If you’ve been following my blog, you’re well aware that I only speak English. That’s right, I am monolingual! Other than the few years of French I took in high school and college, my foreign language skills are relatively limited. But, when I had my son, I knew I wanted him to take a different track than I did.
Now, 4 years and over a thousand hours of research later, my son is well on his way to being trilingual!
I’m always on the lookout for other parents on a similar language journey and a few months ago I met a remarkable young lady, Ehrin and her mom, Erica.
Looking For Something New
Ehrin’s language journey started almost 6 years ago, when she was 4 years old. Not satisfied with her daughter’s daycare program, Erica looked for other options. After trying a private preschool, she still wanted to find something more, a program that was innovative to give her young child a competitive advantage. Just by chance she overheard two women talking about a new school in DC, one that was definitely doing something very different. The more she listened in to their conversation, the more excited she was about the school. At that time, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School was in its early years and for Erica the timing couldn’t be more perfect. She hadn’t considered Chinese for her daughter, let alone a foreign language at all. But, the more she researched the school, the more she felt that doing an immersion program was the best for her daughter. After all, Erica, like me, only speaks English and Yu Ying represented an effective way for her daughter to build fluency in another language.
She looked up the school and submitted an application in the admissions lottery for Ehrin to enter Yu Ying’s kindergarten program. And, she got in! Fast forward to today and Ehrin is almost fluent in Mandarin Chinese. (And, now, Yu Ying is one of the top schools in the area – making it almost impossible to get in)
Overcoming Obstacles for Language
Despite working nights and only seeing her daughter for a brief time in the morning, Erica is dedicated to continuing Ehrin’s Chinese learning.
“As a single mom, it can be tough working long hours and not getting to see her or help her with her homework. But, she is doing great and loves her school and what they’re learning. She knows all about Chinese history and culture – it’s amazing really! Sometimes she says things to me in Chinese because she knows I don’t understand, but it makes me proud that she has learned such a hard language. Or, she writes me letters in Chinese and I love them dearly.
In fact, sometimes when we go to Chinese restaurants she orders our food in Chinese and they are always shocked that she can speak so fluently,” Erica explains.
As Ehrin finishes her 5th grade year, she is looking forward to going to DC International School, to advance her Chinese language skills even more. In middle school, next year, Ehrin will pick up a third language as part of the school’s curriculum.
Erica and Ehrin’s journey is a unique one, but one that more and more parents are taking to give their children the language skills that will be needed for their success in the (not-so-distant) future.
Their story has inspired me to keep going with my son and has given me a glimpse into what is possible when you stick to your goals!
Do you know a family with a similar and inspiring story? We’d love to hear it and share it on social media for our new #WeCanDoItWednesday segment!