Monday, March 29, 2010

Mandarin for Children

As a follow up on my earlier post, here’re some of my thoughts on teaching Mandarin to kids, after spending an afternoon with Fiona Walker and Huang Ying of Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning. It was a fun and educational afternoon for all the parents there, I believe!

First off, as with most of everything in life, it’s all about balance.

image (Photo credit: Flickr)

How much time should one spend on teaching the child Mandarin?

Given the stress on students nowadays, it is little surprise that parents, educators and government ministers alike are giving their two cents’ on how best to continue with Singapore’s bilingual education system.

If you want your child to be equally bilingual, then as a parent, you need to ensure you spend an equal amount of time on both English and Mandarin. You reap what you sow. So if you don’t devote that much time with your child, then you also need to manage your expectations. How true! Fiona suggests having a “pre-determined” time to converse in Mandarin, be it dinner time or bath time or sleep time… this disciplines the parents to keep to this, as well as reinforces the importance of Mandarin to the child.

How have Nic & I done on this so far? Errr….. Weelllll…. Not very far, I’m afraid. LOL! Well, the saving grace for Jay is the fact he spends a day a week with Nic’s parents, who are only conversant in Mandarin.

Fiona also brought up an oft-overlooked point, that English is and will remain the main mode of teaching, and as such, a good grasp of the English language should not be neglected.

What should we do to instil a love (or least, an interest) in the language? As with anything… keep it fun! Kids play off the parents, and if as parents we can love the language, chances are it will rub off on our kids. Correspondingly, an aversion to it will also be evident to them! Haha!

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