The biggest pain for us in our Chinese-English bilingual and biliterate journey over the last 14 years are:
- It takes a LOT of resources and time to create and maintain CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem) throughout the years, in order to maintain their interest. I have to watch a lot of Chinese videos with them as a result. I was consumed with figuring out how to get more Chinese in for about 12 years.
- Similarly, it takes a LOT to provide Chinese instruction in sufficient pace to enable them to read comics or interesting books independently by ~ 7-9 years old.
- It is extremely difficult to find local peers, whom you are comfortable with, for them to interact with in Chinese. The most difficult age group is probably in the 8-13 years of age, when locally raised kids lose more and more of their Chinese proficiency. By 8 years old, I would say 99% of heritage kids won’t or can’t carry a conversation in Chinese with another kid. In high school, one can find teen immigrant Chinese speaking peers if one wants and needs to.
- The logistics and cost of sojourn abroad and acquiring a Chinese book collection at home!
- Devoting so much time to Chinese requires less time devoted to other extracurricular activity and requires the parents to take the long view (20-30 years).
- They need to devote additional time for regular American cultural exposure and appreciation for friendship and peer interaction purposes, particularly around middle school years.
- To ensure that dd#1’s Chinese is proficient enough for her to speak Chinese with dd#2, I didn’t work on her English much early on and she was more proficient in Chinese by age 8-9. We had to spend a few years in upper elementary and middle school to “close the gap” in English. That was a nerve-racking period, despite knowing that her English would catch up over time, based on the experience of youth immigrants.
- With their education and Chinese language focused upbringing, they appreciate a much broader range of culture but often in less depth than functionally monolingual kids. So, it can make it even harder to make friends with peers (particularly non-Asian ones) of different backgrounds who may have very different concern and appreciation, particularly as they enter middle and high school. They have to look a little harder to find friends.
- Based on the experience of those of my generation who were raised here, I knew from the start that this would be a difficult journey. I couldn’t find anyone back in the early 2000s who “succeeded” to guide me, before the days of widespread internet use and creation of social media. Well, I was wrong. It turned out to be much more difficult than I had imagined.