Want your kids to learn English from an American mother?
This American mother is named YiShaun Yang (Chinese name is 杨怡祥), and she was born in Texas and raised in California. YiShaun’s son and my daughter were classmates at a New York City preschool. When I first met YiShaun, she and her fellow Chinese-American husband spoke English, but the couple speak Chinese to their children. I only later learned that YiShaun and her husband learned Chinese while growing up at Chinese School on the weekends. Because they want their children to learn Chinese while their children are still in a brain developmentally language sensitive stage, they decided to speak only Chinese to their young children. Think back to when we learned English in China and how difficult it was to practice English in a primarily Chinese environment, and therefore how admirable it is that YiShaun and her husband have such determination to teach their children Chinese in America. YiShaun said she especially wants to take advantage of her young children’s language sensitive phase to expose them to different languages.
And then I found out something even more surprising. Besides having one preschool aged son, YiShaun also has one year old identical twin boys. I am quite shocked: what is like being the mother of three young boys?
Every morning when I saw YiShaun at our children’s preschool, she would be prettily made up, wearing feminine long skirts, and happily with her son as she sent him to school. I have no idea how she juggles caring for three young sons while also looking poised and lovely. She told me that first, it’s important to teach children how to be independent, and second, to leave enough time to take care of yourself.
I delivered my baby and am raising her in the United States, and I’m learning both Chinese and American parenting philosophies. YiShaun’s parenting philosophies are the best method I’ve come across to bridge the two. Because of her Chinese background, she understands the contradictions I come across when parenting ideas from the East and West collide. From her, I’ve learned how to deal with when children make mistakes, how to help children express their emotions and so on. I also heard all kinds of time-saving parenting tips that she would share with me. (Her experience and tips, as well as her philosophies, can be shared some other time in a different series of articles.)
I initially thought YiShaun is a full-time mom and asked her what she did before she got married and had children, and she said she was a lawyer. She holds a J.D. / law degree from Columbia University, and she was 25 years old when she began practicing corporate law in New York City. She said she had a lot of experience looking at contracts, to the point where she could even quickly tell if there were two spaces behind a comma instead of one space. But YiShaun did not stop practicing law because of her children. She said she had an entrepreneurial dream, and one late night in her law firm office, she decided to pursue that dream. Being a lawyer may seem glamorous to others, but she felt it was repetitive and not what she wanted.
Every day when her oldest son is in preschool and their nanny watches the twins for a few hours, YiShaun takes advantage of this time to work on her business. YiShaun is the only person in her startup business, with all the startup investment coming from her savings from when she was working as an attorney. She says she likes being entrepreneurial and finds it to be more creative and meaningful, and that she likes the freedom. She says as a result of pursuing her dreams, she now doesn’t rely on materialistic things to give her life meaning since she is following her entrepreneurial passion. With each additional person who visits her website, she feels excited and fulfilled. Over the last few years of her entrepreneurial journey, she has written a series of children’s books, worked on a fashion app, and designed jewelry. Starting on her own as an entrepreneur, she has self studied marketing, entrepreneurial and business principles, and learned about product design and market demand.
Recently YiShaun had a new business idea that stems from her own experience as a mother -- She continues to insist on only speaking Chinese to her three sons, but because Chinese is not her native language, she feels her pronunciation is not accurate enough, and she’s not familiar with many words. As a result, she constantly thinks how nice it would be to have native Chinese speakers teach her children Chinese. Conversely, she wondered if Chinese parents would want native-English speaking Americans to teach their children authentic English? I told her that English classes are very popular in China, but they are expensive. Also, extracurricular classes require parents to take their children to classes on the weekends or at nighttime, which is a big time commitment. If the grandparents or a nanny took the child to English classes, then it’s really hard for the parent to participate and see what their child is learning. She asked me that if families could access authentic, American-style English classes online or via mobile app for their children, would that be helpful for parents?
This is what led to the creation of “Mama English.” “Mama English” which stands for American mom, is one year’s worth of video lessons YiShaun put together for Chinese toddlers to learn authentic, American-style English. With an American Mom or Aunt as the teacher speaking sweet, caring native-English, and with cute illustrations, Mama English teaches your child how to speak English. The Mama English short videos let your child learn authentic, American-style English from a real American Aunt from the comfort of your own home. The short daily video lesson focuses on a core word, and every day you can see your child progress.
These English video lessons are designed for children ages 2-3 years old. Children around this age are at a key language development stage, particularly sensitive to new words and sounds. Their brains are able to understand at this age that there are different languages, and that the same item can have one name in Chinese and another in English. Exposing them to English now is like letting them experience another world.
If you’re a parent of a small child, would this type of English learning tool be useful for your family? My first reaction when hearing about Mama English is that my family could definitely use it! I’ve been studying and working in the United States for ten years, and I’m fluent in English, but I still don’t dare to teach my daughter English. My husband often laments that the English our daughter has learned in preschool is many times more authentic than the English we speak. When I listen to YiShaun’s English video lessons, even I automatically want to repeat after her and correct my pronunciation. With this kind of English learning tool, parents can spend time with their child to help their child learn English, and your child can also learn English on their own by using the app themselves.
To learn more about Mama English, you can read about it here.
What kind of needs do you have when it comes to your child learning English? Do you have any parenting questions or conundrums and wonder how American parents handle them? YiShaun and her Harvard heart surgeon husband are raising their three young sons to be future international leaders and would like to share their parenting philosophy and tips. Please sign up for their mailing list here: