Lin Jiajie, 10, and four of his cousins are among thousands of children taking summer courses in the Shenzhen Children's Palace. What sets them apart from most of the other kids is that they are French-Chinese of Chaoshan origin, and they are in Shenzhen from France for the summer to experience Chinese culture first-hand.
"China is a big and strong country now, and Chinese is an essential language. So their parents send them back to China almost every vacation," said Lin Fangqin, Lin Jiajie's aunt, who lives in Shenzhen.
The five children, aged between 2 and 10, are taking courses like Chinese, music and Chinese kung fu. Another cousin is now in Beijing visiting scenic spots.
As China enjoys a higher status around the world, and learning Chinese becomes more popular in Western countries, a growing number of overseas Chinese have begun to send their children back to China to experience Chinese culture from up close. They claim that learning Chinese in China is better for the children and also cost less.
Canadian-Chinese Zhu Xueyun said taking children to Chinese schools in the United States for one year or teaching them Chinese at home is not half as good as sending them to China for even one month. "It is really hard to get them familiar with Chinese culture in a Western country," she said. Her two daughters Emmy Ku, 7, and Rachel Ku, 6, both born in Canada and raised in the United States, were not being able to pick up Chinese characters.
"In the United States, two months' babysitting costs about US$3,000. And the kids learn almost nothing. Whereas a return ticket between the United States and China is about US$1,000. The kids can go to best kindergartens or schools in China for a few thousand yuan. And their involvement with Chinese culture is tremendous," she said.
For this reason, when Zhu's husband got an opportunity to work in Shenzhen for a few years, they took it immediately. She sent her daughters to a painting course in the Children's Palace days after they moved to Shenzhen in early July. They are also taking a dancing course, a Chinese course and a skating course during the summer.
Gao Junwen, chief of the children's training center with the Shenzhen Children's Palace, said there has been an increase in the number of overseas Chinese kids taking courses in the center. "Many of them are among the most talented in the class. Coming from different backgrounds, the kids are having a subtle but very positive influence between each other," he said.
(Shenzhen Daily August 10, 2006)