Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We'll Pull This Story Out If She Gets a Degree in Chinese Literature

Today was Pumpkin's 3 year check up. Yeah, we're a month late. I was a bit too slow in making the appointment.

After doing the usual physical exam, the doctor asked Pumpkin a bunch of questions to make sure she was on track developmentally. One of the questions she asked was, "Can you count to ten?"

Pumpkin dutifully starts counting: "yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba, jiu, shi".

The doctor's eyebrows went up, and she looked at me.

I blushed and said "Um, that's in Chinese."

The doctor laughed and asked if she can also do it in English. I assured her that Pumpkin can count to ten in English as well as Chinese (and Spanish). Pumpkin went on to sing her alphabet flawlessly, and I was able to testify that yes, Pumpkin speaks in complete sentences. Complete paragraphs, even, run together into extended monologues. So she passed her developmental exam.

The backstory: Hubby is jealous of our various bilingual friends who are raising multi-lingual children. He really wanted to try to get Pumpkin to learn another language now, when she can still hear all the different sounds. He argued that we should have her learn Chinese, since so many people speak it, it is only going to get more important in the coming years, and some of the sounds are so different from those found in English. I argued for Spanish, since it is more practical in our particular part of the world and would be easier to teach. He wouldn't give in, so finally I said "fine, she can learn Chinese- but you're in charge of figuring out how to do it."

A couple of weeks later, I told the story of that argument to a friend of mine who happens to be of Chinese descent. She said "I'm going to start [her 3 year old daughter] in Chinese lessons soon. Do you want to split the cost of a tutor?" I said sure, and Hubby got his way without doing any work. Pumpkin and my friend's daughter now have a 30 minute Chinese lesson with a tutor ever Saturday. My friend has even sent us a list of good books and DVDs to use to supplement the lessons.

Lest you think we're some sort of weirdo gung ho parents trying to ensure our daughter goes to Harvard... this is the ONE class we do. We haven't even gotten Pumpkin in swim lessons yet, although I think that should change this summer. And I think Hubby should research those and get them set up, since he got a free pass on the Chinese lessons.


  1. Anonymous7:38 AM

    That's awesome! I would love to give Zoe the chance to learn another language early on, but we haven't figured out how to do that. I know they do some Spanish in daycare, but not much.

  2. We're doing French with DS. It's Canada's other official language so if he ever want to work in government at any high-level he'll need to be bi-lingual. Otherwise I would probably do Spanish because it's spoken in so many parts of the world.

  3. That's awesome! I know too many folks around here who have gone out of their way to actively pass up the opportunity for their child to learn a second language for free at a dual language public elementary school. Crazeballs! I wish I spoke another language well (instead of at a basic, poor grammar level).

  4. Rosie turns three in three weeks and I'm happy to report that she can count to 10. Though sometimes she replaces 7 with 11. We'll see if she passes the big test. She won't be getting bonus marks like Pumpkin though! :)

    And, the only other words in different languages that Rosie knows are from tv. I realize as I write this how sad that is. She knows a few Sspanish words from Dora and a few Chinese words from Kai Lan. Very sad.

    I used to be fluent in French just from taking it in jr/sr high school, but then didn't use it often enough (I don't live anywhere near any part of French speaking Canada) and have completely lost it. Also very sad.

  5. @Melba- please don't feel sad about using TV to teach language! How do you think Pumpkin learned to count to 10 in Chinese? It was on a DVD we bought her. Yes, she also practiced with her tutor- that is probably why her pronunciation is correct. But the repetition needed to actually learn it? That was from the DVD. It had to be, because I can't say the number 9 in Chinese.

  6. Oh, and the number 13 is usually left out when we count past 10 in our household. Apparently, we're very superstitious.

  7. That's really cool! I totally want to get my girl Italian lessons/classes, but haven't looked into it yet. I do have some board books and songs in Italian.

    Besides my love of the language and culture, as well as my heritage, I figure that not many people know the language, so she and I can communicate with each other without anyone around knowing what we are saying!

    She's also learned some Chinese from Kai Lan and some Spanish from Dora, Diego, one of her pre-school teachers and the nanny (who watched her for the first two years of her life and now watches the Pookie).

  8. very cool! Chinese is enormously important.

  9. That is great...I can only imagine the stories our kid's doctors could tell.

    Any chance you could share the list of DVD/books your friend shared? Mandarin is on my mind for my 4 1/2 year old.


  10. @Karyn- I'll try to remember to dig up the list later and turn it into a post. In the meantime, the two things we've bought on my friend's recommendation (and liked) are the Follow Jade DVDs (not flashy, but Pumpkin really likes them, and that is how she learned her numbers) and the book Get Talking Chinese (for us- to help us learn pinyin).


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.