Underprepared for Chinese School

My boy does not speak Mandarin. He can understand some Mandarin but he can’t speak it. He can read a little and write reasonably well but he can’t speak well. I thought it would be okay that given time he would be able to catch up with the spoken language. Unfortunately he was sick and missed almost half of the school term. For example, the children have done 6 ting seah (Chinese Spelling) and my boy missed all of it. It is the same for other languages.

Now, he is somewhat lost. He says teacher put up a duty roster while he was away from school but he does not know what his duty is. He is afraid to ask teacher because he can’t speak Mandarin. He does not understand the roster and does not know how to read what is written on it so he is now afraid because he is not doing his share of duties.

I really thought he would be okay because when his sister was in Primary One, most of her classmates were like her. They all spoke in English and the teacher had to speak in English to help them understand. Eventually they all learned. My boy is in a class where they put most of the non-Chinese. 1/4 of the pupils in his class are non-Chinese. I thought that would make things even easier for him. However I am wrong. The Mat-Salleh boy, the Indian girl, the Malay boy, all of them speak Mandarin with ease. In fact, I notice that most of  his classmates speak in Chinese rather than English. All these children had attended at least 2 or 3 years of Chinese kindergarten.

So now we are lost. My husband says it is my fault. He had kept on asking me whether he needed extra preparation in conversational Chinese before he started school and I kept on brushing it aside saying he will be alright. It is my fault he is lost now. My boy says his friends point at  him and say “how come he doesn’t speak Chinese?” For his sister, we did get her kindy teacher to come in once a week for about 6 months before she started school to do nothing but just talk to her in Chinese. I also went through some reading material with her similar to the Peter and Jane series and taught her up to 800 words before she started school. I guess that makes a difference for her. For him being the second child, I did not have this undivided attention nor time to read the books with him so closely. We only got up to 300 words.

So what to do now? Guess I have to buy more Chinese vcds etc for him to watch and expose him more to the language. The only problem is… we don’t have time to watch them. I will also try to go through his Chinese Language book with him before his teacher teaches him so that he can understand the lesson better. The problem with that is, as usual, I can’t find the time because I have to teach his sister too and her lessons being so much harder usually takes up more time and energy from me. It is always that way. Poor boy. I must find more time to teach him.

Does anyone know of any good online Chinese computer games? He likes computer games so maybe that will help a little.

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10 thoughts on “Underprepared for Chinese School

  1. no need to get so anxious bout this. i’m sure he can survive. my belle was the only girl in class that does not speak mandarin. she is a very shy girl too but now, in Std 2 she speaks the language already. 🙂

    Just what I needed to hear. Thanks. 🙂 However, having said that, I think each child is different. Your Belle strikes me as a confident and self assured. She may learn faster and not feel so shy about it.

  2. My son who is std 2 now and still can’t really speak mandarin. I believe if your boy is not the shy type, he will soon be able to do it. My problem is my boy is reserve. Even to ask him to speak in English to his friend, he does not do it.

    My son is also a bit reserved but less than his sister. However she is in std 3 now and she tells me sometimes she will say words in Chinese “accidentally” instead of in English and I think her Chinese is better than her English now which isn’t exactly what I prefer either. Tall order huh. Want kid to be able to speak and write Chinese but prefer them to be better in English. 😛

  3. MG, Popular is having a book clearance sale from 10 March till 20 March at Summit, USJ. My boy too, prefers speaking English to Mandarin though I overheard him speaking Mandarin with his classmates over the phone on few occasions.

  4. Don’t blame yourself and get so anxious. Like you my time and attention is barely enough for my boy. We didn’t even get to 300 words. Moreover with his special need, words and writing just don’t register in his mind easily. He doesn’t speak the language too and no preparation prior to that either. He still speaks broken mandarin and can only understand a little. But I still have good faith that he will pick up

  5. MG, check out Bao Bei Centers. They do wonder to kids in Chinese learning thru daily flash cards, singing and word games. A lot of my english speaking friends are finding their primary chinese-super-weak kids growing extremely well after enroll into it. Hence i throw all mine in too.

  6. How do you teach ting sheh? How do you control your temper / not yelling when teach them? hahahah..

    I don’t know Mandarin, so I would ask them to practise their ting sheh on their own. Then I whip out my e-dictionary, copy down the words and make the e-dict read out the words for them to write. Then I check their strokes with my e-dict. Haha. As for the temper? I just let loose. 😛

  7. Hello MG,

    Just my own experiences with my kids as well as myself. I am English educated and could not speak Mandarin before. However, I do understand when others speak to me. So I forced myself to speak the language and gradually all that I understood before, I can now verbalized with ease. I am also learning new Mandarin words every day as I converse with my kids. Frankly, I believe that we as parents (esp those who are very use to speaking English only) have to learn to speak the language too esp to their kids when they are young like now. Thankfully, I persisted speaking Mandarin to my daughter prior to Std 1 and now she is comfortable with the language in her school. Likewise, tho’ a bit too late, I am doing the same with my son (who is weaker but “improving”). I feel it such a waste esp when I meet a parent or parents, who are Mandarin- educated, but who choose(s)to speak to their kids in English. That makes it so much harder for the kids at school as even basic Mandarin becomes hard to comprehend. Likewise, I am trying the same with BM. Just some sharing even tho’ this is an old blog 😛

    Hello Greg, it is amazing of you to take such efforts. I was afraid that if I spoke to them they would learn the wrong things from all my mispronounciation. I don’t have anyone else to practise with. However, since they started kindy I have learned to read mostly and write a little so I can coach them myself but only up to std 2 and a little bit in std 3. I am afraid my girl’s chinese essay is quite beyond me now. 🙂 I used their books to learn and also bought several books myself to learn chinese vocab, grammar etc. I have no worries about my girl now. She used to speak with a Mak Salleh slang but now she can read and write well and she says she loves the Chinese language. However, the boy is still having trouble in school. He is good in Math and Science but since they are in Chinese, I am afraid he will not do so well. My fault really for not working harder and helping him more in preschool so he has to struggle harder now.

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