5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A MANDARIN CLASS Also, we get the experts to share everyday ways to introduce mother tongue to your baby.
Did you know that learning two languages builds brain power? Experts share everyday ways to introduce mother tongue to your baby.
NO BABY TALK
Never mind that he’s not even uttering his ﬁrst words yet – your infant’s ﬁrst year is crucial to building a strong foundation in language.
Babies process language structure and meaning long before they begin to speak, says Huang Ying, the principal of Chengzhu Mandarin education. So, go ahead and respond to his coos and babbles with your regular speech.
“Although young infants can’t grasp the precise meaning of words, the speech and language parts of their brains are stimulated when we speak to them. The more language they hear, the more those parts of the brain will grow and develop.”
By the time he can put words together, he would have already learnt the peculiarities of the languages you’ve spoken to him.
“Children who are exposed to two languages from birth learn to speak both ﬂuently. From six months, however, if babies have not heard particular sounds from individual languages, they will experience difﬁculty distinguishing them later,” she adds.
Research also indicates that as your baby grows, his adaptability to sounds and languages decreases. Beyond six or seven years old, it gets increasingly difﬁcult for him to form strong language connections.
“So, it is much harder for a child to learn language in primary school than it is in infancy and in preschool,” she explains.
SING, READ AND PLAY
Engage your bub, as he learns most easily when it’s an organic, enjoyable process. Fill your home with music and singing, conversation, books to share and activities, Huang Ying suggests.
“When words are matched with the patterns of rhythm and melody in poems and songs, kids remember them more easily. So, speak or sing along to CDs, learn the words and patterns and enjoy them with your baby while he absorbs language vocabulary, grammar and expression without any stress,” she says.
As your infant grows, expand the activities to include art, dance, cookery and calligraphy experiences to bring the spoken and written language to life.
ONE PARENT, ONE LANGUAGE
One of the best ways to teach bilingualism is equal exposure to both languages at home.
“For this reason, my husband and I each use our own languages when we speak to our son. My British husband speaks English and I speak Chinese,” says China-born Huang Ying.
Your baby learns through consistency and association: Mummy speaks Mandarin (or Malay or Tamil) and Daddy speaks English, and when they are together, they speak English.
For this to work well, both parents should spend adequate and balanced time with the child.
BE A STUDENT
What if both you and Hubby are not proﬁcient in your mother tongue? After all, many of today’s households use English as their main language. If that’s the case, learn along with your kid and show a keen interest in the language even if you’re not skilled in it.
“Parents’ enthusiasm, involvement and consistency in exposing the baby to a language play a key role in success, whether they are imparting knowledge or learning alongside their child. There are many types of language classes available. You’re sure to ﬁnd one that’s suitable for you and your baby,” says Melissa Cowden, director of Bibinogs Kids Academy.
“Being monolingual, I’ve always made it a point to expose children to different languages where possible. From an early age, they listened to lullabies in various languages, and watched popular children’s