Over the years, my daughters (10 & 13) had watched a number of kungfu TV shows, which certainly help pique their interest in the Chinese language. Recently, the benefit of those TV shows seem to have run its course and I figure it is time to watch some modern drama that explore cultural issues and employ languages (as in language usage) more relevant to their daily lives.
I therefore recently introduced them to Love Cuisine, a Taiwanese romantic comedy TV show with two culinary school teachers as the main romantic interests and teenage student romances as the side show. There are 22 episodes, each about 80 minutes long.
Well, the show is a hit! My dds love it from the very first episode! They would scream with excitement or cringe at times watching it. After watching just a couple of episodes, they were already talking to me and each other about the funny parts. Riding in the car during our winter break family trip, I find them talking about the show for extended periods of time, all in Chinese of course. The dialogue from the show, particularly the more dramatic ones, has visibly made a positive impact on my dds’ colloquial proficiency. They are able to hold conversation in Chinese longer before having to code-switch to English, particularly when they talk about English based experiences. One of the reasons is that my dds now have one more interesting shared experience to talk about, that are entirely in Chinese. Another reason is that the setting of the show is a school with teenage students, young love, and your standard romance plot, which my dds (particularly my 13 year old) have increasing exposure to through multimedia and interaction with other middle schoolers (not personally, in terms of dating, of course, LOL). It certainly helps that they are familiar with the general and peer group social interactions and overall surrounding in Taiwan through their sojourns and several short stints in elementary school there.
The point I hope to make is that, as the children grow up, it would be ideal that they have adequate language proficiency and cultural knowledge/appreciation to be able to take advantage of native multimedia programs that suit their shifting interests, which will further enhance their understanding, appreciation, and proficiency. Being able to share these experiences in a social context help maintain the CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem), even into their teens. The CLE can continue to run parallel to the ELE, as long as the social context continue to provide a net positive experience. (I can see that it may be much more difficult for siblings who are more than a few years apart in age or of different gender with very different interests. Parents may have to help establish other social groups.)
Lastly, given that I explain to my dds the reason and method of my Chinese language pedagogy, my 13 year old dd understands that few peers share similar Chinese-English bicultural and bilingual experience, unless they are youth (1.25 to 1.75 generation) immigrants. Furthermore, thinking ahead (and this part maybe controversial), she understands that a future non-Chinese speaking spouse for her will likely mean that either she will have to take substantial amount of time away from her career to raise her children in similar way, or that she likely won’t be able to replicate similar experience for her children, which of course, means that her children will likely have substantially lower Chinese proficiency growing up. Certainly, having two Chinese speaking parents by itself in the US means little in terms of their children’s Chinese proficiency, but that’s an entirely different issue.