Our family adopts the One Parent, One Language (OPOL) method when we communicate to the children. I would speak to Faith in Mandarin and the hubs to her in English. Faith’s first words are in Mandarin and I was mighty pleased with the progress and outcome until she was a little older, about 1.5 years old.
As I’m the main caregiver and teacher to the children, I find that I have to split between speaking in Mandarin and English. Initially, I was concerned that Faith will be confused but apparently, she could distinguish between the two languages. What I need to do and be mindful of, is NOT to mix the languages when I speak to the children and if I should speak in either of the languages, I should do so in complete sentences and with the right intonation. This requires a fair bit of discipline and effort on my part.
Upon attending school, Faith speaks English more than Mandarin which is not surprising even though the school spends more time in Chinese instruction (60%). Subsequently I signed her up for one more hour of Chinese class because she likes 儿歌 and I need more time to rest. Hah. Four hours of school is just right.
Currently, Faith speaks well and more regularly in English as compared to Mandarin but she could definitely recognise more Chinese characters than English words. I didn’t leave language teaching only to the school because I believe there is much that I could teach at home. Having said that, #iamnotatigermom. 😜
Flashcards. I have quite a fair bit of them lying in the house, thanks to friends and my sister who do not have any use of them since their children have grown up. I didn’t use them until the girl was around 2 years old. A few months down the road, I bought this set of Chinese characters and got Faith to learn them. I prefer this set because the characters are big (font size) and the pictures are clear. Initially, she took quite a while to remember the words but at 3YO, it seemed her mind had opened up and she could recognise one set in a week and we moved on very quickly since then. Consistency is key.
This set of readers helps boost Faith’s confidence in reading. Since she has learnt the characters, she could read the books on her own. You could see the pride that is reflected on her face when she completed reading each book. Priceless.
I also signed her up for a Chinese enrichment class because I need her to acquire a love for the language. I could definitely drill her in recognising the characters but she does need the environment to speak. I have heard good review of this Chinese class and thankfully, Faith likes it!
I do have to be honest that she was rather apprehensive in the beginning and had told me that she didn’t want to attend the class. However, by the third lesson, she was looking forward to it.✌️✌Having said that, I still see crying students in the class and they are pleading not to attend.
I used a few materials to teach Chinese to Faith and I want to specially mention this book. The book is organised in a manner in which the highlighted character will appear in every sentence, thereby helping the child to remember the word read in context. When the child finds that she could read, it boosts the confidence which happens to Faith and she wants to go on learning the characters and reading the text.
A few things to note:
:: I am recording this as a reference for me to teach Dan in future.
:: Faith started off with fewer spoken words in English and I have friends who suggested that she might have speech delay but fret not, she had been storing those vocabulary words in her mind and now I wish she could give me some peace. The seemingly fewer words could be a result of processing /storing words in both languages.
:: At home, there will always be music playing in the background and more often than not, it’s Chinese 儿歌。But when I’m reading to them, the music will have to stop.
:: Faith could well communicate in Mandarin given the right environment. However, she much prefers to speak in English since everyone else is speaking in that language.
:: Reading is key. Start reading even when the kid is a baby or in the womb. Read both English and Chinese books because they have the ability to distinguish the different languages.
I really ought to be more diligent in recording what I do with Faith at home for my and Dan’s sake. #homelearning.
Parentingjoy wrote a post on the use of 四五快读。