to their home country might decide not to complicate the
education of their children with the local language and
focus instead on their home language(s).
For example, Mariana and Jeremy Farmer have
two children, five-year-old Catalina and three-year-old
Miguel. They came to Hong Kong for Jeremy’s job and
plan to stay for up to four years. As
a mixed Mexican-English family,
they prefer to reinforce Spanish at
home and English at school. They
have considered local schools, but
didn’t want to overburden their
children with Cantonese and
Mandarin, which they aren’t likely
to be able to study or use in their
hometown in Mexico. They are
unwilling to sacrifice their kids’
free time or family time to tutoring.
They’ve opted for an English
medium international school with
progressive methodologies. Mariana
confesses that it was a difficult
decision and they sometimes wonder if they missed a
golden opportunity for their children. However, providing
a solid education in the home languages to allow the
children to adapt easily when they have to relocate in the
near future was the priority.
But, parents who plan to stay in Hong Kong for ever,
or at least for a long time, may want to embrace a bilingual
educational plan for their children. The city does offer a
great opportunity for children to become bilingual, and
most parents consider formal schooling to be the best way
to achieve it.
For Gail and Matt Deayton, parents of four-year-old
Annabella and three-year-old Eloisa, speaking Chinese
was high on their agenda when looking at their educational
options. Gail is British and Matt is
Australian. Although Matt grew up
in Hong Kong, he admits that he
can only speak a little Cantonese.
As parents, they have decided
to send their girls to a bilingual
school. “Annabella is pretty much
fluent,” says Gail. “Watching her
confidence grow when conversing
in Putonghua has been a privilege.
Her relationship with her teachers
is really special and she loves going
to school. Her teachers tell me that
she frequently helps her school
friends as she translates English to
Chinese for some and Chinese to
English for others. Her ability to talk, to play with, and to
help others has helped her become popular and well-liked.
By communicating in another language, she continually
has to ‘think outside the box’.” It’s clear that Annabella has
acquired good BICS, but her parents are aware that their
commitment can’t stop there. They aim to keep their two
girls in bilingual schools. Moreover, they have a Chinese
tutor come in twice a week to play with the girls and hope
Parents who plan to
stay in Hong Kong for
ever, or at least for a
long time, may want
to embrace a bilingual
educational plan for
their children.
Summer 2013