Chinese immersion schools – a fad?

I read more and more about Chinese immersion schools for kids in the US.

My grandchildren go to French immersion. My wife is against the idea. When she was small, growing up in Macao, she was suddenly taken out of the comfort of her Chinese language school background and but into an English only school. The other kids were all Chinese. They had to speak English at school. She spoke Chinese at home. She did not enjoy the experience. It was unnatural.

I think it is better to let kids explore learning many things in the language that is most natural to them. I am favour of teaching foreign languages as a subject, but more intelligently. We should teach languages using stories and interesting content, with lots of listening and videos. Let kids enjoy language, and don’t test them. Expose them to more than one foreign language. When they are older they may get interested and they will learn in a hurry.

If I were going to put a child into immersion in the US, it would not be Chinese.It would be Spanish. Most kids will have no opportunity to use Chinese. For most, it is entirely artificial, more so than was the case for my wife in Hong Kong. Furthermore Chinese requires the learning of many characters, in an environment where Chinese is essentially absent. Spanish is more useful, easier, and readily available. It is written as it is spoken.

I would not do it, but Chinese immersion seems to be a major fashion right now. Parents want to give their kids an advantage. Well, it is not something I would do.

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One Response to Chinese immersion schools – a fad?

  1. Xoco says:

    It does seem that there’s a risk of jeopardizing a child’s education in other areas just for the sake of learning a language they, like you said, may never use and may not make the effort to keep up. I’m sure there’s a huge chance of missing out on learning the finer points of a person’s native tongue too…which is truly sad.

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