Last time my mother (our kids call her Nai Nai) came and visited us, she decided that she wanted to learn English. We enrolled her into one of those adult ESL programs. One day Nai-Nai was practicing English with MM, and Nai-Nai asked him to say a few words that she had trouble pronouncing. After several tries, Nai-Nai, obviously frustrated, complained how hard it is to learn a new language. MM and AA was puzzled and asked, ” “Why do you have to learn it?” Nai Nia told them that she want to be able to communicate with their father.
As the conversation went on, I realized that the children weren’t questioning her motivation but they just didn’t understand why Nai Nai didn’t speak English already and had to learn it, “Why do you have to learn it? Aren’t you born to speak both? We are born to speaking English,Chinese and German and we didn’t have to learn them!”
Another interesting development we observed while Nai Nai was here was that my children started to talk amoung themselves more in Mandarin. AA’s bilingual preschool teacher also told me that she noticed that AA started to talk to herslef in Mandarin when playing alone. This got me very excited. Since we live in an English-dominated evnironment, the kids alwasy prefer to speak English than other languages, simply because they hear it so much. However, by having another adult in the house to speak Mandarin with was enough to tip the scale in favor of Mandarin.