One method for those households that don't have a native speaker is the hiring of a nanny who speaks Chinese. The NY Times had an article noting the increase in au pairs from China. It is also possible to arrange play dates with other children who are learning Chinese as well as finding a Chinese speaking babysitter. Local universities will often have spouses of Chinese working on Masters and PhD's who are looking for extra income. Another option is finding a local nanny, and there are a number around. If you are in public service, please remember Zoe Baird on the requirements for legally hiring a nanny. Truth to be told, there is a large population of people in the US from China who don't have papers who work as nannies, so be careful. Nannies are also taking care of your children, so picking the right person is extremely important, especially if they live with you. Friends of ours have gone through multiple nannies and it was not a good experience.
Private Chinese Schools
Traditionally non-public Chinese Schools in the US start teaching children when they are old to sit still and copy characters. Most schools are still using traditional teaching rote teaching methods still used in Taiwan and China. For the most part with children in the US, it does not work due to culture classes. There is a huge amount of independence in children in the US and using boring teaching methods that do not capture the interest of the child so they want to go to school without a lot of parental pushing will end up in failure. With the child being forced to go to school and often treating it as just babysitting, and not learning Chinese.
An alternative is finding a school that uses more of a Montessori Method or what is used in ESL where there is a lot of conversation. I was pleasantly surprised by my daughter's public school language teacher who spoke of using this method in the classroom, instead of the traditional focus on grammar in learning many foreign languages. At a young age, I would suggest programs that teach using a lot of singing and other fun activities.
Chinese Learning Products
CD's for Learning Chinese
CD's come in two different types. One is products that are 100% Chinese of Chinese Children Songs or stories only in Chinese. Some products include a book of lyrics in Chinese, and other's don't. Other products are designed to teach Chinese and have a booklet with lyrics in English, Pinyin, and Chinese Characters. The teaching Chinese products are both from from the US (the majority) and a series from Singapore. The products for Teaching Chinese are bilingual, so the songs are sung in both Chinese and English. What I like about the CD's is they give a parent a chance to be part of the process where they can Sing Happy Birthday in the Teach Me Chinese CD and Chinese Book in both English and Chinese (this series focuses on popular songs in Chinese and English). The other series have specially written songs for Teaching Chinese. The Teach Me Chinese Series has Teacher Guides available. The Sing & Learn Chinese CD & Book includes a track of the songs without words (like Karoke). Let's Sing Chinese is a 3 product series from Singapore that has both familiar songs and new ones. 3 is the most I have seen of any series of Cd's for Teaching Chinese to Children.
Video's for Learning Chinese
Video's such as from Mei Mei use more of a hands on approach teaching basic vocabulary and she currently has five video's in her series. From the first one that teaches counting and parts of the body with songs through an approach that children love to later ones that progress such as her Play and Learn Chinese with Mei Mei where an actual Chinese Kindergarten is visited. What is great about this video is it gives your Child the chance to compare their experience and see the differences between their school and the one in the video. From lunch to PE to naps. To select the right video for your child, I recommend reading the reviews (both good and bad).
Books for Learning Chinese
A great book for those just beginning to Learn Chinese is I Won't Bite. It's a touch and feel book that has Pinyin, Chinese Characters, and English. The challenge of using a book is often you need to know how to read Chinese, in order to teach from it. A fun book for exposing Children to Chinese Characters is Long Is A Dragon by Peggy Goldstein A selection of books for Learning Chinese Character
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Article Added on Sunday, July 26, 2009
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