A generation ago, studying European languages was considered “more cool” than studying Asian languages. In Locke’s young days, the necessity of knowing Chinese seemed remote. Many kids rebelled and still do because they don’t want to give up their Saturdays to learn their native languages.
It happened to my own sons, who are fluent in Cantonese at home. At the beginning, they attended Chinese schools to learn Mandarin because they enjoyed meeting other Chinese kids. As they grew older, one son said to me, “Don’t force me, Mom. I have tennis and debate practice on Saturday.”
The funny thing is, they both took Mandarin when they attended college. Whatever I instilled in them made sense when they were older. Today, if you visit an Asian language classroom at the University of Washington, you will be surprised that the class is made up of many American-born Asians. In the old days, not knowing your native tongue was excusable. Nowadays, not knowing it becomes an embarrassment as more whites are studying and speaking Asian languages better than Asian Americans. ♦