When Speak Good English Movement was launched in the 2000s, we see ourselves speaking a lot lesser Mandarin, a lot more English, and the effort in speaking better English. It has been so successful that our children see Chinese/Mandarin as a foreign language, not a Mother Tongue now (because moms also speak English at home).
Of late, we notice the Rising of China, and we realise the importance of Chinese/Mandarin. But those language policies and campaigns that we had are deeply enrooted in us, to make a u-turn is like manoeuvring a big vessel, not impossible but requires great effort. What I see as utmost important, is that we need to cultivate that kind of environment that is conducive for our children to learn Chinese.
There are generally 2 groups of learner who could master a language fast – a very motivated learner (eg. An enterpreneur learning Mandarin in order to venture into the China market) and one who is immersed in that environment since young (eg. living in China for half a year or more). In attempting to help the child in learning another language, we can provide aid in the latter by creating that kind of external environment because the former one is very much internally driven.
听、说、 读、写 – Listening, speaking, reading and writing are the basis of learning a language.
These 4 parts are sequential and closely linked. Before a toddler speaks a particular word, he would have heard it millions of time. Only then he is able to speak, then progressing to recognising that word, and subsequently, the ability to write.
Too often a time, we overlooked this sequence and started drilling our children to read and write without building up the foundation in listening and speaking. This phenomenon is particularly prominent when the child enters formal education. The fact is, the more we focus on reading and writing, and neglect the importance of the listening and speaking, the tougher the child finds in mastering a language, the more the resistance to wanting to learn it. It is no wonder our children find Chinese difficult. That’s partly because we have neglected this learning sequence!
Recently, I came across a Chinese enrichment centre that resonates with my belief – EduGrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre. It is one of those rare few in the market that emphasizes the importance of listening and speaking. The founders I spoke to firmly believe that these 2 aspects form the solid foundation in learning Chinese. When the child has the good exposure and opportunities to practice listening and speaking, he will be able to pick up reading and writing skills faster, and most importantly, lesser resistance to the language itself.
In order to build a stronger foundation on listening and speaking, EduGrove has Circle Time in the beginning of the class when the students will sit in a circle on the floor and take turn to share either a story or a personal encountance with words they have learnt recently. By so doing, the students also learn to overcome the fear of public speaking, especially in a language they are not too comfortable with.
I made a surprise visit to one of the classes and am super pleased with what I have seen. Although not all the students were fluent in Mandarin, EVERYONE dares to speak up, form sentences, tell a story, describe a scenario, etc. The students feel safe to make mistakes and not be teased by their peers or criticised by their teacher.
When it comes to Comprehension and Composition, the teachers will get the students to act the story out. By acting, the students allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thereby develop a deeper understanding of the story. They will then be able to visualise the story more vividly and indirectly, this helps them answering the questions through deeper thought process. They are also able to write a better sequential composition as a result. Having seen my son through primary school education, I truly understand the struggles that both parents and their children face when it comes to Chinese. I have no doubt this methodology ease our children in learning this language.
EduGrove offers trial class, so you can experience all that I have shared yourselves to assess the effectiveness of this teaching methodology.