Betty Choi

Know your “why”

In every job that I’ve had in pediatrics and education, I’ve found that children are natural learners. I’ve seen parents doing the best for their kids, even when they don’t think they are.

But my most eye-opening discovery has been outside of work: I’ve been watching my children play, love, and thrive in a language that I deeply rejected in my own childhood.

While giving myself the chance to re-learn Chinese with my kids, I’ve been dreaming of a world where all children can experience this true freedom of speech.

A multilingual home where parents and children feel heard.

A room where families can gather and connect in the language of their heart, even if they live in a community that doesn’t understand the culture.

I can’t wait to tell you our story and steps, because if it benefits your family, it creates momentum for more people to join the path forward with us.

CHALK ACADEMY FAMILY

If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. – Maya Angelou

I’m a second-generation Chinese American mom of an 8-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy. I’m married to my best friend, a Korean American guy, and we are raising our kids in a small, non-diverse town in California.

As immigrants, Chinese was my parents’ native language, but we always felt the pressure to speak English. Outside our home were threats of bullying and microaggressions. Inside our home was a foreign culture that I struggled to embrace. After my parents passed away, I desperately tried to remember their childhood stories for my children. Instead, I found myself forgetting what they had shared in different dialects.

My husband had a similar path of language attrition. But despite having more pride in his heritage, he can only say 똥 “ttong” (poop) and 방구 “bang-gu” (fart) in Korean. These limitations are common for our generation, just like language barriers with the people we care for. When his grandmother was dying, we quietly held her hands. If only we could say something comforting in Korean, her language…

Collaborative learning - toddler drawing while big sister writes Tang poem in Chinese
My daughter’s writing and my son’s drawing

From rejection to respectful, bilingual relationships

Despite our limitations, you might be surprised that our children enjoy speaking and reading Chinese. They love to write cards for each other and leave messages for mommy and daddy.

When they were younger, you could hear them reciting favorite Korean nursery rhymes and stories as well.

While speaking English fluently and being fully American, they have a beautiful sense of heritage.

It’s never too early to learn, and it’s never too late to learn.

I’ve figured out an effective framework for encouraging internal motivation for learning while avoiding negative parenting traditions like force and shame.

I believe the first step is mindset.

We aren’t just raising kids or learning language.

We’re developing healthy (multilingual) relationships. No matter how much we know fluently, today is new terrain for growing with our curious kids.

Each part of this website provides strategies to empower parents through the challenging journey:

  1. Positive parenting tips
  2. Teaching tips organized by language skill
  3. Educational activities organized by topic
  4. Chinese resources for kids
  5. Korean resources for kids
  6. Our family’s journey – reflections about raising multilingual kids; my children’s progress, challenges, and schedule; home organization

Raising multilingual children: start here

If you’re just starting or taking pause in your journey, please note that feeling overwhelmed is normal and common. Take a few slow, deep breaths, and when you’re ready, read through these articles to jump-start and reboot your multilingual journey.

Celebrating all minority languages

Although my articles are written in English, many articles include key translations in Chinese and sometimes Korean.

However, most tips and activities can be adapted to other languages. Through this website, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting families who are learning French, German, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, and more.

CHALK Academy playroom

Let’s raise multilingual kids together

I’d love to learn more about your parenting and teaching experiences and welcome all feedback. Please me know if there are any printables, activities, or other advice you need.

If you’d like to get in touch, feel free to connect in the comments section of the blogposts.

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谢谢 ! 謝謝! 감사합니다! Thank you!

For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13