Learning Chinese: Cultural Anchor or Business Edge?
Parents Take Language Class Into Their Own Hands
“I tell people that we’re going to Chinese school, and they say, ‘Why Chinese?’ ” said Carlota Beacham, 30, a dentist born and raised in Brazil who now lives in Short Hills, N.J., and spends nearly $12,000 a year to send her sons, Thomas, 4, and James, 1, to the Chinese preschool. “It sounds silly to people, but it makes sense to me because I believe Chinese will be a very important language in 20 years.”
Similarly, Sharon Huang, 45, a former marketing executive for Weight Watchers and Nabisco, founded Bilingual Buds last year for her 2-year-old twins, Warren and Ethan, because she could not find a Chinese preschool locally like the ones she had seen when she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. What started with 10 children in her home quickly grew to 70 students and 7 teachers, in a rented space in the church.
In Riverside, Conn., about two dozen parents organized a Chinese-language school in 2002 after becoming dissatisfied with the traditional teaching methods at a local school for Chinese-Americans. The Chinese Language School of Connecticut now has 220 students in its Sunday classes, nearly a third of them under 5.
Susan Serven, 42, one of the school’s founders, said the parents had developed an interactive curriculum, using puppets and playing games like Twister and Jeopardy in Mandarin. Ms. Serven, who adopted two girls from China, said that many of the families are mixed racially and ethnically, and see the language as not only an investment in the future but also a way to preserve their children’s heritage.