We are not just crazy Chinese tiger parents who need their child to be one-step ahead for everything. There are very solid reasons for why early-age chinese language exposure sets a critical foundation for learning. Without acquiring the ability to read at least a few hundred Chinese characters during the pre-K and Kindergarten years, it will become an increasing uphill battle later on.
I wish I started my child on learning chinese earlier. The mismatch between the characters she can read and her age means that it’s hard to find books that she can read AND have stories that are interesting.
Paraphrasing a mom who posted on a bilingual facebook group, this is the challenge that parents face when they have 8 year olds that are only starting to acquire their first few hundred characters. There is a mismatch between their ability to recognize characters and the type of stories that will keep them interested. Therefore, it is hard to set them on the virtuous cycle where they enjoy reading books in Chinese and that in turn creates the motivation and exposure to acquire more characters.
At the same time, we’ve also heard from parents who have been traumatised by the heavy-handed pressure applied by their parents to learn Chinese, creating a negative experience that follows them for life. There are amazing resources both online and on Maomi&Me to help parents achieve the dual goal of acquiring 500 characters by end of Grade 1 and also doing it, as much as possible, in a child-led manner.
At the time of writing, the Maomi Mobile App is still in private beta testing and is still not fun enough for us to release but it was still amazing to hear from my daughter:
Mama, can I please play the kitty game?
It’s such a relief to have her direct the learning vs. me having harass her about doing worksheets. of course there are days that are harder but every little bit helps.
Just a side-note: if you didn’t start your child early, I don’t mean for this post to be discouraging! It’s never too late to start.