Pinyin or not

Another question we get asked a lot is whether we will be teaching Pinyin to our students. Pinyin is a great way for students to learn Mandarin, but we believe the best time to start Pinyin is in the 1st grade (Pinyin is also taught in the first grade in China). We will introduce Pinyin in our big (older) student class, but will not emphasize it. The main concern is that since Pinyin uses the English alphabet but the letters are pronounced differently, it will cause confusion for the students as they learn both Chinese and English. At the ages of our students, (2.5 to 6), it is not reasonable to expect the kids to be able to separate 2 different phonetic pronunciation of the same letter. Our goal as always is to develop fully bilingual kids.

That said, depending on demand, we plan on holding introductory Pinyin lessons for interested parents. This would be a great way for non-Chinese speaking parents to help their child learn Mandarin.

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Myth of Bilingualism Deficit Hypothesis?

Parents are rightly concerned and want the best for their children. One of the concerns we get asked a lot is “Does teaching my child Chinese at this young age affect the development of their English proficiency?” Basically, we are asked about what researchers have coined as the Bilingualism Deficit hypothesis.

In a simple answer, “No” and here are some reasons why:

1.) Majority of studies on early language development in toddlers from bilingual homes concluded that simultaneous acquisition of 2 languages does not lead to delays in speech or language development. (We wouldn’t bore you with a list of references, but if you are interested, please contact us.)

2.) Majority of studies in older children (grade 1 through 9) support the idea that multilingual learning increases cognitive flexibility, divergent thinking, enhances literacy and supports cross-cultural understanding.

Academic studies aside, we prefer to look at the question this way… Would you ask the same question if you are sending your child to an English only daycare in China? Sending a child to English school in China is considered a privilege and highly desirable, if so, why is it different when you are sending your little one to Chinese school in America? Why is our perception that learning English is a gift while learning Chinese is harmful?

We want to present a full picture such that parents can make a good decision so here are some other studies to consider. If bilingualism is so great then where does this bilingualism deficit hypothesis come from? There are earlier studies of immigrant families that have shown speaking 2 languages led to lower language proficiency. However, in most cases this is because the child is sacrificing their native language (L1) for the new language (L2) or the educator is emphasizing L2 over L1. Nowadays, schools are much more aware and in fact promotes bilingualism. In our school, we are developing true bilingual students, not one language over the other. (More on why immersion is best to achieve bilingualism in a future blog post.) Also, in earlier studies that support the deficit hypothesis, prejudices against immigrants could have led to detrimental effects on a child’s self-esteem and learning abilities. As a report (Maschinot, 2008) stated, the “detrimental” effect about bilingualism seems to be society’s stigmatizing response to immigrant status rather than the actual act of speaking 2 languages. (Perhaps these prejudices have also made us think learning English is a gift while learning Chinese is harmful?)

Finally, globalization is a force that cannot be stopped, the world is only getting smaller. We no longer have the luxury of thinking in mono-language, mono-culture terms. If there are developmental issues with bilingualism, then it is our job as educators to come up with innovative ways to positively teach our kids multilingualism and multiculturalism. No doubt, learning English and mandarin Chinese at once is hard, it is more complex, it takes more time for your child to master and requires a lot more support from us parents and educators. But that is what we are here to do at iMandarin School. We are here to help prepare your child for a globalized world, and ensure that your loved ones receives the full benefits or bilingualism.

Hope this helps, and thanks for reading!

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Thank you to SCAAHMCC!

Thank you to the Somerset County Asian-American Heritage Month Celebration Committee for making the Asian American Heritage festival a success! For the people who never attended the festival we highly recommend coming to see it. The performances were great, very professional, and so was the food! Special thanks to Li Ching for helping us setup our table, and Ping for doing such a great job on the program.

As for us, iMandarin School being a new startup, we really appreciated all the kind words and the encouragement we received from everyone. We can feel the strong sense of community at the celebration, and we hope we can further foster that sense of community within our school.

Last but not least, we also enjoyed speaking with many parents about our Chinese Immersion school and meeting all the little ones. There were many good questions, and we will further elaborate our thoughts in future blog posts.

Thanks to everyone for making our first event a success!

Chinese Immersion School NJ at Asian American Festival 2015

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Somerset County Asian American Festival

Come see us! We are going to be at the Somerset County Asian American Festival on Sunday June 7th, 2015. For more information check here:

Please stop by our table if you are interested in more information about our school. See you there!

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