I love my mother tongue. I really do. I grew up in a Mandarin-speaking environment. My parents were Chinese-educated folks who trained me well in the Chinese language. I could read and write in Chinese by four. I recited Tang poetry. I understood the history, folklore and myths behind Chinese idioms, sayings and proverbs and their metaphorical nuances. I took part in Chinese essay writing competitions in school and even once at a national level. And I’ve a few trophies in my parents’ place to boast of that. All through school, I’ve always excelled in the subject. I aced my Chinese oral and written examinations in primary and secondary school every year.
I can see some raised eyebrows now.
I also happen to be the proud owner of a certificate that qualifies me as an effectively billingual translator, written and spoken. I went to night school to study translation with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce while at my first job a few years back.
That said, my kids can’t speak proper Mandarin for nuts. Even when they do try, their pronounciation is so off you’d be laughing on your belly. I already knew I was in serious trouble the day their teachers said they demonstrated no interest during Chinese lessons. So much for me doing well in Chinese. What happened to my offsprings?
Given the sorry state we are in, no thanks to motherkao and fatherkao not speaking much Mandarin at home (*hangs head in shame*), I’d grab any opportunity for them to be exposed to the language. So when Regina (mummymoo.com) did a giveaway for trial lessons at PerchingKids, I grabbed the opportunity. This new Chinese enrichment centre (the first in Singapore and since 2003 in Shanghai) in the new I12 Katong boasts of its success in teaching children Mandarin in a fun and rewarding way. Its programme promises to make the language come alive and to engage each child. The children learn though play and experiential learning. At PerchingKids, there are no classroom settings – no whiteboards and markers, no teacher-talk, no assessment books. Just lots of play, interaction and theme-based learning, all done in Mandarin.
Becks and Ben attended the music class and creative learning class for their age group. They were the only students in the class and the teacher, Xiao Mei, took them through hand and finger actions, sing-along, running in circles and jumping up and down for the music class. I was encouraged to accompany them and participate; which explains why I could only start snapping pictures of them learning when they were seated. One of the songs they learned in the class was the names of each finger of our hand. But I doubt they remember them. I’m embarrassed to say, I forgot too.
The creative class was the more engaging of the two. Teacher Xiao Mei helped them understand the concept of weather changes and colours during the lesson. She switched the lights on and off to show them “lighning”, got them to slap their hands on the wall for the “roaring of thunder”, had them paint the colours of the sky using their hands and fingers in a variety of shades, and got them to make clouds by flinging wet, bunched-up toilet paper onto the walls. She also had them create “rain” with a wet paintbrush and taught them to describe the “drizzling” they see on the paper and floor. And this was all done in Mandarin.
Needless to say, the kids had fun. They didn’t feel so awkward to be using Mandarin and they learned new words to add to their vocabulary. I’d be expecting them to show their vocab off the next time it rains.
- PerchingKids is at I12 Katong, #-04-04/07. Check out their website for more details of their programmes for children aged 0-6.
- You can even sign up for a demo class. Contact them direct or call Judy at 9181 1130.