I attended Chinese school for 10 years, every Saturday morning for four hours. I hated it for 7-8 years because I missed all the cartoons in the morning. (All my classmates hated it too.) I might have hated the first couple of years too but I don't remember because I was 3-4 years old. No matter how much I voiced my displeasure with Chinese school, my mom made me go. It got to the point that she said it would be easier on me if we just skip the part where I whine before I go, because I am going no matter what.
Went I entered junior high, I was able to speak to new students from Hong Kong. It was great because I met some of my closest friends I still have today! Entering the workforce knowing a second language definitely helped my career. Of course, now I understand knowing a second language is a great thing and I want this for my daughter too.
Teaching Grace Chinese is way harder than (I think) it was for my mom to teach me. My mom would not answer me if I spoke to her in English. I HAD to ask or talk to her in Chinese to get anything. With Grace, if I tried this, she would just go to her dad and ask in English. Therefore, I knew I had to do things differently since she only had one Chinese speaking parent.
Grace's Chinese is still weak (by my standards) but here is how I've been teaching her at least until she goes to Chinese school this year!
START SMALL AND USE IT DAILY
When she was really young, I started to use some Chinese words and terms on a regular basis just so she knows and gets used to the different sounds of Chinese versus English. I used everyday terms like "brush teeth", "blow dry hair" and "sleep" Manners were also taught to her to say to her gong gong (maternal grandpa) like: "good morning", "good night", "thank you" and ""good bye." I took her a while to understand that what she was saying was actually Chinese but she definitely learned some Chinese.
There are always opportunities to teach. Even at a grocery store, I try to teach her different fruits in Chinese. When we are shopping for clothes, I try to teach her the different articles of clothing in Chinese too. She may not get all the words at once but at least it exposes her to new sounds!
MAKE IT FUN
Because it took me over a month to teach her the Chinese word for "foot" (it's not that hard), I decided to change the way I teach and make it more fun for her. I looked up some Chinese childhood songs and sang them to her. To my surprise, I sang it five times and she sang it back to me. She even taught her friends at dayhome the song and they sang it back to me too.
Another random opportunity was when we went to my dad's house and he had found the Peppa Pig series in Chinese for her to watch. She had no idea why Peppa spoke a different language but was definitely interested and engaged. She even asked me many questions about what they were saying too!
Last tip is to teach more than you think they will learn. You will be surprised how much they learn and retain! If you have any tips or Chinese school recommendations in YYC, please let me know!!