t phonics-based so you can’t learn a small sets of alphabets/sounds and be able to read the language. It’s ALL memorization so the sooner your kids start, the better.
3. Chinese will give English-speaking kids a different paradigm for thinking.
Languages affect the way we think. Moreover, language is the basis of how we think so our language dictates our paradigm of thinking and therefore our perspectives. Giving kids a different language, particularly one so different from their native tongue, means we are also giving them a different paradigm for thinking. Bilingual kids are more likely to see things from different perspectives. They are more likely to be emphatic with others.
4. Learning the Chinese language is the prerequisite for learning the Chinese culture and history.
Language shapes our cultures. The Japanese/Korean language retains its various forms of politeness, which reinforces the hierarchical order in their societies. Asian languages tend to be more subtle while the English language is much more direct. Just the other day, a friend was telling me that her son (a Japanese kid who attends an English-speaking school) was speaking (in Japanese) to his friend but he spoke in such a direct manner that the other child started to cry. Her son was completely confused and defended himself as merely “speaking the truth.” He has yet to learn the subtlety (and therefore the social implications) of his native language. To really learn a culture (and Chinese is an interesting one), learning the language is a must.
5. Learning Chinese will be an advantage for our kids — in career and in life.
Career advantages for learning Chinese are pretty self-evident. China economy + sheer number of Chinese speakers = opportunities. Learning Chinese is also advantageous in life — it can open kids to different cultures, different experiences, different relationships, and different perspectives — all of which can help them know themselves better and hopefully become better people in this world. (FYI, Mark Zuckberg is learning Chinese as his second language…)