Shuang Wen School of NYC (雙文學校)

A member pointed out this public elementary-middle school bilingual program next to the Chinatown in New York City. Of the few middle school programs that I had researched, Shuang-Wen’s graduating 8th graders in 2009 have the best colloquial skill I have heard so far. A few of the students spoke really well (mostly girls) and I wonder if some of them are actually youth immigrant themselves. One girl said that she was only there for 3 months; so, she probably doesn’t count. Given it is so close to Chinatown, there is a good chance that the majority of the students are second generation children or youth immigrants, which make it easier in terms of instruction.

Halloween (萬聖夜)

在美國,每年10月31日的晚上是萬聖夜,中文常稱為萬聖節,是諸聖節的前夜。諸聖節是某些基督教派(大多是天主教)紀念聖人的節日,但萬聖節並非是基督教的節日。 現今, 小孩晚上會穿上化妝服,挨家挨戶敲門討糖果,說:“不給糖,就搗蛋!”。有些人會裝扮成鬼、巫婆、或其它嚇人的樣子。南瓜燈 、骷髏頭、 蜘蛛網和墓石為這節日普遍的裝飾品。

在美国,每年10月31日的晚上是万圣夜,中文常称为万圣节,是诸圣节的前夜。诸圣节是某些基督教派(大多是天主教)纪念死者的节日,但万圣节并非是基督教的节日。现今, 小孩晚上会穿上化妆服,挨家挨户敲门讨糖果,说:“不给糖,就捣蛋!”。有些人会装扮成鬼、巫婆、或其它吓人的样子。南瓜灯、骷髅头、 蜘蛛网和墓石为这节日普遍的装饰品。

In the United States, Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st, the eve of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day (Hallow = holy, saint).  All Saints’ Day is a Christian observance (mostly Catholic) that commemorates saints, though Halloween is itself not a Christian observance.  These days, children wear costumes in the evening and go to peoples’ homes saying “Trick or treat!” to ask for candy and sweets. People sometimes dress up as ghosts, witches, and other scary things.  Jack-o’-lanterns, skeletons, cobwebs, and headstones are common decorations for this holiday.

Kid’s audio by Georgia: 

(The purpose of such post is to provide children and parents with Chinese wording on things relevant to their lives here.  Any suggestions will be appreciated.)

單字表 (Vocabulary list)

萬聖節     万圣节     Halloween

基督教     基督教     Christianity

紀念     纪念     remembrance

節日     节日     holiday

化妝服     化妆服     costume

挨家挨戶     挨家挨户     going from door to door

鬼     鬼     ghost

巫婆     巫婆     witch

裝飾品     装饰品     decoration

骷髏頭     骷髅头     skull (technically)

蜘蛛網   蜘蛛网     cobwebs


Code switching

“Georgia” (9) has a stronger tendency to switch to speaking English, compared to our 12 year old daughter, “Charlotte”, who can pretty much express herself well in Chinese the great majority of the time. So, seeing that Georgia needs extra work on fuller colloquial expression, we hired a tutor to work with her on the weekend, one hour on Saturday and one hour on Sunday. She reads aloud story books with more colloquial expressions and conversations with the tutor.  The tutor also has Georgia make sentences verbally based on different sentence structures. After two months, she is doing better now.

Thankfully, Charlotte’s Chinese is strong that she continues to speak to Georgia in Chinese the great majority of the time and the two continue to converse in Chinese most of the time at home, where we continue to monitor and enforce the “Chinese Only” policy.

As I had written before, it is important that the elder child has excellent colloquial Chinese so that the younger child has a fighting chance to learn Chinese well enough.


Love in 100 Days (真愛100天)

Love in 100 Days

My daughters enjoy watching romantic comedy, including “100 Days” which they watched this weekend. It is readily available through Amazon’s Prime movie collection and probably through other websites. Maybe the younger one is a little precocious (or both, don’t know).  She just giggles when there is smooching onscreen. B esides cartoon/animation, this is the type of Chinese movies I can get them to watch these days.  I am glad they are familiar enough with Taiwan and the way of living there that they would watch this. It’s all about creating relevance and fortifying the CLE (Chinese language ecosystem).

The male protagonist is Johnny Lu, who emigrated to the US from Taiwan at the age of 8. He graduated from UC-Irvine and then moved back to Taiwan. After years of living there, he seems to be a balanced bilingual. The movie is pretty decent.

Trying out three languages (English, Chinese, and another one)?

An education professor at Pace University wrote a book on her experience raising her hapa sons to be trilingual (Chinese, English, + another category 1 language, up to 11 years old in this book). I don’t own the book and don’t know her sons’ proficiencies in the three languages.…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

One of her take on trilingual proficiencies is that one can’t judge the proficiency of the various languages using the same measures as monolinguals. I, of course, agree on that part.

Here are two parents’s take on learning three languages from another site:

Parent A: 我老公講英文 我對小孩中文 但小孩回我英文…..兩位小孩三歲就出去上整天的 英文/西班牙文雙語學校⋯ 他們現在 已經 three languages la…. 還很小⋯ 五歲跟三歲半⋯

Parent B:……..我覺得先注重中英文,有餘力再加第三種語言,我是因為兒子的學校西語是必修課程,所以才學………我跟他說中文,他只回我英文,可是帶回台灣時,他想跟其他小朋友玩,就一定要說中文,說也奇怪,有那環境,他中文就自然說出來了。

My take on it: 每個家庭的期許不一樣。我希望小孩子在國中時就可以流暢的看中文小說(才不會排斥能以中文書當娛樂)。我想這一定要從小中文基礎很強,口語非常強應該是避免不了,但這樣就沒太多能花在其他語言的上面,因為還要花時間補英文或其他科目或才藝。這ㄧ方面,我們是先精再廣。 Every family has different expectation, means, or goals. For us, I want them to be able to read Chinese novels fluently in middle school. I think this require very strong Chinese since they are little, including colloquial Chinese. This really limits the amount of time one can invest in a third language (at least till the goal is almost reached), since they will have to spend a good part of that time working on their English, other subjects, or extracurricular pursuit. So, in this regard, our method is “Depth first, breadth second”.


I propose two new terminologies:

Two favorable conditions for the child to achieve very good Chinese (ILR level 3 or above) in both speaking and reading by their teens seem to be for the lead parent/care giver involved to 1) converse pretty much in only Chinese with the child, both ways, and 2) at least one of the parents has good English proficiency, so that the parents are willing to let English slide in the beginning (“open the gap”), thus creating a proficiency differential in favor of Chinese in the beginning, know when to catch up in English (“close the gap”), and has the means to close the gap.

This does not apply for those who pick up more Chinese in adulthood.

If you have more than one child and hope that the younger children also have good Chinese, I recommend much heavier dose of Chinese than English for the eldest child. You need that eldest one to have excellent colloquial skill up through, say, middle school to benefit the younger siblings. (And reading proficiency is needed to complement / reinforce speaking proficiency and to maintain interest.) That was my plan from the beginning. Except, I had no idea whether the whole thing is feasible and how things would turn out, since nobody has done it before AND shared the experiences, as far as I could find. So, my elder daughter’s English did lag behind initially to the benefit of my younger one. But she was able to catch up by the end of 5th grade. Parents really can’t be sure if the first child’s Chinese will be strong enough to converse fluently with the second child all the way through 8-9 years old (for the younger child); therefore, I think it is more prudent to overshoot in Chinese initially for the eldest child, as one can always catch up in English in middle school, as so many youth immigrants had done before.

My younger daughter would have gotten much less practice in Chinese if not for my elder daughter.  Afterall, after ~ 8 years old, it is extremely difficult to find fluent Chinese speaking peers to play with, at convenient times and frequent intervals.

What do you think?