Sunday, April 22, 2012

Our Speak Mandarin campaign

Today on Sunday, Sunday, April 22, 2012, Page 8, Parent To Parent
From http://www.todayonline.com/PDFViewer/PDF/20120422/2204FFW008.pdf
Source Website: http://www.todayonline.com/Columns/ParenttoParent/EDC120422-0000004/Our-Speak-Mandarin-campaign
By June Wan, todayonsunday@mediacorp.com.sg, 04:45 AM Apr 22, 201




PHOTO: 习惯成自然 Xi guan cheng zi ran (make it a habit and it becomes natural)
Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd
Today on Sunday, Sunday, April 22, 2012, Page 8, Parent To Parent



I failed Chinese in school - but my experiment in talking to my son only in Mandarin has been a resounding success


In a cab the other day, the small one started talking about the colour of the vehicle. This is a blue "de shi", he piped, using the Mandarin term for taxi.

The taxi driver asked why I had taught him "de shi". No one will understand you when you go home, he warned.

Back where you come from, taxis are called "ji cheng che", aren't they? he continued.


PHOTO: Our experiment to speak to the little one in only Mandarin from birth, to see if he picks up the language, has succeeded. Now three-and-a-half years old, he rattles to me in Mandarin and switches effortlessly to English when conversing with his daddy.
http://behance.vo.llnwd.net/profiles/60307/projects/100215/603071213697888.jpg
http://www.behance.net/gallery/speak-mandarin-campaign/100215



No, I said, we know them as "de shi".

Aren't you from China? he queried.

No, we are Singaporeans, I replied.

Oh, you've got your PR already, he quipped.

Er no, we're born and bred here, Uncle, I said.

But your son speaks like he's from China! the taxi driver exclaimed.

Whoo-hoo! I silently rejoiced. It worked!




PHOTO: Speak Mandarin Campaign
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2539/4117262430_02bdb333e8_o.jpg
http://chopchopcurrypok.com/?cat=30


Yes, my experiment to speak to the little one in only Mandarin from birth, to see if he picks up the language, has succeeded. Now three-and-a-half years old, he rattles to me in Mandarin and switches effortlessly to English when conversing with his daddy, who did the English version of the experiment.

Having failed Chinese as a second language during my A-levels (and having to retake the exam so as not to have to attend Chinese camp at university), this was not a small decision. It was hard work!

I had to do mental translations before speaking to him. Google Translate became my new BFF (Best Friends Forever). I dusted off my old Chinese-English dictionaries from my parents' place and hauled them home. The radio became permanently tuned to 88.3FM.


PHOTO: Speak Mandarin Campaign
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2547/4117262328_0a5382a163_o.jpg
http://chopchopcurrypok.com/?cat=30



I could not scold him as easily because I did not know what words to use in Mandarin. And we'd be brushed aside or appallingly served at certain shops and restaurants (or encounter the opposite in service when we spoke Queen's English instead).

But eventually, over the weeks, it became easier. Xi guan cheng zi ran (make it a habit and it becomes natural), as the Chinese idiom goes.



PHOTO: Speak Mandarin Campaign.
Web Design, Graphic Design, Illustration
http://behance.vo.llnwd.net/profiles/60307/projects/100215/603071213697970.jpg
http://www.behance.net/gallery/speak-mandarin-campaign/100215



SO HE CAN CHAT WITH SWEDES AND POLITICIANS


The little one was subject to all this also because of his older brother, who refused to acknowledge Chinese at two-and-a half years of age, when he could read English independently.

He told me not to speak to him in Mandarin. He preferred English, and that was that. So he was devouring Enid Blyton at age three-and-a-half, and the English newspapers a year later. But attempts to re-introduce him to Mandarin failed.

I'd read that children could pick up a language easily through regular exposure to it, so the little one became my guinea pig. The main aim was just for him not to have to go through the same Mother Tongue learning struggles that I did in school.



PHOTO: From chinese medicine to comics, Ms Lim Siew Gek’s lessons make learning Chinese a cool thing to do.
Ms Lim’s special TCM-infused lesson for her school’s Pri 2 curriculum has been so successful that colleagues, parents and pupils named her for the Most Outstanding CL Lesson Plan award in 2006. Since then, Ms Lim has shared her lesson plans with many other schools in Singapore, even going as far as China.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3048/3039893589_503cf89e84.jpg
http://www.schoolbag.sg/archives/2008/11/teachers_who_make_mother_tongu.php


And having failed in this aspect with his older brother, I was determined to succeed with him. There were other reasons, too, of course:

- The world is flat, and China is shifting to the centre of the world map. Mandarin, the most common language in the world, is spoken by almost a fifth of the globe's population. In years to come, there will be even more Mandarin speakers.

- So if he travels to Sweden when he grows up, he'll have no problem getting around. After all, last year, Sweden's Education Minister Jan Bjorklund announced that all Swedish primary schools should offer Chinese lessons.


PHOTO: The language of our forefathers – are we missing something?
By Zyberzitizen, Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 28, 2007
http://djhchinesekidz.blogspot.com/2009/11/only-bad-memories-of-chinese-lessons.html
http://theonlinecitizen.com/2007/02/the-language-of-our-forefathers-are-we-missing-something/



- So that he can, if he ever meets them, converse easily with overseas politicians who are fluent in Mandarin:

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; former US Ambassador to China (and Singapore!) and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman ...

- So that back home, he will be able to

(i) order food at a hawker centre,
(ii) chat with taxi drivers and
(iii) gossip with aunties and grannies at the void deck.
PHOTO: 新的《讲华语运动》标语。觉得如何?- The new "Speak Mandarin Campaign" slogan. Like it?
Author: Danny Yeo
杨君伟
http://blog.omy.sg/dannyyeo/files/2011/07/Speak-Mandarin-Campaign-2011-new-slogan.jpg
http://blog.omy.sg/dannyyeo/archives/category/%E8%AF%B4%E7%8E%AF%E5%A2%83/page/8


ENGAGE BRAIN - ON BOTH SIDES


And of course, there's all that talk about how beneficial learning more than one language can be.

A 2003 study in Britain found that it takes more brainpower to speak Mandarin, as both sides of the brain are engaged to understand the language. (Apparently this ability to engage both sides of the brain is exclusive to the Chinese language.)

I was also inspired by an interview with a local professor of Chinese language and culture who revealed that he spoke to his daughters only in Mandarin when they were growing up. They'll pick up English when they go to school, he'd said.



PHOTO: Speak Mandarin Campaign
http://listverse.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/34940_story_images-tm.jpg?w=400&h=262
http://listverse.com/2010/02/26/10-modern-cases-of-linguistic-genocide/



Amazingly, despite my basic level of Chinese, the little one learnt. In his younger days, before he realised that his daddy could understand Mandarin as well, he would translate his demands if his father was slow to respond: "Socks, Daddy, socks. Wa zi!"

Even better, because the older one is also exposed to Mandarin when I speak to his little brother, he has re-absorbed the language.

Now I have a new problem. Because my knowledge of Mandarin is basic - about kindergarten level - I can only teach my boys this much.


PHOTO: Girl's poster: "Grandma, please speak Mandarin."
Grandma (in Cantonese): "You got to be kidding!"

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_0NuV2eVf8Mc/TGBmnAzfWfI/AAAAAAAAALY/A6aqA-LsXPo/s1600/speak_mandarin_cartoon.jpg
http://chinamusictech.blogspot.com/2010/08/is-cantonese-in-danger-of-extinction.html



We still speak in Mandarin but, last month, the boys started a Chinese enrichment programme. They love it, and I am glad that they now have exposure to the language from the experts. In the meantime, I need to buck up and improve on my Mandarin skills.

After this, we'll try Malay.
By June Wan, todayonsunday@mediacorp.com.sg, 04:45 AM Apr 22, 2012
June Wan has two boys.


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