If you’ve ever tried to learn Mandarin (like me) you’ll know it’s fairly complex. I think that, even more than most other languages, practice in conversation is paramount, as is learning in a practical way using everyday scenarios.
And what about it being fun – wouldn’t that be cool too? Whether you’re studying as an international student or in a local school, and you want to push your grades up, enjoying learning a language rather than feeling that you’re just ‘studying’ a subject can make a big difference.
These are all key factors for Irene Oen, managing director at Little Mandarins Language Centre. And, whatever the reason for enrolling might be, Irene ensures that proficiency and age are always taken into consideration when assigning the appropriate class to a student.
With around eight children to a class and only about 30% of the time spent sitting down, there’s lots of interaction, dance, games (“Simon Says”, for example), stickers, stamps and flashcards, all of which help with the learning process. Most classes work around a theme, and there’s an outdoor area where the little ones can get involved in gardening, too. (They apparently grew some very tasty cucumbers a few seasons ago!) For all ages, very little technology is used for teaching as the focus is on the interaction between students and teachers; it helps the learning process for the children to watch how the teachers pronounce sounds, and to see the shape of the mouth as they say them.
I was invited to the Little Mandarins campus at Loewen in Dempsey for a look, and to watch the drop-off toddlers (ages two to three years) doing their ‘thing’ – it was so cute it almost made me want to take one home! Mums & Tots classes start when the children are even younger, at 18 months, and I think it would be a great way for both of you to become more familiar with the language.
The centre is in one of Dempsey’s old British army barracks – it’s beautifully renovated, with a view out to the jungle, and a location that’s a long way from any main roads. There’s also a lovely little library, and a holding area for parents and children who arrive early. Plus, it’s nearby Tanglin Mall and the shops at Dempsey if you need to get stuff done while the kids learn!
Language is experiential. Sitting and doing rote learning just makes it much harder to absorb. It definitely didn’t work for me; I could hardly say a word after a few months – and, if I did, no one knew what I was talking about!
Language learning at Little Mandarins is based around a system of five key principles that aim to guide every child’s overall development.
* Let them play
* Help them grow
* Encourage them to make
* Teach them to care
* Enable them to share
I do feel that starting a language as young as possible, is important, so give them a call, have a look at their website, and see how it could work for you and your children.
By Rebecca Bisset
Little Mandarins Language Centre offers classes for children from 18 months at Block 71, Loewen Road #01-03. The next term starts on 14 August, but you can enrol any time after that too.
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