Getting kids going in Mandarin–in Singapore
Singapore is about 75% ethnic Chinese, but that doesn’t mean that people actually speak Chinese at home. School is taught in English, though all students take a second language, either Malay, Mandarin or Tamil. The original system presumed that kids were coming from non-English speaking households and needed to learn English, while getting literate in their home language. But it’s now quite common for kids to come from English-speaking homes where their theoretically ‘home’ language is in fact a second language. So now private language-immersion preschools are starting to pop up there, to give kids a start in their “mother tongue” as Singapore likes to call it.
It’s all quite fascinting.
Early start in learning Mandarin
British housewife Fiona Ratz believes the early exposure to Mandarin helped her daughter Amy (in red), a Primary 2 pupil, do well in the language.
Five-year-old Soo Song Xuan spoke almost no Mandarin two years ago.
His parents, businessman Soo Wee Kiat, 40, and Ms Vanessa Wong, 40, a personal assistant, used to converse with him mainly in English at home.
Worried that he would be unable to catch up with the mother-tongue subject in primary school, Ms Wong transferred him last year to EtonHouse International Education Group’s Chinese-language immersion programme that is run at its branch at 223 Mountbatten Road.
The group piloted the programme for two nursery classes there three years ago. Classes including those on literacy, numeracy and arts are taught entirely in Mandarin.
Just a year into the programme, where Song Xuan and his peers would spend about six hours every day with a Mandarin-speaking teacher, Ms Wong says she could see a vast improvement. “Now, he talks to us in Mandarin about half the time at home.
He loves Mandarin pop songs and enjoys doing his Chinese homework. When we go to the library, he would want to borrow Chinese books.”
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