Learning Chinese in Singapore seems to be more difficult than anywhere else. Well, I am not really comparing with learning Chinese in Japan, Korea, etc. However, in an environment or country where Chinese is a mother tongue to majority, why is this subject so hated by many children and their parents.
I wonder why.
It has probably to do with parents here speaking lesser Chinese and more English at home to their children. Hence, compared to China where Chinese is spoken daily, every minute, every second, we speak a mix of English and Chinese and use simple Chinese words and limited vocabulary.
While my kids do not have much of a problem with this subject for now, I should not get complacent. I was told by Eeva Chang (张美香), (the educator and principal of Eduplus who is also engaged by MOE as a trainer for 8 years to teach all school Chinese teachers in Singapore), that children will face a drop of marks in Chinese once in Primary 3 and once in Primary 5. At least an 8-12 marks down.
Eeva shared 3 things we should all know towards tackling Chinese with all parents at her free seminar last month.
1. Family Language vs School Language
Family language is the words and vocabulary you use at home when you talk to your children.
School language is the words and vocabulary taught in schools and used in course books.
Why do children face a drop in marks at Primary 3 and again in Primary 5?
That is because at Primary 1 and 2, the Chinese words we use when we speak to our children are simple words and at the same standard as what is taught in their school course books. But when it comes to Primary 3 onwards, we do not keep up with the higher level of Chinese taught in schools and still use simple Chinese words at home. No wonder our children struggle as they are not exposed to more difficult Chinese words! A language is caught hearing and not memorizing.
At Primary 1 and 2, they learn
这里是游乐场. (This is a playground.)
At Primary 3 and 4, they learn
我喜欢这个游乐场, 因为我喜欢和我的朋友一起溜滑梯, 荡秋千, 在旋转盘玩乐.
(This playground has slides, swings, and merry-go-round. I love to go to this playground because I enjoy playing with my friends.)
At Primary 5 and 6, they learn
我喜欢到游乐场游玩. 每当我坐上秋千, 我感觉我的烦恼都被荡到九霄云外. 那轻柔的微风舒缓了我的心灵.每当我站上旋转盘, 我仿佛被转回到我快乐的童年时光, 也回想起父母面带笑容地推着我转. 每当我溜下滑梯, 总会开心一笑.
(I love to go to the playground. It never fails to cheer me up. I love the squeaky sound that comes from each push of the swing and feel carefree as the gentle breeze calms my soul. Whenever I am on the merry-go-round, I feel that I am taken back to my childhood days with images of my parents happily pushing the rail as I spun round and round. I love the slide. I have never slide down without a smile on my face.)
The above sentences are my humble standard of Chinese and English. They are meant to demonstrate the leap in Chinese standard requirement of students as they progress to Primary 6 and up. Even though I may write in flowery language here, I may not use them when I speak to the children. And this is exactly the problem! We speak too simplified Chinese to the kids!
So, as you can see from here, at Primary 3 and 4 level, the Chinese words and sentences that are used in the course books are a leap from the basic level in Primary 1 and 2. At Primary 5 and 6, the students are expected to use more adjectives in longer and more sentences. One way that we can find out the level of Chinese taught in schools is to read our children’s Chinese course books.
It is time to speak and use big words when we talk to the kids. Never worry that they will not understand. For when you use it frequent enough, they will pick them up eventually. Just like experts tell us never to use baby language with babies. It is the same here. When the children come across Chinese sight words that are not familiar, they are able to make a guess if they can recognize one word in between here and there because they have heard such combination of words into idioms or phrases from you.
Hence, raise your Chinese standard when you speak to your children.
One thing I would like to ask Eeva and did not have the chance to do so that day, is,”How about parents who are not able to speak higher levels of Chinese?” I am sure she has the answer because she shared with us that her daughter is multi-lingual but Eeva is not, and she taught her daughter these same ways to learning a language and she excels.
2. The Golden Rule 黄金定律
听 – 说 – 认 – 读 – 写 – 运用
Listen – Speak – Recognize – Read – Write – Use
If you look at this sequence of the golden rule of learning a language, you will realize that LISTENING plays the most important part in mastering a language. Just like learning music, you listen first before you know how to sing that note. So, you listen to a word before you know how to speak and then recognize it on paper. After that, you can then write and use it appropriately.
Eeva said: 学好华文是以嘴巴来修炼的，不是靠啃书的。To excel in learning Chinese, we should use our mouth to master it and not depend on memorizing books. How true this is!
3. Visualization 语言视觉化
When I say the word “flower”, what image comes to your mind?
When Eeva posed this question to the audience and asked us to do an action to represent this word, everyone of us has almost the same action. We joined our wrists and cupped our hands into a blossoming flower. But Eeva shared that there are more than one way to visualize a flower. One example she demonstrated was when she closed her eyes and smelled an imaginary flower.
Why is visualization important?
We need to be able to visualize in order to describe a word, a scenario, an event, a thing.
Bring your kids everywhere and experience nature and explore life. If your children have never swam in the sea, they may never know that seawater is salty. If you are capable of visualizing a word, it will be the first step towards building up your vocabulary and hence Chinese words will never be too difficult to understand and learn.
I am totally convinced that what Eeva taught here are needed to help our children to excel in Chinese. Although this is not a sponsored post and I have to pay for the tickets myself, I would highly recommend Eeva’s first big scale talk show “Language Power” on 20 September to anyone who is keen to help his/her children to love Chinese and excel in this subject. You will most likely find what she teaches you very useful to help your children.
I am sure everyone of us at her free seminar can feel her sincerity in trying to help our Singapore children to manage this monster subject. She has seen so much struggles in our children and genuinely wants to help our next generation that she has offered to give a public talk show without taking a single cent. So, we wonder why pay $58, $78, $98 tickets then? Well, It goes to rental at an atas place decided by the event company and paying for other bits of arrangement like staff and all to hold this event. Believe it or not, but I know she is sincere.
Details on Eeva Chang’s talk Language Power 蓝格子, 跑啊!:
EEva strongly believes that language starts from the process of listening. The difference between the language learned in school and the language practised at home determines the standard of a child’s basic foundation for the language. In this show, she will use a variety of engaging interactive processes to illustrate Singaporean’s attitude and aptitude to language learning.
The Chinese title of the show 蓝格子, 跑啊! is a fun way of phonetically channeling the term “Language Power”. 蓝格子also refers to the familiar blue squares that fill the pages of a school exercise book. EEva hopes that by imparting the correct perspective to the fundamentals of the Chinese language to parents, they can then help their children in their first steps towards mastering the Chinese language.
When: 20 Sept 2014, 3-5pm
Where: Resort World Theatre, Sentosa
Registration: Click here or call Rediffusion at 62888 3321 and they will waive off the sistic booking fee!
More on EEva Chang:
After her university graduation, EEva was awarded the Golden Bell Award (Taiwanese Broadcasting Award’s highest accolade). She then left Taiwan to come to Singapore to fulfil her dreams. She has not left since.
The multi-talented EEva was also a winner at the ASEAN Literary Prose Awards and was also named the Best Producer at the Shanghai International Television Broadcasting Awards show. She was a Programme manager at 100.3FM as well as a presenter and programme producer at FM 95.8 and Rediffusion.
On the education front, EEva was a professional trainer at MOE’s teachers training programme for 8 years. She started her own school EDUPLUS about 20 years ago and has since helped countless students in building their strong foundation in the Chinese language.
This event is the culmination of her years of experience as a Broadcaster and Educator.
It promises to be an enriching experience done in the Engaging-Entertaining-Vivacious-Authoritative style that personifies the one and only EEva Chang!