WSJ: Families moving to China for Mandarin’s sake
To Improve Kids’ Chinese, Parents Head to Asia
Michael Roemer had never lived abroad before he took a one-year leave of absence from his job as an attorney, rented out his family’s Orinda, Calif., house, and moved to Chengdu, a city in western China, in 2010 with his wife and two children.
Mr. Roemer’s goal: to give his kids, Erin and Conor, an up-close look at China and an edge in what is fast becoming a must-learn language. “Speaking Mandarin is important,” says the 57-year-old Mr. Roemer.
The Roemers are among a growing group of Westerners going to great lengths to give their kids a leg up in Mandarin. With China’s rising global influence, these parents want their children to be able to communicate fluently with the country’s 1.3 billion people. The phenomenon is similar to what happened in the ’80s, when Japan’s economy boomed and there was a rush to learn Japanese.
But this time, after-school classes aren’t enough for some people. Families are enrolling their children in Mandarin-immersion programs that are springing up from California to Maine. They are hiring tutors, Skyping with teachers in Beijing and recruiting Chinese-speaking nannies. Some are stocking their playrooms with Disney videos in Mandarin—not to mention the iPhone apps aimed at making kids into Mandarin speakers.
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