NY 'tiger mom' hothouses nine daughters with Mandarin lessons
It is not uncommon for non-Chinese heritage people to learn Mandarin nowadays as the world's oldest written language is becoming increasingly popular with the rapid rise of China.
But it is phenomenal that 58-year-old Lynn Berat, who holds two PhDs from Yale University, kind of "forced" her nine daughters to learn Mandarin from infancy in a bid to have them well-prepared to be what she called "citizens of the world".
Berat fell in love with Chinese culture when she was giving lectures at Peking University in early 1980s. She quickly realized the Chinese language is "pictographic" and "very different" from Indo-European languages.
"It requires a greater effort than a language with an alphabet. Chinese seemed to be something that they (her children) should learn from infancy," Berat said.
"If they were going to learn it, then they needed to be completely bilingual. And so we're working on that," she said.
Berat has actually created a purely Mandarin speaking environment for her nine girls, now aged from 11-19, ever since they were born: a Mandarin-speaking nanny, a Chinese/English bilingual kindergarten and primary school as well as various extracurricular courses including Chinese dances, musical instruments and chorus.
"So their life has really been sort of all Chinese all the time," Berat said. "Living in New York, it's been possible to immerse them deeply in Chinese language and culture."
The New York metropolitan area is home to the largest Chinese population outside Asia, with the number of Chinese Americans estimated at about 800,000.
Interestingly, when Berat's youngest ones, twin sisters Logan and Lachlan attended the bilingual Pre-K at the age of 4, both of them easily passed the Chinese test but failed in the assessment of English.
It was such a "highly irregular thing" for children whose parent's home language was English. They would have been sent to a school for children with "severe learning disabilities" if the teacher and the principal had not known the stories of their older sisters.
"I have to say you have no idea how proud I am of that because to me, it meant that they were really working hard with their brains for Chinese. It kind of indicates the degree of our commitment to the Chinese."
Apart from Chinese, all her girls have also learnt Spanish and French, and can speak Albanian, which is Berat's mother tongue.