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Learning Chinese to adopt a child


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In the end it's up to your daughter whether she's interested enough to keep up her Chinese. With modern technology, she could keep in touch with friends she has in China (and keep using her Chinese), and if she has some books or tv shows that she likes, she can keep reading/watching those, which might keep her interested. It would take some energy on her part to keep it up, but it could be extremely useful, whether she uses it when travelling back to China or later on in a job.

If you find a teacher, you already have someone on hand who can help your daughter maintain her Chinese.

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I guess it's probably emotional reasons then, among others, if children of that age lose their first language?

I'm not sure but I have the impression that Asians meet with a lot of rejection in the West, not so open but in subtle ways. So knowing the language (to some degree) could be like backing her up, in an emotional way. If she ever gets teased in school, she might just take it more lightly when she knows Chinese is cool enough for her Mom? But that's just how I feel about it.

Anyway, if it's the time spent that worries you - you really do not have to worry about Mandarin being labourious. Once you got used to the pronounciation, and if you focus on conversational language, you'll see it is a breeze* compared to Japanese! You can make insane progress in short time.

(*of course, we are bound to say that, in a forum of this name! But it's true! :D )

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If she ever gets teased in school, she might just take it more lightly when she knows Chinese is cool enough for her Mom?

Judging from my experience, something that your mom thinks is cool is more likely to be rejected. At least for a while. But I know nothing about late adoptions.

I knew someone who left Czechoslovakia when she was five, with her parents. She could speak Czech, but took a course at university to improve it. Her little brother (I don't remember how much younger he was, he may have been born in the US), could understand it, but couldn't or wouldn't speak it. Of course this was with both parents speaking it fluently at home.

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Thanks for the writeup :)

With regards to PMs, so long as it's not too personal, I would encourage people to continue discussing things and asking questions out here in the forums, because that way it will also benefit future readers who come looking for the same information.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Trisha - Sorry it took me so long to reply to you. My computer crashed and we spent a few panicked days trying to get things saved off of it. Then we've had some forward motion on the adoption, which seems to always accompany another stack of paperwork! :D

I’ve heard of subtractive bilingualism, though not that term specifically. I’m really hoping that my daughter wants to retain her Chinese and thus makes an effort to use it regularly. But I am also prepared, based on what I’ve read, to deal with the fact that most adopted kids don’t want to retain their first language and then end up fluent in none for a time.

Thank you so much for that book recommendation! I will definitely order it once we’ve saved up the major adoption costs. The book sounds fantastic and something that would be well worth the cost. I’ve been using a couple of free resources online, but am running into the issue of “typical” language learning vocabulary – schools, transportation, hotel vocabulary. Most of that will not be very useful to us! I’ve just resigned myself to using the traditional resources to learn grammar and some basic vocab and then use a dictionary to look up vocabulary that I expect will be really useful.

We have access to a huge Asian bookstore here so should be able to find some things that are familiar to her. We definitely plan to go shopping in Taiwan and bring home a few things. At first we weren’t sure if she speaks Taiwanese or Mandarin but the social worker in Taiwan let us know she speaks Mandarin. That’s when we decided to take the plunge and try to learn some before she comes home.

Thanks again for all of your insight!

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