Language Immersion Snippets: Kayleigh, 6

by Kristi Van Dyk

One of the primary reasons I am reviving my blog is that I need a place to document this incredible (we think its incredible anyway) journey that my children are making. I know that some day, when Kayleigh is a surgeon living overseas or when Benjamin is selling high end racing products (we've decided his disposition would be great for sales) on an international market, or when Madeleine is publicly debating international healthcare legislation, in her second language, that we should probably have a place to point to ... to say, this ... this must have been where their dream began. 

I doubt that when moments come up I'll be journaling long stories, or unpacking the moment too deeply - but I desperately need a place to record their successes. 

Yesterday, as you can see by the title, we had one of those moments with Kayleigh. 

A little background - 
This week Kayleigh's class embarked on the L2 Only timeline. This is what we call, in our office, the intense focus on eliminating the English language from student vocabulary (while in the classroom). Up until this point, students were encouraged to produce Chinese as often as possible - but they were allowed to use English when speaking to each other and sometimes to the teacher.  After this point in the year, the communication in the classroom changes ENTIRELY to the target language (in Kayleigh's case, Chinese). English is never considered "bad," but the kids help check each other - support each other - make sure that everyone is communicating (even those little whispers) only in Mandarin. 

It's exhausting for kids.
They work really, really hard to make it happen. 
And they GROW! Their language grows leaps and bounds because they are forced to use it. 

Kayleigh has been telling us stories - that she's able to keep up, that she's producing just fine - but she doesn't love producing at home. We respect that and don't push. However, I stepped into her classroom just yesterday - to make sure her teacher knew about our Friday plans (that Kayleigh was going home with a friend). 

I asked her simply if she told Lao Shi about the plans for tomorrow - to go to Lily's. She said, "oops, no..." Now, since its after school, I fully expected her to snap back to English and do it the "quick way." But as she turned back into that classroom a switch went off ... She walked right up to her teacher, without hesitation, and used entirely Mandarin to describe her plans for the next day. 

My jaw hit the floor. 
My baby can communicate - tell a story - convey information - in an interpersonal communication setting - in one of the most difficult languages in the world. 
I was blown away. 

With that, Kayleigh hugged my legs and skipped off happily to after-care because she really really wanted to go sledding with her friends. 

I had the opportunity, just a few moments later, to ask her teacher ... was that correct? Did she convey it properly? "Well, she missed one word, she said "yesterday" instead of "tomorrow" but yes, I knew exactly what she was saying. And yesterday and tomorrow are really difficult concepts in Chinese." 

I am so speechless each time I encounter this process. I tell people it will happen; I help sell schools on the program model as a whole. But watching it happen, seeing it happen to my children and the other precious jewels that surround our life, never-ever gets old.

Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity ....