I am a product of the "much-debated" bilingual policy of this country but before I go on, let me first clarify - I HATED mandarin classes. ok, maybe HATE is too strong a word but I really had no affinity with the language nor the teachers that taught it. the methods used still leave a bitter taste in my mouth because I have such a goldfish memory (no '听写' & '墨写' for me pls!). I practically slept through all the classes then - I can still vividly see my teachers shaking their heads vigorously at me because of my learning attitude towards the language. in the end though, I still got a distinction for the subject.
Coming from a supposedly '华校' (or chinese school) where taking higher chinese is the norm, rather than the exception and many even taking an additional foreign language for the 'o' levels, I have to say that this 'exposure' to the language is something I am proud of. Up till today, I can still read, write and speak fluently (when I want to). In fact, I hope that my children will also be able to communicate effectively in both languages in the future - nothing to do with the fact that China is deemed to be the future economic powerhouse and merely because we are CHINESE afterall. for this reason, I want to enrol my elder baby to my alma-mater and hopefully the younger baby will also be admitted to an affilated school with similar focus on mandarin. I'm also encouraging my parents to communicate with them in mandarin instead of (their not-so-perfect) english and have started 'exposing' them to the written word by labeling objects in the house in chinese.
Really, language is one of those subjects that you really have to fully immerse yourself (and at a young age, I read) in order to master it. otherwise, it is just not possible to become fluent in it and I should know. I took Japanese when I was in college and while many of the words are still swimming around in my brain, it will take quite a bit of effort on my part to carry out a conversation entirely in Japanese now because I've not spoken it for a while (well, I graduated from college close to 10 years ago so... ). I love to watch 'Japan Hour' for this reason - it refreshes my memory about the language, the structure and the vocabulary.