One reader noted that I don’t blog as much about my DD’s Chinese learning journey these days. That is absolutely true. There is simply less to blog about these days, as we are mostly in late consolidation to maintenance phase. For me, most of the work for Chinese learning before they finish high school would have been done toward the end of middle school.
DD#1 “Charlotte”, almost 16, is finishing up 10th grade. She has already switched track and commit most of her effort and time to academic and extracurricular activities with emphasis on future college application. She attends a competitive high school and it is harder to stand out these days. I have her do just a little maintenance type of Chinese reading to keep up her proficiency. We continue to converse in Chinese at home, though I do have to correct her often as our conversation topics and depth increase further. We spend maybe 15-20 minutes a day watching a Chinese high school teen soap 「致我们单纯的小美好」or “A Love So Beautiful. She loves the show but cringes at the awkward teen puppy love interactions, LOL.
Charlotte does attend a Saturday simplified Chinese “AP” class a couple of times a month just to maintain some exposure to AP Chinese topics. There are only two to three students in the class, one of whom is my DD#2. That class provides more of an exposure to the Chinese AP topics rather than being a test preparation course. It is unfortunate that her high school doesn’t have Chinese AP class. However, since my goal has never been about test taking and has always been about actually knowing and using Chinese as a communication tool, I am not sweating it and would rather that she commits her time to other areas. For more formal instruction, I recently resumed having her read aloud select piece in CLA textbook about 10-15 minutes a day several days a week, picking up where we left off almost two years ago in 6th grade CLA textbooks. That’s all the time she can commit to Chinese these days. But we hope to move onto junior high level textbooks soon.
The good news is that she has just been recruited to join a brand-new southeast regional Chinese debate team that will compete in Taiwan with teams across Asia at the end of the summer. This is a wonderful opportunity to hone in her Chinese colloquial proficiency, as I have been seeking out extracurricular activities that require much actual Chinese usage. Since there are few such activities for teens, we often have to come up with our own, such as our band. To receive coaching in Chinese for debate conducted in Chinese is like a dream-comes-true. So, hopefully the whole things goes smoothly.
As for my almost 13 years old DD#2 “Georgia”, we continue to do Chinese read aloud exercises 5 days a week as mentioned in recent blog entries. She is using 6th grade textbook also, moving at a faster pace than “Charlotte” three years back. She attends the same casual Saturday “AP” Chinese classes every week, which I plan for her to repeat next year to improve her familiarity with simplified Chinese and get really acquainted with the material. She watches about 30 minutes of Chinese drama 後宮甄嬛傳 with me at night, which she loves.
“Georgia” is also finishing up reading the third book (out of four) of 神雕俠侶 kungfu novel. I recently printed the remainder of the novel out with zhuyin included, since her comprehension and reading speed do go up with them. I plan to have her finish reading this novel with zhuyin assistance and then try another 金庸‘s kungfu novel without zhuyin. She doesn’t particularly enjoy reading Chinese kungfu novel (but loves watching such TV shows) and that’s why it has been taking this long. Maybe I should have her pick out the next novel herself.
“Georgia” was also recruited to try out the Chinese debate team as well. She took three semesters of English debate classes before; so, this will be an excellent opportunity for her as well. In terms of her English, she is doing extra reading comprehension exercises to “close the gap” further. She is in accelerated ELA class one grade level higher at school, but can still work on her English more. She is not one of those “brilliant” kids who are two-three years (or more) ahead in multiple subjects. My best guess is that such “brilliant” kids probably have IQ (in the general sense) of around 150 (~1 in 2,000 people) or higher.
In terms of our band, we performed four times in February and are taking a little break. We plan to work on one popular Cantonese and one Taiwanese song in the coming months.
Overall, IMHO, how well a child handles Chinese-English bilingual education in the tween to teen years, even with favorable Chinese Language Ecosystem (CLE), depends much on the individual’s general intellect, given high level competition for top college spots these days. Most children likely need to divert attention away from Chinese learning to participate in the college application rat race. So, it is ever more important that the majority of a solid Chinese instruction and foundation be laid down by the end of middle school.