pollution and housing

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We're moving to HK for the 2nd time, but this time with 2 small children (3 and 4.5 years). Lived in Midlevels (western) before, now, where to go now that apparently the pollution has become much much worse! Is South side better? Any tips? Will be working in Central and don't want to commute too much. I've read all the pollution indexes and it seems to boil down to central or western with the lowest average score ... If I want the kids to start learning Mandarin will an Int'l school suffice or will it have to be a local school?

Some tips on pollution & housing

in the comments here

Help children learn Mandarin in Hong Kong

It depends on several things, including what level of expertise you expect them to achieve, what languages you speak at home, how long you'll be here, and what will happen after you leave.

MissB Sr. was 3 yesterday, and has been attending an international (ie English-speaking) pre-school twice, then three times a week for the last 18 months. From day one she has had a 'Mandarin teacher', but it means around 15 minutes per day. She can sing some Mandarin songs which is nice, but I don't think she'd understand much of a Mandarin conversation - whereas she can understand English and Cantonese well (Mum is HK Chinese, and our Sister-in-Law who only speaks Cantonese looks after her in the day.) When she starts kindergarten in Autumn she will go to a local school where teaching will be in Cantonese, and English will be taught for a few minutes each day. I'll be very happy if she grows up bi-lingual in English and Cantonese, and don't think she'd have much trouble picking up Mandarin later.

As another example, we've just had a set of visitors fly back to California where they live. Mum is ethnically Chinese, Dad is Western, both speak hardly any Chinese. They put both sons into a Mandarin-speaking daycare and kindergarten as babies. Their older son is now 7, and was lucky enough to get into a school where his mum says around 80% of his schoolday is in Mandarin. They just came back from a holiday in China, where the parents were thrilled that both children were able to chatter away to anyone, and received many compliments on the standard of their language. When they were in Hong Kong they spoke English.

We know a Taiwanese family here who sent their children to ESF schools, wanting them to speak English. Their son is 10, and fluent in English - really just like a boy that grew up in Britain. However I believe his Chinese reading and writing skills are much weaker than a local child of the same age.

My long-winded message is that if you want them to learn another language really fluently, it is definitely possible but I think you need more of an immersion approach than just a school that does a couple of lessons a week in your chosen language. Also that maybe learning Cantonese will be easier than Mandarin, as your children will really fit in the local life, have many chances to practice, and pick it up more easily from the constant exposure.

I hope that helps,

MrB

Schools and Mandarin

To add just a bit to MrB's wise words, it would be difficult for you to send your kids to a local school, and they certainly wouldn't start learning much mandarin if you did, since the main language is Cantonese. Given that your kids would come in knowing no Chinese at all, I don't even know if this would be feasible at their ages. It would be more likely to work with the younger of the two, obviously.

Daughter Tall is just finishing her first full year (age 3-4) at a local kindergarten, and it seems much more time is spent on English than on Mandarin. We've enrolled her in a weekly mandarin lesson in which she's learned far more than she did in school. She can carry on short conversations now, and it's hilarious to hear her try to 'Mandarinize' Cantonese words. If you are familiar with Hong Kong people whose grasp of Mandarin is tenuous trying to make themselves understood in the mainland, you'll know just what I mean!

Anyway, the Chinese International School has perhaps the best reputation for teaching non-Chinese kids Mandarin, but it's very hard to get into and very very expensive. You might look into the Chekiang and Kiangsu school system, too -- I've heard some good things about it, and they definitely feature Mandarin instruction.

Bi-lingual kindergarten

I read an article this morning that mentioned the Victoria Educational Organisation offers bi-lingual (English/Mandarin or English/Cantonese) schooling to children from age 2.

MrB

Bi-lingual kindergarten

Thank you so much Mr.Tall and Mr B, without your comments I wouldn't even know where to start! There seem to be so many kindergartens and schools! It seems though that it's not that easy to just "choose" but we'll probably be limited by who still has places, it seems we're about a year too late in our application process!!!! I guess we'll try and find the school first and then look for housing?

Hiking

Oh, I'm glad to see Mr. B and Mr T like hiking. When we were in HK sans children we hiked all the time and both hubbie and I completed the maclehose! Any tips on hiking with small children?

Hiking in Hong Kong with young children

If you're carrying children in a back/front-carrier, I found using a big umbrella is an easier way to keep them in the shade than trying to get Miss B to wear/keep wearing a hat. Other than that, I think you'll know the other suggestions - drink lots, mozzie repellant, etc. Oh, and we bought a back-carrier that has little wheels, so child + carrier can be wheeled for short distances - complete waste of money, as we've never wheeled her anywhere, and the wheels dig in to me when I wear the carrier!

We haven't tried any long hikes since our older daughter (3 yrs) has been walking, but both Bowen Road, and Lugard/Harlech Roads around the Peak are flat and an easy walk. The walks from Parkview down to Tai Tam also seem to be popular with families.

Happy hiking, MrB