Why Chinese nannies are favoured in America

Why Chinese nannies are favoured in America
PHOTO: The Straits Times

An increasing number of families in the United States are turning to Chinese nannies, whose language skills may be one of the reasons that make them a better option.

For Chinese immigrant families, nannies who speak Mandarin can help pass on cultural heritage and use traditional child-rearing techniques.

Other parents hope a nanny will give their children a head start in life to help prepare them for the future. It seems that wealthy US families believe that exposing their children to Mandarin at an early age is one way to do that, according to a report from Chinese online publication Red Star News.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, many American parents seek caregivers fluent in another language and culture. Nanny agency Bay Area 2nd Mom has seen a sharp increase in recent years in requests for nannies who speak a language other than English. The Chinese language is one of the favoured ones.

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In New York, Chinese-speaking nannies are in such high demand they can command a salary of around US$20,000 (S$28,000) more than the average nanny would earn.

One Chinese woman even managed to secure a salary of US$70,000-a-year after two families tried to outbid each other to get her, according to childcare service agency Lifestyle Resources.

The report also cited US President Donald Trump' granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, as an example. Arabella, 5, is the child of Trump's daughter Ivanka and Jared Kushner.

Arabella, accompanied by her little brother, Joseph, sang the traditional Chinese song, Jasmine Flower (or Mo Li Hua), and recited the Three Character Classic (or San Zi Jing) to visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

Arabella has reportedly been learning Chinese since she was a very small child, taught by a Chinese nanny.

Apart from nannies, there are several other ways for a US child to learn Chinese.

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Missionary schools in communities and immersion elementary language schools in the US have offered Chinese classes, Yang Yanli, a veteran Chinese teacher who worked in some US schools, told Red Star News.

In middle schools and colleges, they have optional courses for students to learn the language, according to Yang. Also, people can have a Chinese home tutor for their children, she said.

Yang was born in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin province, and graduated from Beijing Normal University. She immigrated to the US with her husband about 10 years ago.

Yang once taught students Chinese in a US public school, later in a missionary community school. She also worked as a Chinese governess.

"Students in many US cities start to learn a foreign language -- which is usually Spanish and French -- in their seventh school year. Because of China's development in recent years, many schools have begun offering Chinese classes too. The number of students taking up optional Chinese classes is increasing in colleges, compared with years ago," Yang said.

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Yang once taught twins Chinese at their home in Maryland. The parents worked for Ronald Reagan before, with photos of the former US president on their house desk.

In addition to hiring Yang as governess, the family had a Chinese nanny. What's more, the parents kept a Chinese student living with them, offering the student meals and accommodation for free. All this was to help their twin children learn Chinese, according to Yang.

Yang herself, like most Chinese immigrants in the US, wanted her children to study Chinese too. Her second child was born in the US, and she sent the child to a missionary school for Chinese classes, because she didn't want them to forget their mother tongue.

US families who have adopted Chinese children also send them to learn the language.

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