In late November we enrolled Li Lin two days a week into a Mandarin/English Bilingual Preschool. We are concerned about maintaining her mother tongue. Wiser, much more well read minds than I, have researched the topic and came to the unsurprising conclusion that maintaining a child's first language has huge benefits to the child and helps in learning a second or third language. Not to mention the asset knowing mandarin will be in the workplace.
Since Li Lin feels so strongly about wanting to visit yeye and nainai again someday, we feel it is imperative she does not forget how to speak mandarin. What a sad day that would be for her to meet them again and not be able to chat with them.
The transition to her part-time studies went relatively smoothly thanks to a friend of hers that she knows from church who attends the school as well. He made her feel very much at home there and she seemed to like it. That was before the Christmas break. Li Lin had a rash the week before the break so she had a total of three weeks off. On Monday I took her and it seemed to go okay. She came home excited to tell us about her day. Tues she did not want to go. I spoke with the preschool teacher about a couple of Li Lin's concerns and why she did not want to go. Was I ever happy I spoke to her!
She said a few things:
1. She is shy--- hard to believe, our little out-going child is being described as shy
2. She likes having mandarin books read to her and understands everything.
3. When spoken to in mandarin she often answers back in English :(
4. Don't worry... she still speaks mandarin often- a number of kids only speak mandarin. She speaks to these kids in Chinese.
Then the teacher said, "Yesterday I heard her say to a friend she was playing with, Wo ai wode mama. Ni ai nide ma?" (This translates to: I love my mom. Do you love yours?)
Pure joy. As I walked to my van I fought back tears and swallowed a big lump in my throat. What a sweet little girl... bless her heart! I am so happy I got to hear this adorable story.
As for the schooling, I am praying she readjusts quickly. Her language is so closely linked to her culture and everything she came from. I know this for a fact because she has been speaking a lot more about her foster grandparents and missing them since entering this mandarin environment. If she does not readjust we may need to pull her out. We will see how it goes.
One thing's for sure though, I can't imagine the teacher making me any happier next week. Those words were precious...I will treasure them for a long time.