**This piece was originally part of a series of posts. You can find the updated version, along with exclusive new chapters, in the ebook, (affiliate link) So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.
Last week, I wrote about The Costs of Learning Chinese and how depending on your personal goals for your children’s Chinese fluency, your costs may either scale up or down. Obviously, the more fluent you want your kids, the more you have to sacrifice for them to get there.
Just like being great at a sport or an instrument or really, anything in life, if you want your kids to be great at Chinese, you (and your kids) have to put in the work. To expect otherwise is to defy reality.
And, we’re off!
1) Monetary Costs
As I’ve mentioned previously, learning Chinese for very little money can be done, but that also requires a lot more effort. So, what you might offset in terms of monetary price will show up in terms of effort and work. However, just because it can be very expensive to learn Chinese doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to significantly lower your costs.
Here then are some ideas:
– Sharing DVDs/CDs with your friends and family
– Finding local Chinese libraries (or friends who are willing to act as libraries)
– Chinese books at your local library
– YouTube (just type in whatever show you want and add “Mandarin” or “in Chinese” to the search)
– Online learning sites (these may be for a monthly fee, but that is still lower cost than a private tutor)
– Combining costs (such as childcare with language or Mandarin Mommy & Me)
– Nanny sharing or tutor sharing
– Making your own materials (such as flashcards, games, writing sheets, etc)
– Buy used
– Stay with friends and family when traveling overseas
– Host foreign exchange students
– Find Chinese-speaking college students willing to work as “Mother’s Helpers”
– Teach/speak Chinese to your children yourself
– LeTV and other apps that stream Chinese entertainment
In addition to the above ideas, you can also peruse my site for more Chinese language resources. (Look under different tags and or categories for specific things you’re looking for.) If you go back a ways, you can find posts on free Facebook groups, free online web resources, etc. I haven’t updated these in awhile, but the Facebook groups will often have a lot of resources, too. My favorite is Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese & English.
2) Opportunity costs
Opportunity cost refers to the loss of potential gain from other alternatives and activities when you choose instead to focus on Chinese language learning. A lot of it is a scheduling thing or just the availability of so many activities for our children. So, the main thing I can think of to minimize your opportunity costs is to combine Chinese with an activity you want your kids to learn anyway. So, whenever possible (and feasible), do things you would normally do – but in Chinese.
Depending on availability, you can attend a Chinese church, take art, dance, martial arts, basketball, ping pong, WHATEVER YOU WANT in Chinese. You can also lower your monetary costs this way, too.
In the same vein, you can listen to Chinese music CDs, Chinese stories on CD, or watch Chinese DVDs while driving in your car. I mean, you have a captive audience, right? Might as well force them to learn.
Last week, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I choose to homeschool my Kindergartener is to minimize opportunity costs in terms of overscheduling and never seeing my kid. If you choose to homeschool, you have a lot more freedom over your day and how to schedule it. Furthermore, you can even homeschool in Chinese – thereby exposing your kids to even MORE Chinese.
And lastly, to cut down on some of your research time, find people who you trust and piggyback off of their research and efforts. For example, if GuavaRama makes or recommends something, I usually save myself the trouble of digging deeper and just throw my money in her general direction.
I also trust my friend, Hotelier, who is the person who got me started in Chinese homeschooling as well as introduced me to bilingual Facebook groups and then moved to Atlanta and abandoned me. She is the reason I fell down the rabbit hole in the first place!
And finally, Oliver Tu, the founder of the Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese & English Facebook group. He has brought to my attention so many sites and resources that I just can’t imagine doing any of this without his generous support.
Relational/Social cost refers to the conflict or awkward situations you may encounter with your family, friends, and children in your pursuit of Chinese fluency for your kids. I expound on these more in my post about setting realistic expectations, but truthfully, I actually don’t have much advice on this front except to say that in the end, it’s really up to you how you want to raise your kids.
However, I will say that should these difficulties arise for you, I have found the Raising Multilingual/Bilingual Children Facebook group to be supremely helpful in terms of giving advice.
As children – and to a great extent, adults, too – our cultural fluency is often synonymous with social currency. And oftentimes, we as parents may worry that if we emphasize too much Chinese stuff, our kids will be the odd ones out. Add into that fears of not being able to integrate or assimilate with classmates and the next thing you know, Chinese is something that we might throw out, too.
Thankfully, in the age of the internet, anything that is popular in America will most likely be found translated into Chinese. This applies to YA novels, books, comics, cartoons, movies, etc. You name it and there is bound to be a Mandarin version on YouTube. As for books and comics, it might be a little more difficult to get the translated books (let alone have the vocabulary with which to read them), but in general, you can feed into your kids’ legitimate desires to fit in and watch the things their friends watch while also supporting their Chinese acquisition.
Ok. For once, I have written a short post (not to mention that I’m really exhausted). Hope it was somewhat helpful and sparked some ideas. Let me know in the comments if I missed any additional ways you can cut costs. Happy Labor Day Weekend!