I started learning Chinese, I was horrified to hear that it would take
me 10 years to become fluent. 27 years later I'm still working at it.
Due to my work on television, some Chinese language learners may
consider me a role model of sorts, but every day I'm reminded of what I
don't know and how much more there is to learn....One lifetime is not enough to attain the level of a native speaker, unless you start before the age of 10."- Mark Rowswell, AKA Dashan
"Becoming fluent in any language is a dream many people have, but few achieve." Olle Linge
The U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute says
Mandarin is one of the five most difficult languages in the world for
native English speakers to learn. The British Foreign Service believes that less than 3% of the population is
actually able to learn languages of a completely different concept and
alphabet, such as Mandarin.
There is a myth that says a child who is proficient in speaking a
language is fluent, but this is just not so as there are different
levels to being "fluent" in a language. Proficiency in face-to-face
communication doesn't imply proficiency in more complex academic
language needed in a classroom or in life. Mozart has been fluent in
Spanish from birth, but having gone to a local school in Spain for 4 winters where she was totally immersed with teachers who
spoke no English, learning written Spanish and reading Spanish in the same way as locals, her "fluency" level is much greater than any other way
we, as monolinguals could have given her.
"Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will turn the corner to full
spoken fluency until you have lived among Mandarin speakers in a
primarily Chinese environment for at least six months." truettblack
Trust me, we DID worry on that first day of school in Spain at barely 6 and then in Penang at 10, when we sent our most beloved baby off to these schools and environments.She did thrive in the sink or swim method because she is a brave kid who is very supported, but there can be no gain without taking some calculated risks, and we have always had great confidence in her abilities.
Gaining this "American fluent trilingual" status has been a HUGE, long term family goal that has taken a lot of sacrifice and work (similar to raising an Olympic champion). It's not the kind of thing that happens by accident or you'd see a lot of fluent triliingual Amercian kids with monolingual parents.
Many Chinese parents in America and even in Malaysia, do not raise kids who are fluent in Mandarin Chinese, just as many Hispanic native Spanish speaking parents in America ( and other nationalities) fail to raise their kids as fluent biliguals ( even when they try). Many travelers and expats in Spain, China and everywhere can be there for years or decades and never learn the language. Why? It takes a huge and long commitment with LOTS of hard work to become fully fluent and literate in a second language.
That is why we are extremely proud that Mozart won the trophy for the Mandarin Elocution contest at her Chinese school...the first time in it's 63 year history that a Caucasian won it! What can say FLUENT IN MANDARIN better than that? Perhaps all the native Chinese Mandarin speakers who said if one could just hear it without seeing her, they would think she was Chinese!
As much as anything this is a post to acknowledge the VERY hard work Mozart has put in and sacrifices she has made to get this fluency in Mandarin and Spanish while keeping up with other passions like singing, writing, reading, advanced maths, violin, piano, art, environmental issues etc. We were open to her quitting and even suggested it a few times as the "finish" point is really up to her, but she wanted to continue.
We are back to homeschooling now, but she works with an excellent Chinese tutor one-on-one in person four times a week ( plus lots of homework) and talks to friends in China almost every night for a few hours on Skype. She is almost midway through the fourth grade Primary school curriculum ( having completed the first 3 years) and we will complete through the 6th grade level before leaving ( by early next spring). At this point she can actually go faster outside of the school as she doesn't have to wait for the other students, but can go at her own pace.
We have all sacrificed some freedom and travel to help her get this Mandarin. Because of her age ( language learning is easier before puberty) we wanted to get as much deep Mandarin in her as possible, so added it strongly again when she was 9 while in Spain before basing in Penang with travel to China.
But as you can see by all these photos from around the world, whenever we traveled she kept up with her Mandarin practice and homework and skype lessons. She almost never had to be reminded and would do it on her own ( she was also motivated because she wanted to stay with her classmates and not get behind).
For us, the risk and hard work has paid off and we can almost see the finish line for this commitment and goal and she is excited to start on French next spring in France ( after time in Spain with beloved friends) which should be MUCH easier than Chinese ( because she is fluent in Spanish).
Average years of school for people 25 years and older in China is 3.6 years for
females; 6 years for males (Compared to 1.2 years for females and 3.5
years for males in India; and 12.4 years for females and 12.2 years for
males in the United States. According to the World Bank 93 percent of
Chinese males complete the 5th grade.
So if it is correct, that makes Mozart's Mandarin education better than your average female in China ( although obviously not as good as a wealthy city dweller Uni grad).
Interestingly, she has just got her first job at 12...teaching a Danish child Spanish in Asia! I think she will be using these skills for many years to come, what do you think?
We don't get many comments on this blog. I am not sure why. BUT we sometimes do get lots of comments on Facebook. The trouble with that is they soon disappear and out of site, out of mind.
I want Mozart to always have these wonderful comments, so I am adding them to this post as a way of keeping it for her as a permanent record. Some may see this as a braggy post, but I see this as an acknowledgement post to a kid who has worked very hard to earn this Mandarin fluency and I probably don't tell her enough in person, just how proud I am of her and honored to be her mom.
She is such a happy and great kid, and I am not sure what I ever did right to deserve her. I am so proud of what a good team we can be together...all three of us, in reaching hard goals. Thank you all too for being such a supportive audience!
COMMENTS FROM FACEBOOK ABOUT MANDARIN FLUENCY AND BIG WIN
MUST see! Mozart's Mandarin Speech is a FIRST in 63 year history of her famous Chinese High School!
Heather Dunsheath Wow,
that was awesome! Her Mandarin is so impressive, and I love all the
hand gestures (*puts hand on heart*). Thanks for including the
translation after the video - I really enjoyed her speech and found it
very interesting, and now I actually want to find more quotes by Lao
Tzu. Thanks for sharing and congrats to Mozart!
Jeanne Dee So sweet Crystal Silver! Fun to show that to Mozart!!
One of the amazing things about being a parent is one gets to give your
child things you wanted or dreamed about and thus give it to yourself
in that way.
making me wait for a decade to meet her, Mozart insured a special
childhood as I had MANY years to contemplate parenting and ultra
gratitude for the opportunity almost missed.
Jeanne Dee Well that was my plan too Crystal Silver and it worked for me and us!
I advise my child to wait as long as possible as well. Birth control
and baby planning is one of the truly liberating blessings of the 21st
Jeanne Dee I loved your comment Heather Dunsheath!
Hand gestures are very big here in Asia..they even use them with songs
in choir which drives kiddo a bit batty, but she enjoys the Chinese
style for the elocution.
to hear you liked the translation...that was hubs idea..and we all
thought a good one. Happy it encouraged you to read more Lao Tzu
quotes!! Our time in China made us even bigger fans!
Cherry Law Congrats
Mozart!!!! Her fabulous and powerful essence of Mandarin speech is so
impressive, enjoying and admiring her wonderful reactions, once again
Congratulations to your very talented girl, and many thanks of sharing
this awesome video...without viewing it just listening to her speech, no
one will distinguish she is an American...well done..cheers
Tosha Tobias Mozart,
you are so sweet and talented!! Congratulations! Although we don't know
each other, I feel that you are as part of my family. Maybe that's
because I've followed you and your parents on your trips and have "seen"
you grow. I'm sooooo proud of you and all your accomplishments! Your
mom and dad are awesome too . Sending you all lots of love, from Chile.
Sigue adelante, eres una niña hermosa y muy talentosa.
Cherry Law You
are most welcome Jeanne , she speaks so well perfect Mandarin with
accuracy and her talents on the expression tones, sound so sweet and
lovely ..she deserved all her hard work...felt proud of her on behalf of
we Chinese here.....cheers
Natasha Kewene-Hite So
true! Just today we had our first school visit and it was so gratifying
to hear our oldest say that he was looking forward to starting Chinese!
And re your next language, I look forward to hearing those plans,
Jeanne whenever you're ready to share! Yea!
Jeanne Dee Thanks so very much dear Tosha Tobias..looking forward to meeting you some day in person when we make it to Chile! I am going to take up Margaret Scheirman's idea and see if she will do a good Spanish speech for youtube too!
Dana Bana She
is so amazing! Thank u for the translation. It was a wonderful speech
and she presented it so well in Mandarin! She has the whole world in her
hands! She has a very successful future ahead of her no matter what she
chooses to do! Way to go, Mozart!
Jeanne Dee Ha! Marlys Alfiler-Schuermann I don't understand much of Mandarin either, but it is funny you can still tell she did well. That is why we translated at the end ..hubs idea...so we can all understand.
Woot!! My 12 year old just won FINALS ( one of
just 5 picked in her 1000 kid Chinese high school in Asia) in the
MANDARIN elocution contest!! This week she competes in front of the
whole school and hopes to win first prize!
She won the English
elocution contest at 10 here, but wanted to push herself to something
more demanding this year! She is the only one who wrote her own
speech...a great one about Lao Tzu.
The current youtube video
coming soon ...which will also give you an idea how great her Mandarin
is these days! ;) She loves public speaking and seems to have a knack
for it. ;)
Jeanne Dee LOL Violeta Balan
There will ALWAYS be snappy and snarky comments in the blogosphere
about something. I've tried not to have thin skin as an accidental
public person and remind kiddo regularly to remember that what other
people think about us is none of our business.
is definitely at a disadvantage for not being a native speaker of
Chinese, but that was part of the fun of the challenge for her.
principal actually reprimanded her for not doing BOTH the English and
Chinese ones, as she knows she is good at such, but she didn't want to
split her energy too much right at finals time too. I think she made the
making it to the finals is a big win, but the first place is what she
is hoping for. Fingers crossed for her...she has done her work and is
Rachelle A. Zazzu Not
just her languages. Her understanding of different cultures and
respect they deserve. She understands how to be kind in many different
parts of the world. I'm so happy she's on the planet
Jeanne Dee That's sweet Rachelle A. Zazzu
and I agree that her extensive experience with so many cultures (
deeper in some ways not only from the travel, but time she spent in
local schools) will impact her life forever in one way or another.
was some what afraid of doing it before leaving, but now seeing the
impact, I am so grateful that we have followed our hearts and inner
directive on this unusual parenting style.
She actually gets to be a bit of a diplomat all through her life as she meets many people who never met an American except her.