Living in Singapore provides a rare opportunity for our kids to learn Mandarin from some of the best. But let’s face it: this language can be a little intimidating for the beginner, whether as a student or a parent. We had a good long chat (in English. Intimidation levels remain high here at HoneyKids) with the team at Little Mandarins, drawing on their 10 years of experience teaching in Singapore to de-mystify the process of learning the most widely spoken language in the world.
First things first, Little Mandarins is not the place to go if you want your kids to sit in a sterile classroom and rote learn. Of course, classes here include plenty of repetition to improve recall, but this is combined with a heavy schedule of a lovely little thing called ‘play’. The Little Mandarins philosophy is that kids learn best when they’re having fun, and when the task at hand is stimulating (we love that there are lots of movement-based activities each day). The curriculum borrows from both ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ teaching styles, meaning there’s a great mix of interactive, hands-on activities and purposeful, result oriented learning methods. The focus here is equally placed on teaching and nurturing, with the learning ethos of ‘Play, Grow, Make, Care and Share’.
The teaching techniques are just one piece of the Little Mandarins puzzle, with the atmosphere of the school playing a big part in the kids’ learning progress. Housed in a beautiful black and white building at Dempsey, it’s simply a nice place to be! The sunlit ‘Learning Spaces’ (not ‘classrooms’) are decorated creatively, and learning is extended to the lovely green outdoor areas which are regularly used for class activities. Small class sizes (a maximum of eight kids) create a nice little community vibe, and each student receives the ideal amount of attention.
So, we’re convinced about signing our kids up for classes at Little Mandarins, but what can we do to ensure we all get the most value out of it? We asked the team for a few tips that are easy to implement at home…
The key to improving Mandarin is exposure and practice. Here are six things you can do to help your kids learn at home, even when your own level of ‘Mandarin’ exposure extends only as far as a small citrus fruit:
- Encourage – don’t force – your child to use the language as much as possible.
- Let the kids teach you. Don’t ask your children what they’ve learned in school. Instead, get this info from the teachers. If the day’s topic was colour, ask the kids how to say ‘red’ when you’re eating an apple. The idea is to make the process part of your normal day-to-day activities rather than creating a ‘designated’ time to speak Mandarin. Everything feels less of a chore this way!
- Get into the groove by playing Chinese songs. To begin with, choose songs with a catchy tune and simple lyrics. Even though your little one probably won’t know all the words, regularly surrounding them with music helps to expose them to the different tonal sounds of Mandarin. As they learn more words in class, they’ll soon appreciate the lyrics of the songs.
- Get out the flash cards. Let your child practice using cards that feature Chinese Characters and hanyu pinyin.
- Make time for play dates, and lots of them! Try to meet up regularly with children who speak Mandarin and create games that require the kids to use Mandarin words, e.g. a game of ‘Simon Says’ in Mandarin.
- Use it as an excuse to eat out! Taking your kids to places where they have an opportunity to practise their Mandarin, such as Chinese restaurants and shops, is all part of the learning experience.
Classes at Little Mandarins are offered from 18 months of age, right through to adult level courses, as well as school holiday camps.
The first 10 HoneyKids readers to call with the booking code LMHK2016 can sign up for a free trial class! First-time students only. Call Little Mandarins on 6473 8377.
This post is sponsored by Little Mandarins.