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Teaching Child Chinese in a multicultural family

Lan Xin – teaching child Chinese in a multicultural family

This week’s Parent Spotlight is Lan Xin and she has a multicultural family. Teaching child Chinese in a multicultural family is not easy. She didn’t start speaking consistently to her children until her daughter turned four this past spring. Now, after choosing to consistently speak Chinese to her two children and going over Sagebooks, her daughter is speaking short sentences in Chinese!

Family Background (in her own words)

I was born in the United States but attended 2nd and 3rd grade in Taiwan. My parents spoke to me in Chinese. Growing up, I listened to Chinese music and watched Chinese soap operas. My Chinese is passable but it’s not the language I default to. My personality comes out in English so I have to constantly remind myself to speak to my kids in Chinese. Teaching child Chinese requires a lot of will power and I am not always on top of it. My husband is from South America and does not know any Chinese. However, he is picking up things here and there when I teach the kids.

My kids are a 4 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. My daughter started Sagebooks when she turned 4 and also attends weekend Chinese school. It was hard for her in the beginning because she was only speaking English at that point. In March, I decided to supplement with Sagebooks and started speaking to her only in Chinese at home. Now we are in November and she is speaking short sentences in Chinese. She is reading and writing in Chinese as well. However, the latter is more a consequence of weekend school then my own doing.

I am going to try Sagebooks with my son when he turns 3. I think he will be even more receptive because he is already exposed to it because of his sister.


4-year-old daughter (started: in March 2017 at 4 years old; currently: on Confident Reader, Book 1)
2-year-old son (not applicable but planning on starting when he turns 3)

In her own words

Why did you choose Sagebooks?

I was looking for something that would just be a ready to use curriculum. Otherwise, I would just be thinking about how to teach Chinese and probably just never have gotten started. Sagebooks seemed to fit that criteria and make teaching child Chinese easier.

What was your experience with going through Sagebooks?

My daughter is 4 years old. We started earlier this year in March and we are up to the 4th set book 1. My daughter loves the pictures in the book.  

What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities?

We usually start off by reviewing the characters we covered already in the current book. Then we move on to cover three new characters each day. I usually have her read a sentence and then translate it in English. If she has trouble, I will explain the sentence and usage of the characters. I work full-time but we try to do this everyday and cover a book a week.

On weekends we use flash cards to review characters from the previous sets. When I read bedtime stories I try and point out characters/ sentences she will recognize.

What did you like about Sagebooks? Was there anything you didn't?

I like that it teaches the most frequently used 500 characters. So that now after learning a little over 300 characters she can read picture books and have a general understanding of what it’s about.

I wish it covered more characters. Now I have to think about what to do after we finish with 500 characters. LOL.

If you have more than one child, would you do it again?
I do have a second child and will start it with him when I get my first set back from my friend. She is also teaching her 2 children with Sagebooks.
Any advice for parents who are just starting?

I beat myself up a little for not starting earlier in teaching my kids Chinese. But what I learned is you can only do what you can do when you are open to it. I just was not in the mental space to to start any earlier than I did.

The other things to keep in mind are just starting and being consistent. If you want your kids to learn Chinese, just start and figure it out as you go. Be consistent and you will be surprised at where you will be in a couple of months.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us, Lan! We love your advice on giving yourself grace and being okay with where you are at mentally and emotionally. Plus, it’s a lovely to see that parents don’t have to start at birth or their children will never speak or learn to read Chinese. 

If you would like to be a featured parent, please let us know.


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Sagebooks Hongkong promotes independent reading and life-long learning by nurturing the child’s confidence, autonomy and self-teaching abilities. Since 2006. Find out more About Us.

© 2020 Sagebooks Hongkong. All rights reserved.

Sagebooks Hongkong promotes independent reading and life-long learning by nurturing the child’s confidence, autonomy and self-teaching abilities. Since 2006. Find out more About Us.

© 2020 Sagebooks Hongkong. All rights reserved.