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.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

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

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