top of page

Mastering Mandarin (or any language for that matter)

Recently I read a mom's remark on a forum regarding the importance of learning mandarin young, and that the child can always pick up English later, just like her.

Is there merit to that sweeping statement?

Well, let's break down points to her statement this way:

1. It's always easy for a young child to master any language in her young, absorbent years, as long as she gets the exposure to it. If the mastery of Mandarin is important to the mother, certainly prioritise it.

2. In most likelihood, yes, it is 'easier' to pick up English beyond childhood. English is a world language that is used in majority of official correspondence, as a communication medium at school and at work.

With that level of exposure, it is no wonder that English is fast becoming the default language most families and children use. However, the standard of spoken and written English requires quality exposure and effort to learn; fluency in English is not something 'that can be picked up later' without considerable dedication.

Conversely, gaining fluency in Mandarin is certainly not something we can conveniently pass off to a Chinese school or learning centre. What these school/center do is increasing the child's contact time with the language.

What has made it harder for our child to master fluency in Chinese?

To answer this, let's break down mastery of the language to i) grammatical & written competency, ii) audio - listening & comprehension, iii) audio - ability to converse, verbal fluency

If the household's language of communication is Chinese, then the child shouldn't have issue mastering ii) and/or iii) audio competency in Chinese. A child increasing Chinese contact hours through Chinese school or learning centre may gain better understanding of i) gramma and written competency and/or ii) listen with better understanding. But for our child to speak the language proficiently, he/she has to have the opportunity to speak out loud frequently.

Suzuki believes almost all children can pick up their mother tongue, or rather the dominant language of their environment. He believes that the same logic can be applied to learning a musical instrument. Henceforth, the mastery of fluency of a language is akin to learning a musical instrument. The child must accept and embrace the language, practice, practice and practice!

Stay tune for updates on updates for our Preschool (K1/K2 curriculum) and San Yu Chinese School.

bottom of page