As language is easier to pick up at an earlier age, parents are constantly looking for ways to help their children easily master Mandarin/Putonghua. To cater for different developmental needs, Woodland Pre-Schools offer three levels of intensity, in both Traditional and Montessori teaching methods:
Mandarin in the English stream provides children with an introduction to the language and encourages their interest in Mandarin through songs, games and stories which enable them to explore the Chinese culture in a fun and interesting way. A native Mandarin teacher conducts the lesson for 30 minutes three times per week .
The Bilingual Stream allows exposure to Mandarin on a daily basis with a native Mandarin teacher who uses Mandarin 50% of the time. Children have more opportunities to listen, remember and use words and phrases learnt within the classroom which cover daily conversations, Chinese festivals and theme-related vocabulary. Mandarin Circle Time is allocated every day for 20 to 30 minutes and during this session, new themes and activities are introduced. They also follow a reading programme in class.
Pure Mandarin Stream
In the Pure Mandarin Stream, children have full immersion of the language as Mandarin is the only medium of instruction for all areas of learning. Children are provided a rich language learning experience and are given opportunities to practise the four major language skills in class - listening, speaking, reading and writing. Teaching is differentiated based on each child’s individual learning abilities and developmental needs, and they will be guided to use the spoken and written language in a meaningful environment.
Children in this stream are immersed in the language; it is no longer a separate subject in such a class and children work towards total fluency as they have full exposure to the language the entire time.
The process of learning to understand the teacher in the immersion language helps children develop a wide range of problem-solving skills as well as to think more critically and flexibly. As a result, bilingual students do just as well and usually better in other academic areas, like math, than their monolingual peers.
If you decide to choose the path of language immersion, bear in mind the keys to success in acquiring foreign language skills are (1) consistency and (2) an early start. Consistency means to be persistent in exploring the new language – it is not about memorising words and phrases which limits their usage in different situations, but to apply the language in real-life situations; for many young children their most common environment is at home. Therefore parents and carers should encourage the use of Mandarin themselves.
Studies have shown that children learn quickly and effectively at an early age to gain ‘native-like’ proficiency. In early stages, immersion in the language helps children develop awareness and an ear for the five different tones of Mandarin, allowing them to pick it up easily and speak more fluently with correct enunciation and clarity should they wish to pursue further Mandarin in future.