When Expat Living’s Sarah Purchase saw that eldest son Sam (5) was making great progress learning Mandarin at his bilingual kindergarten, it encouraged her to consider the local school system as an option. But because the family doesn’t speak Mandarin at home, she was concerned that Sam mightn’t be able to keep up with his peers. Enrolling him at the Chengzhu Mandarin Centre has gone a long way to bridging the gap.
Why were you keen for Sam to learn Mandarin?
We hear so many expat families say that they would have loved to have given their children the gift of Mandarin as a language, yet the task seemed too daunting or they didn’t know where to start and therefore missed the opportunity. In Singapore, though, that opportunity is right on the doorstep, so we decided to act.
What appealed to you about the centre?
We wanted to find a place that would balance the joy of learning with an emphasis on fundamental concepts. I’m delighted to have found this at Chengzhu. If you spend a few minutes outside the classroom, you’ll hear lots of laughter as the children enjoy the lessons, games, puppets and stories, all of them chatting away in Mandarin without even realising they are learning.
The centre has a variety of classes to suit all ages and levels. Classes for toddlers are adult-accompanied and provide a great start for learning the language through lively songs and activities.
Chengzhu organises an annual overseas trip that families can enrol in separately to the normal classes; this is an amazing opportunity for parents to visit Mandarin-speaking places and experience the culture with their children. This year’s trip, in the second week of December, is to Taipei.
Tell us a bit about the programme.
The one we chose is 10 weeks long, with a 90-minute class every Saturday morning. Classes are structured so that the children are given different activities. Typically, the boys in the class have a lot of physical energy; the teacher keeps them all engaged and interested for the entire class.
What are the teachers like?
Sam is captivated by his class teacher, Li Laoshi. The lessons are a bit like watching an interactive performance – Li Laoshi’s passion for teaching and language comes out in the energy he displays. It’s completely opposite to our preconceived notion that Mandarin lessons would be strict and boring. Instead, the children are engaged and the language seems to flow out of their mouths without them realising it.
So he enjoys the classes?
After Sam’s first lesson, he said: “A whole week is too long to wait to come back!” Chengzhu is teaching Sam the skills he needs for speaking Mandarin, but even more importantly it is helping to give our son a natural confidence in a foreign language and a love for that language. To us as a family this is true enrichment – and a delight to watch.
Chengzhu Mandarin Centre is at 35 Rochester Drive, #03-01 Rochester Mall. 6737 5348