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Old 09-04-2012, 08:57 PM
 
8,265 posts, read 11,076,267 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nervouslaughter View Post
In the professional world, if your resume says you're fluent in Mandarin,
How many kids in America who enter Mandarin immersion schools learn it well enough to be considered fluent? I'm not doubting the intelligence/motivation of your kids, I'm just saying achieving fluency in Mandarin is something that is usually accomplished only by living/learning/working for years in China or Taiwan which is something very few will ever do. For a language to be of utility to most employers (as a hiring edge) one would assume the candidate had either mastered all the subtle cultural linguistic nuances for Eastern business dealing, or at the very least be able to communicate on a technical level that is rarely encountered in language classes. Being conversational is one thing, negotiating capital amortization terms or debating radio spectrum interference solutions is a different league.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glucorious View Post
How is that a "good point" ? 1.3 billion people live in China and they send a crap load of people to Universities around the world. That's the reason. Same with India. They simply have a much larger population to draw from.
This is common, people see the Chinese around them in the US at schools and workplaces and get the warped perception they are a nation of super achievers. However those that manage to study or work here have been filtered and filtered to the point where you really are seeing the cream of the crop, even the children born here have the same genes and are in a high achieving environment.

I'm not saying China doesn't put more emphasis on schooling than Western countries, just saying most you see in school or working at Intel are atypical in their drive/success/smarts.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slackjaw View Post
How many kids in America who enter Mandarin immersion schools learn it well enough to be considered fluent? I'm not doubting the intelligence/motivation of your kids, I'm just saying achieving fluency in Mandarin is something that is usually accomplished only by living/learning/working for years in China or Taiwan which is something very few will ever do.
I gotta disagree with that,
I started learning Chinese at 30 (3rd language), learned a lot, which for Chinese it means I got to the point of being able to say lots of sentences in a way that Chinese people could understand me and I could watch TV in chinese and hear words every now and then.

Even though I stopped when I was just beginning to learn lots of useful phrases in Chinese, several years later I can still say phrases off the top of my head and chinese people understand what I'm saying. (Wo bu hue shuo Putonghua = I can't speak chinese)

Keep in mind, Chinese and Spanish are different from other languages, because you can always find a restaurant where you can go and practice.
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Old 09-04-2012, 10:19 PM
 
8,265 posts, read 11,076,267 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dopo View Post
I gotta disagree with that,
I started learning Chinese at 30 (3rd language), learned a lot, which for Chinese it means I got to the point of being able to say lots of sentences in a way that Chinese people could understand me and I could watch TV in chinese and hear words every now and then.

Even though I stopped when I was just beginning to learn lots of useful phrases in Chinese, several years later I can still say phrases off the top of my head and chinese people understand what I'm saying. (Wo bu hue shuo Putonghua = I can't speak chinese)

Keep in mind, Chinese and Spanish are different from other languages, because you can always find a restaurant where you can go and practice.
I don't see what you are disagreeing with, are you saying because you got to the point where you could say a lot of understandable phrases in Chinese or pick up occasional words you'd assume you could have become continued on to fluency from classwork or self-study in the US? I'd say you are greatly underestimating the gap from where you were to fluency.

I understand the difference between a romance language like Spanish and an Eastern language like Chinese, spending a few minutes chatting with a Chinese waiter once a month is relatively insignificant compared to the hours required for most people to attain fluency.
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:19 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIBS98 View Post
We're a mixed race family and my kids have lived overseas for most of their young lives so they have learned a few languages and I speak 4. From my own experience it is important to be realistic about how language is learned and what your kids are likely to pick up.

I am of the opinion that the only way to become fluent in a language is to be surrounded by it 24/7. Short of that, even for young kids it is tough to be fluent. My wife is Korean and has spoken nothing but Korean to our kids since the day they were born. We lived in Korea for 4 years. My kids went to Korean nursery schools. All of their friends were Korean. They were surrounded by the language and easily became fluent. Their only English came from me and, as a result, their English was much weaker than their Korean.

After 4 years we moved to Thailand and the kids went to the Australian school where (obviously) the main language was English with some teaching in Thai. My wife continued to speak Korean to them and they had some Korean friends but the dominant language in their lives was English. Their English quickly became strong, they switched from speaking only Korean to each other to speaking only English. More importantly, their Korean speaking skills began to decline despite continuing to hear Korean from my wife day-in, day-out. We were in Thailand about 18 months.

About 1 year ago, we moved back to Houston. Same situation as Thailand - wife still speaks Korean to them, they still have a few Korean friends. Despite this, their Korean has weakened to the point that they no longer want to speak Korean with their mother as it is difficult to express themselves fully and they get frustrated.

My understanding of the Chinese immersion school is that teaching will be 50/50 between Chinese and English. So, your kids are going to listed to Chinese half of the school day then walk out the door and be surrounded by English as they will have limited access to Chinese outside of school. Contrast this with Spanish where you can become immersed even in Houston.

My point is this: if you want your kids to become fluent in a language, there is a much greater chance that they would become fluent in Spanish while living in Houston. I could be wrong, but even in an immersion school I would not expect that they would get much past understanding Chinese when it is spoken to them and being able to speak just about enough to get by which will quickly fade once out of school unless they have follow on opportunities. If you want it to go much beyond that, you'll have to find ways to keep them heavily exposed to the language outside of school.
Most sensible post in this thread so far. I have learned 5 languages, some over many years, and I agree that if you don't live in a world that uses it regularly, you start to lose it fast. To be truly "fluent", as in to be able to carry a debate or give a key note speech on the fly, takes at least many years of true immersion in a native speaking country, I'll bet more than 5yrs. I was pretty good in two other languages after living in two other countries (one was my native language), but unfortunately, I can barely speak either of them now because of disuse. I can understand more than I can speak now. Do I regret learning them, no, because i love languages. Also, if i had to relearn any of them, it'd come back pretty fast. Also, does it help in business? Only sometimes, because I would not want to chance a 'misunderstanding' especially dealing with technical engineering or medical terms, etc. I also find that foreigners often revert back to English b/c they know i'm not a native speaker and they want to rely on English to make sure no miscommunication. English is still the universal language in business/sciences and many prominent countries teach English to a very high level. Sometimes it helps to impress your clients by being able to speak their language, bond at Happy hour, but i've also seen people turned off because it's the cliche of "white man attempting to impress us by speaking our language again". lol. Just saying that I do encourage learning languages, but it's a lifetime commitment and got to have realistic expectations.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:13 AM
 
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I have both my daughters in this program at (Zhong Shan Chinese School) that is a 16 week program on saturday for 2 hours and its a very good program. My daughters are 7 and 4. They both know english and spanish and now are learning mandarin. I believe these 3 languages are essential now and they will be able to speak with more than 3/4 of the world population.

Check the program out and say that Richard & Corina Flores suggested the program to the program director, Yue Mei Yang. email yuemei_yang@yahoo.com
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:37 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slackjaw View Post
spending a few minutes chatting with a Chinese waiter once a month is relatively insignificant compared to the hours required for most people to attain fluency.
It's still a conversation with a Chinese native speaker.
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:06 AM
JL
 
7,756 posts, read 12,457,054 times
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Having some Chinese friends is a must to converse daily. You have to eat, sleep, and drink Chinese...read Chinese magazines/newspapers. This is the rule for any language really. I'd rather learn one language and become fluent in it. I always hear about people learning several languages but aren't really proficient in holding a conversation in each language they learn. Just concentrate on one.

Last edited by JL; 09-05-2012 at 11:21 AM..
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:11 PM
 
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There are so many additional challenges in learning Mandarin.

- The tonal nature of Chinese is an obvious one, I've seen some make the mistake of deciding just knowing how to pronounce things is good enough and not worry about tones, when it really is critical for communication.

- The writing system, there are very few shortcuts it is just hard work. Using pinyin is fine for starters but they have to wean themselves off reading texts in pinyin as quickly as possible and use pinyin only for pronunciation of new vocabulary. Most of us can be handed a text written in Italian and make a reasonable go at sounding words out, with Chinese if you don't recognize a character you are stuck. After awhile one gets good enough to make a reasonable guess at how something is pronounced just by looking at the character, but that takes a lot of exposure.

- Few cognates. When learning German and you see "milch" it is easy to remember for milk, or "rapido" in Spanish for fast etc. but you will very rarely have this luxury in Chinese. Sometimes brand or proper names that they've sinofied (is that a word?) for example 可乐 pronounced "ke3 le4" means the drink cola.

I believe the areas children will excel at is picking up the tones, they are natural mimics. The biggest challenge will be the writing, ask a native Chinese parent who put their western-born kid in zhongwen ban where their kid struggled the most you'll usually find it is writing. That is just grind.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slackjaw View Post
There are so many additional challenges in learning Mandarin.
You can't do anything in Chinese if you don't understand the tones.
It's the same as if a person in English can't tell the difference between this "tones" that we have in English:
- ok (fine)
- ok!!! (ok, whatever you want)
- oook (I have no idea of what you are saying)
- ok? (Is this correct?)
You don't have to know how to do the tones, just know how to recognize them when you hear them.
Writing is difficult, but the important thing is to be able to communicate in Chinese.

There's advantages to Chinese
In Chinese there's no verb conjugation (what makes Spanish difficult)
So everything in Chinese is like this "I is American, you is American, etc"
And from what I remember, to make things past or future you add something to it "I is American was"
something like that.
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:19 PM
 
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This thread is old, however.

My three children were all raised initially in Mexico. My wife is Mexican and they are all fluent Spanish speakers as she chooses to use that language primarily with the kids at home. All of my children have gone to a mandarin language immersion school, and yes, had some limited coaching from me. My oldest who is in the third grade can carry on a conversation without any hesitations and has if anything a hint of an island accent from her first and second grade teachers.

I volunteer in my kids classes and from what I have witnessed, immersion done properly is simply amazing. The naysayers on this issue, based on my experience, are wrong and without actual experience on the matter.
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