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Jenn Bertman
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For background: I'm double-checking minor details about a secondary character in my MG novel set in modern-day San Francisco. The character is a 12-year-old Chinese-American boy (his family speaks Cantonese) whose family has lived in San Francisco for several generations.

When I was growing up, many of my Chinese friends had Chinese school on Saturday mornings. Is this still typical now? Would a 7th grader be going to Chinese school? I've also been told that most Chinese schools use Mandarin and a Cantonese speaking child would still go there to learn Mandarin. Would others agree with this?
#1 - August 11, 2012, 06:48 AM
BOOK SCAVENGER, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt 
THE UNBREAKABLE CODE, April 2017
UNLOCK THE ROCK, 2018
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Hi J-Bert,

One of the main characters in my novel, FLYING THE DRAGON, attends Saturday Japanese school, and I researched schools in our area for details that I worked into my book. My daughter attends Saturday Italian school (my husband is Italian and we used to live in Italy), and friends of ours have had their daughters in Vietnamese Saturday schools for years (their girls are now in 8th and 10th grades) .

I don't know if a Cantonese-speaking child would be made to attend a Mandarin school. If your character speaks Cantonese, is s/he from Hong Kong?
#2 - August 11, 2012, 06:58 AM
FLYING THE DRAGON (Charlesbridge, 2012)
A LONG PITCH HOME (Charlesbridge, 2016)

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WendyS may know.  I'll notify her about this thread.
#3 - August 11, 2012, 07:47 AM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY (Abrams)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
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Jenn Bertman
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Thanks Natalie and Anne Marie for your replies.

Natalie, the boy is something like a 5th generation Chinese-American. His family has lived in San Francisco for a long time and he's very Americanized. He lives in a part of San Francisco that is populated with mainly Cantonese-speaking Chinese (to my understanding) versus Mandarin, which is why I have him speaking Cantonese. (And really it's his grandmother who speaks Cantonese and who would be enrolling him in Chinese school.)



 
#4 - August 11, 2012, 08:03 AM
BOOK SCAVENGER, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt 
THE UNBREAKABLE CODE, April 2017
UNLOCK THE ROCK, 2018
jenniferchamblissbertman.com

Ooo, I know this one! I have a good friend who is Chinese-American and her children *do* take Chinese class every Saturday morning - or I should say her daughter - the others are too young. She's part of a big community that do the same thing. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll ask her. I know she'd be happy to help. Do you want me to check on the Cantonese/Mandarin thing? She is 2nd generation, I think,and has close ties to Hong Kong, so she may know.
#5 - August 11, 2012, 11:03 AM
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Okay! So I know the answer to this one, because I AM Chinese (Mandarin speaking), attended Chinese school, my mother still teaches Chinese school, and my uncle is actually principal of a major Chinese school in San Gabriel Valley.

The answer to your questions is yes, even a Cantonese speaker would take Mandarin Chinese classes (and, btw, even in Hong Kong now everyone has to learn Mandarin. And even growing up, not that I've met every Cantonese speaker ever, but I've never met a Cantonese speaker in America who can't at least get by in Mandarin).

School does take place on Saturdays, usually for a half day, generally at local high schools. The teachers are dedicated, but sometimes not very good; they don't always have education backgrounds, for example. I've never really met anyone who was fluent just through Chinese school, because honestly, 4 hours a week isn't enough to get fluent in the language, especially learning to read and write it (most of us ABCs can speak it fine, because we speak it at home, but Chinese isn't phonetic so it's hard to learn to read/write).

For the most part in my community, kids start dropping out as they enter high school because of lack of time (and also, because nowadays many high schools offer daily Chinese classes + AP Chinese).

Oh yeah, and Chinese school is boring as hell  ;)

If you have any other questions about being an ABC or Chinese school in general, ask away or PM me!
#6 - August 11, 2012, 11:37 AM

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