For many parents, a stint in Asia offers the perfect opportunity for their children to learn Mandarin, the most widely spoken language on the planet and often referred to as “Tomorrow’s language”. Evidence suggests starting early is the best way to give your child a head start in mastering the Chinese dialect – but don’t be put you off if you’re a little further down the road already!
There are so many options; it can get a little overwhelming in anyone’s language! Here we look at enrichment classes, bilingual preschools and the different language programs offered by two leading international schools.
Enrichment Classes: 18 months to adult
Little Mandarins – founded by a Mum 10 years ago – are pioneers of ‘Mandarin without tears’ enrichment classes where learning is achieved through fun. The insight that children learn language as they learn life is at the heart of their system; their aim is not to just teach Mandarin, but to let children learn it.
Their curriculum draws from both Eastern and Western teaching methods. Classes are capped at a maximum of eight students, and taught though hands-on dynamic lessons with a learning ethos of Play, Grow, Make, Care and Share. They’re fun, interactive and stimulating, yet purposeful and effective, too.
Their programmes – for children aged 18 months to adults – are run from their Loewen by Dempsey Hill campus, with large classrooms surrounded by lush greenery and open space. Check out their Mandarin immersion holiday camps for kids too.
Bilingual and Chinese language preschool
Specialist bilingual and Chinese language preschool BibiNogs offers Pre-Nursery, Nursery, Kindergarten, and Enrichment Programmes with their multi-domain BibiNogs BE curriculum. (Their curriculum supports children to BE confident and expressive, kind and considerate, and appreciative of global cultures.)
Their bilingual and pure Mandarin programmes are designed to be fun and engaging to help children learn and start to make sense of the world around them.
The BibiNogs BE curriculum covers a child’s overall development across five domains: their cognitive development, numeracy and language skills, motor skills, social and emotional development, creativity and appreciation of the arts.
Contact them to find out more.
Language Programmes at International Schools:
The Canadian International School Singapore offers a range of options for learning Mandarin, starting in Pre-Kindergarten through to Grade 12. The priority is on oral proficiency and reading before teaching students how to write Hanzi (Chinese characters).
- In Pre-Kindergarten there’s a half-day Chinese immersion programme. The homeroom teacher is a native Chinese speaker and speaks exclusively to the children in Chinese throughout the day.
- From Junior Kindergarten through to Grade 10, students have daily Chinese classes, and are grouped according to their linguistic ability – ranging from beginners to native speakers. (Students are assessed based on standards set by the American Council on the teaching of Foreign Languages.)
- There’s also a Chinese-English bilingual programme – fully aligned to the IB Primary Years Programme – where children from Junior Kindergarten through to Grade Five have equal exposure to both languages with both a native English and native Chinese teacher per class.
- For the IB Diploma Programme, students can choose from either Chinese Language and Literature (ideal for native speakers) or Language Acquisition at a standard or higher level.
Technology, differentiated instruction – tailoring teaching to the students’ individual needs – and age appropriate stories are frequently used to keep them engaged and motivated.
As part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP), Stamford American students – Nursery to Grade 12 – receive daily lessons in either Mandarin or Spanish for by specialist language teachers.
Stamford also offers a Mandarin / English Bilingual Programme for Pre-Kindergarten to Grade Four. The goal of the Bilingual programme is to provide an opportunity for students to become bilingual, bi-literate, and bi-cultural.
The Bilingual model adopted is 50 – 50 Mandarin / English dual immersion, which divides the daily classroom time between Mandarin and English covering subjects like Maths, English Arts, Morning Advisory and Primary Years Programme Units of Inquiry. Students have 2 hours of bilingual lessons daily focusing on language access, as well as a specialist Mandarin class focusing on literacy.
The Mandarin / English Bilingual Programme is taught by one full-time teacher per class who is literate in both Mandarin and English and is required to have experience in both immersion and monolingual classrooms. They’ve found that the benefit of this one teacher model is their ability to develop meaningful relationships with their students to successfully plan for their individual proficiency levels.