"families are enrolling their children in Mandarin-immersion programs that are springing up from California to Maine. They are hiring tutors, Skyping with teachers in Beijing and recruiting Chinese-speaking nannies. Some are stocking their playrooms with Disney videos in Mandarin—not to mention the iPhone apps aimed at making kids into Mandarin speakers."
As a multilingual language learning family, raising a trilingual kid ( as monolingual parents) it is interesting to read about other families who are spending time in Asia for Mandarin immersion and their different reasons for and ways of doing it. Obviously, many think it will be an advantage in the future for today's kids.
MANDARIN HELPS IN THE JOB MARKET
"Recruiters say Mandarin gives candidates an edge in the job market. "When it comes to Mandarin speakers, we don't have them [in the U.S.], so does it give you a competitive advantage to have it? The answer is yes," says Michael Distefano, a Los Angeles-based senior vice president at executive recruiting firm"
"As the Chinese economy surges, so does interest in Mandarin. The Chinese government estimates some 40m people study Mandarin outside the country, up from 30m in 2005. A tight job market in the West is partly responsible."
Only 4% of schools teach Mandarin in America, but corporate customers of Rosetta Stone said that Mandarin learners increased by 1800% between 2008 and 2010.
TRUE MANDARIN FLUENCY IS NOT A QUICK FIX
But I think what was most interesting were the comments, especially in the first Economist article about the challenges of learning reading, writing and speaking in Mandarin at a deep level. This seems to be hard work even for the Chinese! These two different folks ( and many others) seemed to have the same perspective and even Jim Roger's little girl ( who has been speaking Mandarin from birth and goes to a Mandarin school in Singapore) said how hard it all was.
"We feel we have a level of mastery of our own language after 6 years in school (the elementary level) learning it at least 2-3 hours in a day and speak it daily. Why do you as a foreign learner expects to learn it quickly? There is no shortcut."
"I would say, however, that learning to read, and especially to write, takes a lot more time than learning to speak. In Taiwan and China, locals learn to read only by putting in much longer school days than we have in North America, and learn to write only by writing out each character countless times, while also being exposed to them during their long hours spent learning to read."
MORE MANDARIN FOR MOZART
Our 11 year old Mozart is doing really great in her Mandarin here, comfortable speaking and making good headway with the harder reading and writing and remains at the top of her class ( despite being years younger), but we have recently upped her Mandarin. ( The video above is when she first arrived last year before any immersion). I will give more details about our new challenges ( like her doing physics in Mandarin) in another post as well as our upcoming trip and immersion in China during her school holidays.
She is working really hard and we are doing all we can to support her. Luckily, she is a very happy kid and enjoying it all and having another sleep over this weekend with her local Chinese BFF here ( who speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and English).
"Not training our kids to be able to work and live in an international environment is like leaving them illiterate" David Boren
Proficiency in face-to-face communication doesn’t imply proficiency in more complex academic language needed in a classroom or in life. The more fluent one is, the more advantageous and that takes TIME and deep immersion, but easiest done in childhood, with many benefits besides the language.