This morning, we did a couple tours of 3-4K schools in the Manhattan Chinatown area, one of which is a Mandarin Chinese immersion program that is also part of the Universal Pre-K program in New York City. The class is taught in English and in Mandarin, with emphasis on verbal Chinese communication (listening and speaking). In the afterschool component of the program if you opt in, the teachers support and teach children how to write in beginner-level Mandarin Chinese. I loved looking at the walls and seeing all the activities and art projects these young kids did in Chinese. Given the season, they made Valentines for their mothers and fathers in Chinese, did some painting and paper craft projects to depict spring (春 chun) in Chinese, and also decorated dragons for the Lunar New Year / Year of the Dragon. From the book shelf, it also looks like they get story time in both English and Chinese, as well, and sing Chinese nursery rhymes and songs.
In an ideal world, Kaia would be fully bilingual; hell, I would be fully bilingual, too. Looking back, I always wish that I was put in an immersion program like this one where I was exposed to both culture and language from a young age. I got plenty of exposure to culture given I grew up with my grandma and followed all her traditions, plus our schools were very progressive and proactively taught us about Lunar New Year, along with other cultural traditions of other countries. I was exposed to Toisan and Cantonese through my grandma and my relatives, but I didn’t learn Mandarin until I was in college, and that learning was fully my choice. In some ways, it does make me a bit sad that Kaia will be very unlikely to know or understand any Cantonese or Toisan at all; those are actually my father tongue languages, not Mandarin. Though language does evolve, understanding a language is not just simply understanding a language: knowing a second language also exposes you to cultural nuances that you cannot simply know just by exposure to cultural traditions. Chinese is notorious (and famous) for its endless idioms and word plays, and understanding them brings you closer to understanding the culture itself better.
The 3K applications are due on March 1. Who knows if Kaia will place anywhere at all, much less a Mandarin immersion program. But I do know that the ideal situation would be if she had consistent Chinese language exposure outside of my barely-basic Mandarin skills.