So yesterday I went for the MTL Symposium and learnt quite a bit about teaching mother tongue to my kids!
First of all I want to say MOE is doing a great job in inculcating the love for language in our kids. Which country do you know has ICT resources, free sessions for parents and beautiful textbooks for the students? Of course how the mission and vision translates in the school differs. The focus for lower primary chinese is ORACY (basically oral skills) so there isn't so much writing.
I found that very true for no1's case, because she did a lot of show and tell and there weren't any written exams, but sadly I think this year the focus is definitely right smack on writing and reading…and also the teacher is not as "on the ball" in updating parents I feel a little lost as to how to help her.
So I attended the session "Understanding 2015 Primary School CL – Supporting your child in learning Chinese" for more tips!
first of all, XUELE.MOE.EDU.SG will be your best friend. ALL the words they learn are found here. All the text is found here for the thematic story. THIS IS THE HOLY GRAIL. (I wanted to write grill because you will use this to drill your kids haha)
The different components for CL 2015. So far they've only published 欢乐伙伴 up to the p3 level; next year the p4 book will be out.
Isn't it cool how this is in "real time" kinda? So the topics will be more relevant?
Anyway to reiterate the scaffolding
ORACY -> WORD RECOGNITION -> READING AND WRITING (听说读写）
This is also super useful. I got it for free at the exhibition area. Basically it introduces you to the textbook and how to use the learning resources (aka xuele, readers and flash cards).
Actually even if your child hasn't started primary school you can look at the website because there are lots of songs and rhymes there. And games! When no1 has to revise the other 2 crowd around to look at it.
I found the parent's guide online!!!!
Games found there
Seriously I think I should use this to teach Didi.
And also why English lang doesn't have such a cool comprehensive website?
Songs to sing
There are also picture cards which are related to the textbook, and you can buy them to revise vocabulary with your children at home.
First start simple.
1 picture 1 phrase (e.g. 跑）
Next you can expand the sentence (他在跑步）
Then you can add details like (他在公园跑步）
After that you can sequence the cards and get them to talk about their day etc.
For the flash cards, the presenter gave a few suggestions on how to use them.
Bingo, whacko, heart attack, memory game. The gist is to make it fun and bond together and make learning Chinese a family affair.
There's also a Snakes and Ladders game you can buy. For this I heartily approve of #buybuybuy. 💸💸💸
They also recommended this for the children to practice their writing. It can be found in popular and most likely taobao.
I also attended Ah Guo's (阿果)'s "Creating Stories with your Child"
For this session I was hoping for more ideas on how to write stories and engage the kids, but I think he's an illustrator first and foremost so he gave tips on how to draw and make the illustrations come alive rather than ideas for story telling.
But he's such a cool illustrator! I wanted to buy his books but the crowd at the bookstore was scary so I didn't get to browse and buy any in the end.
My feeble attempts. Better document them and see if I can improve haha.
His tips for making illustration more vivid
1. Use color
2. Use comparison
3. Use symbols
Maybe it would have been better if he could have started by teaching us how to draw hahahaha.
This is an illustration for one of his books. He changes the fruits into animals. I can't remember what the papaya turned into but he turned Grapes into frogs, bananas into ducklings and watermelons into peacocks.
And then all the fruits combined into one object.
Last but not least the panel session was very thought provoking.
The session was titled – When Artistes Meet an Academic’ Panel Session: Creating a Nurturing Environment for Children to Learn the Chinese Language
Zoe Tay is so classy lah. I'm a fan of downtoearth artistes and the fact that she's a mother of 3 makes her very human. (That, and the fact that even though she was a parent volunteer at Nanyang Pri but still didn't get a place for her son ha)
They shared about their background, and I was surprised to hear that Zoe's family actually spoke mostly in dialects when she was growing up. She only learnt Chinese in school and she felt like her language skills weren't good enough when she joined SBC. So she kept practicing and listening to radio broadcasts and now her chinese is fantastic.
Something she said was really interesting. She said when we speak we must be aware of our "口气“
She shared that when we speak it must be from the heart. Because people don't just sit down to watch television anymore; they multi task while watching shows so it's more of how the actors talk that grab your attention rather than how they act. When your voice conveys your emotions, people are more likely to pay attention to you.
I think this was shared in the context of preparing her boy for PSLE oral, and she was trying to teach him how to be expressive.
So takeaways from that session
1.Speak Chinese at home. Because English is the dominant language and they will use all the time anyway and master it (more of that later). Even if your Chinese is poor just use it and keep practicing with your kids.
2. Immerse them in the language. Turn on the radio, turn on the TV. All of them listened to a lot of radio growing up/trying to improve. And radio is less intimidating than news broadcasts.
3. Use whatever resources there are. Zoe Tay writes on Instagram to express her thoughts, Lin Peifen wrote a book. I very 微小 but I suppose I could write more dayre posts in Chinese? 😂
4. You're never too old to learn. During the Q&A, one grandma spoke up and shared her woes about teaching her grandkids mandarin. She said her husband is peranakan, she and her children work and the Indon helper is the main caregiver. So the kids went to pri school unable to speak Chinese.
And now they struggle and she sends them for tuition and they still don't understand and she asked, "Is it too late?"
The panelists were very encouraging and immediately said it's never too late! Zoe also shared about her husband who's the ultimate kantang and only began speaking Chinese more when he was in Korea and his Taiwanese coursemate kept talking to him. (Makes me wonder how they dated hahahaha) So if you can pick up at 30 the kids can do it now still!
5. Sometimes it's good to 装傻 (act stupid) let the children be our teachers and talk to them in mandarin and pretend not to understand them in eng. Or ask them for help then they will feel eager to speak more. (although I probably don't have to act in my poor mandarin…)
Should we only speak Chinese at home?
As a 虎妈 wannabe, I would love to indoctrinate my children in the language and speak to them 24/7 in Chinese.
As a kantang, I can't do that. 我会很安静哈哈。
As an ex English teacher, I don't believe that kids pick up standard English that easily. Love of language is something that drives learning of the language. If parents only speak Mandarin, where does the love for English kick in? To be honest, I cringe when some teachers speak. And because I stay at home all the time and only talk to kids,
I find my language standards dropping…
When I met my ex classmates for dinner I found the lawyers very eloquent. Instead of saying "Aiyah that guy is so horrible", she went "I find him absolutely vile!"
And I was like, "Wow! I haven't heard the word vile in a while!"
So if you don't use it, you lose it.
On the flip side, she's totally lost in Chinese and had to get tips from us on how to communicate with her MIL.
And I've noticed my kids using Singlish!! Which is all because of me 😭😭
For example they say "Wait for me ah." "Don't touch my things ah!" And my oldest confuses her tenses and her grammar is not great. So I don't want them to be jack of all trades and master of none too.
In a perfect world, everyone will speak fluent English and Chinese and be able to code switch successfully.
In reality, I think being bilingual is a challenge. And to have true mastery is a lot of sweat, blood and tears.
So my aim will be to get them through the exams, then get them hooked on something like comics/tv shows/songs which make them appreciate the beauty of the language and want to be better it!
And also speak less Singlish at home because my kids only have me as their own role model. I find myself slipping into Singlish because it's more direct and familiar. After all it's our own language haha. When you go overseas it's so SHIOK to hear Singlish!
But cannot also must can 😜
So The Husband, 以后你讲华语我说英文！
(According to the Husband – 讲 is conversation and 说 is just speaking. Which describes the situation in our house because the kids jump when he commands and when I speak I feel like I'm speaking into thin air🙄)
And what's the difference between 华语 and 华文？these are the nuances which I totally still don't understand sigh.