This week marks our 5th month here in the Philippines. Our journey of language and cultural immersion started last December when me and my two children (ages 3 and 5) left the beautiful Orange County, California in our quest for Trilingualism (English, Filipino and Mandarin). It’s a sacrifice that me and and my husband decided to do because we believe that immersion is the only way for them to learn the target languages.
A week after we arrived in Manila, the children started a local Montessori school where the mode of instruction is done in English and Filipino. They adjusted rather quickly and few weeks later they are excited to go to school and meet new friends. Having spent a vacation for a month last year prior to our moving must have given them the confidence and sense of familiarity for the new place. To make their language acquisition faster, we tapped into available resources like hiring live in Filipino nannies, setting up playdates and making sure everyone speaks Filipino at home. When my husband came to visit last month, he was pleasantly surprised how they were able to pick up the languages so easily. Using the OPOL (one parent one language) method, kids where able to switch languages without difficulty. Now, my 5 year old is reading in Filipino and the 3 year old just started reading three letter words in both languages, too.
Mandarin on the other hand proved to be a challenge being the third language introduced. But we are fortunate to find a Chinese native speaker to come in twice a week and we later added one on one classoom tutorial on Saturdays. Nowadays, the children are able to understand basic Mandarin conversations, write simple Chinese characters and read pin-yin as well. They love to count in Mandarin, sing, and they think its their special language together. Our goal is to sustain this with summer immersion in China or Taiwan next year.
Looking back, we are happy that we made this major decision to temporarilly raise our children here. Their ability to absorb languages easily and develop near-native accents in Filipino and Mandarin is simply amazing. We had our struggle too — like being away from their Dad for couple of months, adjusting to the heat and a different way of life, but in the end the benefits outweigh everything. When I hear them having conversations in Filipino or when my 5 year old told me that the Chinese lady is talking to her son in Mandarin and translated what was said, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of pride and joy knowing that my children will grow up cognizant of other languages and cultures. Raising them to be global citizens is one gift we can contribute that hopefully one day, they will be thankful for. 🙂