Welcome to Hao Mama

My now four-year-old son (“L”) was a late talker, but an early singer. When he was two, he would enthusiastically sing through his repertoire of dozens of Chinese songs, over and over, day after day. It’s how he would get himself to sleep at night and how he would wake up in the morning. My favorite was always, “Wo De Hao Mama 我的好妈妈,” (“My good Mama”) about a child comforting an exhausted mother after a hard day’s work.

At first, it was through singing that our son learned to speak Chinese. Before either of our two children were born, my husband (a native Mandarin speaker) and I (a rusty Mandarin speaker) made a firm commitment to raise our children bilingually. But we didn’t yet realize how much work and effort true bilingualism entails. And we certainly didn’t predict what a key role the CDs of Chinese children singing high-pitched, syrupy songs, sent over by grandparents in China, would play in the process.

From the beginning, my husband has spoken exclusively Chinese to both children and I have spoken English. This method has worked well for us, but, living in an English environment, their Chinese has always needed to be supplemented and reinforced. So I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past four years searching out the best books, websites, videos, music, and activities to help our son not just learn but enjoy Chinese. At the beginning, we tried to have as much Chinese exposure at home as possible, but before L could talk we never knew what or how much was sinking in. It became clear one day when, after listening repeatedly for weeks to a CD of children reading Tang Dynasty poems, L turned to us one day, out of the blue, and recited a poem about geese from beginning to end. We now watch in wonder as he effortlessly switches back and forth between the two languages without a thought. We struck gold when a wonderful Chinese immersion school opened last September within walking distance from our house, where he is now flourishing.

Now we are starting the process over again with his nine-month-old little sister (“T”), and if it’s like anything else about the process of parenting two children, she is certain to choose her own, unique way to learn the language that is very different from her big brother.

This website is a place for me to compile the information I have gathered, and am gathering, in the process of creating a Chinese environment for my children. I have discovered that there are a lot of valuable resources out there, they are just hard to find. The links I post will not be comprehensive but will connect to information or resources that I have personally found useful. I also hope to learn about new resources or different ways of creating bilingual environments from people who happen upon this site and find it helpful. Ideally, I would love to create a community of parents who are seeking creative ways to teach their children Chinese. So please feel free to send me any anecdotes, links, or recommendations of resources that you value; post comments; or send me suggestions or feedback on the site. You can subscribe to receive email updates through the form on the sidebar.

Thanks for reading.

Sophie

 

10 Comments

  1. Best of luck on this your new website and venture! I love the idea!

  2. Hi Sophie!

    I read your letter on Multilingual Living Magazine. I’m a mom of two quadralingual kids (5 years and 22-months-old). We used to live in the US for 4 years before moving to Germany, and have been through the same as your family (minority language(s) against the dominant environment language). I read through your blog, and we did similar things to keep Indonesian (mine) and French (husband’s) above the water. Keep up the good work!

    I will add you on my blogroll. We could learn a lot from each other’s experience.

    Santi

  3. Hi Sophie,

    Carolyn and Moming’s favorites are also “Wo De Hao Mama 我的好妈妈,” (”My good Mama”). What’s a coincidence.

    Kate

  4. Hi! Just discovered your Web site through BlogHer and am bookmarking it to review more thoroughly later. I’ve been struggling since my son was born to teach him multiple languages, but it’s a losing battle. My family speaks the Taiwanese dialect, not Mandarin, and there are no schools nearby that teach this dialect. My mother used to speak in Taiwanese to my son when she was helping care for him as a baby, but he’s in public school now. I’m putting my son into a Mandarin-immersion class once a week on Saturdays, but since neither my husband nor I speak the language, we can’t reinforce it at home. But being exposed to a little bit of other languages is better than none, right?

    (As an aside, we seem to have picked the same WordPress theme for our blogs; I did I double-take when I saw your page!)

  5. Always am looking for useful information for my 3 year old, I’m enjoying reviewing your site.

    Cristy Li

  6. 你好Sophie! I am a mother of one (Annamaria) in Ann Arbor, MI and also married to a Chinese man. It has been a thrill to browse your blog, as I had hoped to connect with other mothers in a position similar to my own. In particular, I would like to know more about Luca’s schooling. Thank you for such a wonderful resource. I expect to visit frequently.

    sincerely,
    Allison

  7. Hi Sophie, thank you for compiling and sharing with us such useful information. Like you, I am struggling to get my 5 year old boy to learn Chinese. Heard so much horror stories of other kids repelling the language. It must be terrible to have to force the child to learn a language that they repel. I decided to start early. As early as 4 year old, I exposed them to Chinese movie, chinese songs and chinese program as well as online resources. Another site that is useful is Mandarinakids.com. I am using their DVD, books and App. Its a good start for my child. So far he is enjoying it. Keep us updated on Luca’s progress and challenge he is facing in learning Chinese.

    Regards,
    Paula

  8. Hi Sophie,

    Great site! I came across to your site when I typed in Learning chinese for kids APPS. I am also trying to teach my 2 kids mandarin. I started working on a site making music and videos for kids who want to learn chinese in a fun way. Please take a look at our video…I HATE VEGGIES. Hope you’ll like it.

    http://youtu.be/i8VZGcVGcrM

    Thanks!

  9. Hi Sophie,
    Thanks for sharing your stories and experiences with us! If I calculate correctly, T must be 5 or 6 now? About the same age as my son. You are so fortunate to have a Mandarin immersion school so close by! We live in South Bay. There is a private Mandarin immersion school nearby, but it costs about the same as going to college! So we are getting by with some after school Chinese, and my Chinglish. Ha ha! Hope you continue to post! Reading other people’s accounts helps me stay motivated! Emy

  10. Hi Sophie,

    Please check out my blog on the same topic, which I started just this month. My daughters are almost 8 and 11 now and speak Chinese fluently. They write and read too. We had to move heaven and earth to achieve this and I hope that my experience can be helpful to your endeavor.

    http://chinese-englishbilingualparenting.blogspot.com

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