If you try to raise a bilingual child, you might know the importance of a playdate.
As Mandarin Chinese is a minority language in USA, many children might be unwilling to learn this language, even their parents are Mandarin-Chinese speaking immigrants, let alone if you are the parent that doesn’t speak Mandarin-Chinese.
So what can we do?
I find a solution: setting up a Mandarin-Chinese speaking group yourself or join a local group or club to meet other children and their parents who speak Mandarin-Chinese.
Before I set up a local Mandarin-Chinese speaking moms club, I was a member of an international moms club.
My children and I had good time hanging out with other English speaking moms and their children, until one day, my older boy told me: Mom, please don’t speak Chinese, it is really embarrassing.
I was surprised to hear what he said. I asked him: Why do you feel speaking Chinese is embarrassing?
My son said: Because every one speaks English.
I won’t blame my boy but I do get an idea that I need provide opportunities for my boy to let him know many people in USA also speak a second language and he should feel proud of being bilingual.
Soon I got a chance to educate my boy when the English speaking moms club held a new year potluck party.
My friend A (For her privacy, I will use the letter A) gave my son a talk when she heard about my concern .
A said to my son: I speak two languages “English” and “Ukrainian”. My dad always told me, if you speak two languages, you will make more money. My dad is right. My husband makes more money than his peers because he speaks two languages. Now I send my boy to a Ukrainian immersion school to learn Ukrainian. You should learn Chinese as well.
I have to say, my friend A gave my son a very good lesson.
However, I feel I need do more to make sure my son really appreciates speaking and learning Chinese.
I thought it will be a good idea to have my boy hang out with other children similar as his own background, so he knows there are other families there that speak Chinese at home.
At first, I didn’t know many Chinese moms, but I am lucky to live in an area where there are many Chinese speaking people.
If I meet a Chinese speaking mom and feel she is friendly, I will try to talk with her and ask if it is OK to get her email address, so we can keep in touch.
Happily, most of moms said yes to me.
There is a Chinese saying: 一回生(yi1 hui2 sheng1), 二回熟 (er4 hui2 shu2). It means: You are strangers for the first time, but you will become acquaintances for the second time.
Soon I made a bunch of Chinese moms friends and we started to have playdates and potluck parties once in a while.
We moms share kinds of information from coupons to local learning classes through an online wechat group.
Because of this moms group, our children enjoy playing together now and then and we Mandarin-Chinese speaking moms enjoy our social time.
To my delight, the moms club is expanding, several moms friends start to bring their friends into this group. (Updated: By June 2016, this club has more than 50 local moms members. )
If you live in an area where there are few Mandarin-Chinese speaking people, try to find Chinese people at local Chinese schools or churches or even post a post online, your local newspaper or library board.
If you are not a Mandarin-Chinese native speaker, don’t feel shy to reach out first.
Many Chinese people are very friendly and we appreciate your efforts to learn our language. Many of us will be glad to help you or give you information about learning Mandarin-Chinese.
I can’t say my boy’s Chinese is improved because of playdates, when kids play together, they mostly speak English, it is acceptable, after all English is their daily language most of time.
However, I do find my boy starts to appreciate learning Mandarin Chinese. When I teach him new Mandarin-Chinese words, he is willing to learn. He even told me that he plans to be trilingual.
If you wish your children appreciate learning Mandarin Chinese, you can be creative to find kinds of ideas to help your children, a Mandarin Chinese speaking group is one of these ideas.
I am sure your children will be benefited from what you do for them. At the same time, you will gain some new life experiences. Nothing can be better than this.