Chinese Kids: Learning English To Soon?

  1. Students in Mongolia

Today in school we were discussing a class of preschool children.  Evidently, some of the foreign teachers are going to have to teach several 2 to 3-year-old children English.   There was some confusion on WHY they need to teach children so young that cannot even speak Chinese yet.

The children had no discipline at all. They were loud and running around wildly.  The parents, who were there, and the other Chinese teachers did nothing as the children screamed and did what they wanted.   Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the teachers that needed to teach these children or you might be trying to raise money to bail me out of Chinese jail for snatching someone’s child bald.  (smile)

This as with everything gave me reason to research this.  Do the Chinese parents know something we do not know?  Should we be teaching our preschoolers foreign languages to prepare them for their future?  If so..I need to get my future grandkids on the band wagon.

Surprisingly, I found this article at

Preschool Years Are Vital Years
“During this period and especially the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down,” says Ronald Kotulak, author of
Inside the Brain. Consequently, it would be a waste not to use a child’s natural ability to learn during his or her most vital years, when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first. Since 50 percent of the ability to learn is developed in the first years of life and another 30 percent by age eight, early childhood development programs have the opportunity to encourage early learning and development. This does not mean, however, that 50 to 80 percent of one’s intelligence, wisdom, or knowledge is formed during early childhood. It simply means that during the first few years of life, children form their main learning pathways in the brain (Bloom, 1964). There are six main pathways to the brain. They include learning by sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and doing (Dryden & Vos, 1997). Later in life, everything an individual learns will grow from the information gained during these early years.

Well, now that opened my eyes a little bit…. so the Chinese parents are on to something.   Everyone knows how hard Chinese parents push their kids to be the best.  I have learned in my time in China the reasons behind this pressure.

China has a limited amount of primary, and secondary schools and even less higher education facilities.  With a country that has half the world’s population it can be very difficult to get into any school let alone a good school.

The entire country takes a nationwide test once a year.  This test determines what kind of university or trade school you will be attending.   It basically determines your life path.  These High School students have to pass this test with the highest possible mark to get into the best universities in the nation.   If they do not do well…. then they are left to attend the low-level universities or vocational schools and in some cases no college at all.

I am told that the extent of high school is just to spend three years to prepare you for this test that will determine your future.  (now that is pressure) What better way to get your child a head start than to teach them the most coveted language in the world when they are just learning to speak.

Most of the students in china live at the school.  They only see their parents on the weekends.  They spend all their time in the school studying and preparing.   I am told there is an ungodly amount of memorization they have to do and with over 5000 years of history that is a lot of information.

They are not given the option of “free think” they are told what to say, what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.   The pressure is sometimes so overwhelming for these young people who sadly there have been many cases of suicide.

As a teacher here in China, I have seen so many teens that are so worried about achieving success that they never do anything entertaining.

I have a little boy around 12 years old that I teach.  A wonderful boy, bright, talented and funny, however he has very little time to be a kid.  He has regular school, chinese flute class, dance class, my english class, grammar class, and when regular school is closed he has summer classes.   He told me he is not allowed to watch tv and can only go on the computer for video games one day a week for an hour.

I felt so sad for the little boy… but he always comes to my class with a smile on his face.   I let him be a kid… he loves the NBA so we always discuss basketball for a while, and he is usually up on all the world events so we discuss them.   He is only allowed to read history books, and science books so there is not pleasure reading for this kid.   One day he told me that he finished Obama’s book.  I almost fell on the floor.

Do we think this is just too much?  Or Are we as Americans not doing enough?  Is there a happy middle path that should be taken?

When discussing this with my husband, I asked him what did he think about educating our future children (if we have them) he said Chinese way is too tight… and American way is too loose… so he wants to combine the two ways… study hard and be strict but also let them have free thinking and be a kid.

I knew I married that guy for a reason… (smile) … he is correct.   Children need to have some time to be children.. but … they need discipline and guidance to put them on the right path.

I know the reason behind pushing their children in China to become successful and maybe in their minds this is the only way to do it.  I don’t know…. As for my future grandchildren…. I will try to teach Spanish and Chinese to them… when they are young…. hey.. it can’t hurt and .. if it gives them a leg up on the competition… why not?  But as for pushing them… and forcing them to miss out on being a kid… never… life is too short.. and  I want them to enjoy it to the fullest.

until next time…


3 thoughts on “Chinese Kids: Learning English To Soon?

  1. pearls

    DITTO! To you and the previous commenter. Children in that age range are literally an open book. Their alertness, like them, is precious, fresh, and new.

    I must say that the assigned educators will definitely have their work cut out for them for sure (due to the short attention span at this age range), will have to love children, and make it fun for them. The teachers will for sure get their exercise, if they don’t belong to a gym already. (smile) If it turns out to be like a playdate for the toddlers and their moms, that would be great. Well, it will be quite interesting to see how everything unfolds.

    P.S. My mother owned and operated a daycare center in our home for 18 years and was licensed by the state of Missouri. So, I got to see first hand what it takes to work with infants, toddlers and elementary school (after school drop-ins) age children. She was phenominal.

  2. Ruth

    Thanks for this. However I am a testimony to the fact that children CAN and SHOULD learn languages at a very young age. I began to teach my daughter sign language at 4 months old and she did her first sign at 10 months. When I began– my family and friends thought that I was crazy for doing this. Anyhow when she did her first sign I got excited and thought. If she can learn this then she is a “tabula rasa”. So I began to teach her sign and SAID Spanish words with the American Sign language. IT worked. My daughter learned several signs and words and STILL learned English.

    We then moved to Japan and I put her in Japanese school at age 4. She did not speak a word of Japanese, of course. But she learned and at age 6 she is fluent and is now able to translate some for me as I do not apeak the language at all. In addition she still remembers some signs and Spanish even though we rarely do that anymore because we focus so much on Japanese.

    So please tell those other teachers. Yes, they run around but teach them discipline through the language. Yes, people in other countries DO seem to know what American schools have missed–starting young is GREAT!!!!

    HOWEVER, YES, there should be a middle ground. Hubby is wise–he is a keeper. SMILE!

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