Why I Picked Mandarin Chinese

When I was a freshman in high school I took Spanish for the first time (we had a language requirement) and epically failed at it. I was a A/B student, but I never could get above a C- in Spanish. NEVER. As a senior, when I was researching different colleges and universities, one of my main criteria was that the school I picked could not have a foreign language requirement. After struggling for years in high school, I was no longer about that life and did not want a repeat.

In 2009, when I was pregnant with my son, I decided that I wanted him to be bilingual. Parents often want their children to be better than them, and given my struggles with a second language in high school, I thought that if I introduced a second language to my son when he was a baby, he wouldn’t have the same problems that I did.

Since I only speak English, I didn’t really have any preconceived notions about what language he should learn. I Googled ‘hardest languages to learn’ (because I figured that if he was going to learn a second language we might as well go all out) and stumbled upon a U.S. State Department list of languages. The State Department divided languages into four categories based on the level of difficulty for English speakers. Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean were all listed in the most difficult Category 5. Armed with my list, I then Googled each language and after doing research settled on Mandarin.

Now at the time, I did not know a single person who spoke Mandarin and if there were 5 people each speaking a different language to me, I would not have been able to identify the Mandarin speaker. But I thought to myself, hey, over a billion people in the world speak Mandarin, it makes sense in my head, and I have Google! How hard can it be?

Fast Forward 8 years later, I’m happy to say that my son can effectively communicate in Mandarin Chinese. He’s not an expert or native speaker by any means, but he can carry conversations in Mandarin Chinese (I have no idea what he’s saying) and translate for me. It is an ongoing process (we are working on characters/reading writing and expanding his vocabulary) but I don’t doubt my decision to take him on this language path. He’s also started learning French and Spanish. Among other things (that make sense in my head), this blog’s purpose it to share his bilingual journey and to provide resources for parents who are thinking about going down the same path or have already made the commitment. It can be rough at times, but you can do it!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid in English, Mandarin, and Spanish

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