Countless studies have shown that learning a language at a young age sets children on the path to becoming bilingual (or even tri- or multilingual) in the future. It’s also well known that the way in which language is taught is crucial to success. Particularly if you are living in Singapore, enrol your little ones in one of the many Mandarin classes available for kids – they’ll be sure to come in handy. We asked the managing director of Little Mandarins, Irene Oen, how their centre approaches language learning.
What do you feel is the best learning environment for kids?
Todays’ children grow up in an increasingly competitive and digital environment. Learning is most effective if they are comfortable and relaxed in their surroundings while engaged in fun, interesting and stimulating activities. Children thrive when they receive positive encouragement. When they experience success, no matter how small, they are motivated to achieve more. This builds confidence and encourages students to use their language skills. A close and personal relationship with supportive, attentive and responsive teachers is also essential.
What are the benefits of learning a language from a young age?
Studies have shown that younger children are better at mimicking new sounds and at adopting pronunciation and new tones. Starting early also takes away the intimidation factor of learning a new language!
What is the Little Mandarin teaching method?
We believe in education, not just teaching. We take learning through fun seriously, because our goal is to seriously help children to progress in their master of the language. Every moment in class is a learning opportunity!
Tell us about the curriculum.
Our custom-made curriculum is an amalgamation of the best in Eastern and Western teaching styles. From the Western approach we believe in interactive, hands-on, dynamic and fun learning, while the Eastern influence directs us towards purposeful and result-oriented learning. Our teachers are highly involved in the development of the curriculum; we draw on their experience to create lesson plans that are stimulating and well received by students.
What are some of the activities that make learning fun?
Lots and lots of games. Arts and crafts, songs, dancing and cartoons all boost children’s language and vocabulary development. Learning is not confined to the classroom. We use active and hands-on learning methods to excite and stimulate the students’ senses. For example, in an activity in our outdoor area, students plant a seed, monitor and watch the growth of the plant and at the same time learn the vocabulary associated with plants.
Kicking off in 2017 is the Immersion Drop-off Programme. The two-and-a-half-hour programme for children aged two and three years is designed to help them take their first steps towards becoming confident Mandarin speakers. Held Monday to Friday from 10am to 12.30pm, the flexible programme allows children to discover Mandarin in a hands-on learning environment, with passionate, native-speaking teachers.
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