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Ease your kids into Mother Tongue Languages

17 Sep 2019

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How six pre-school teachers make learning languages fun, and their tips for you and your children.

The best time to learn a second language is in early childhood. But there are many things you are helping your kids pick up during these years What are some easy ways to get your kids interested and conversing in mother tongue?

Here are some tips from pre-school teachers, who are the recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Pre-school Mother Tongue Language (OPMTL) Teacher Award. Learn their classroom strategies, as well as what you can do at home:

Ms Ni Xuejing 
My First Skool,51 Fernvale Link
Top tip: Daily conversations, encouragement

In school: “Children enjoy games. They are a fun and memorable way of learning. When teaching the classic tale “Journey to the West”, I created a shadow play theatre for the children to perform the story with puppets.”

At home: “You can engage children with daily conversations in Chinese language, read Chinese books to them on a regular basis, and give positive encouragement for their attempts to speak the language.”

Mdm Kamilah Bte Kamis
PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Batok East Blk 241
Top tip: Use dual-language books to start

In school: “My children enjoy it when I introduce new music to them. I incorporate songs into the daily class routines, so they can learn new words faster. Sometimes I get children to create simple songs about an object, using a given melody. I also get them to dance along to traditional Malay songs. At times, I will get children to pretend to be various animals and imitate their actions.”

At home: “Nowadays, there are a lot of dual-language books. You can use these books to develop your child’s interest and skills in mother tongue language, before moving on to reading stories entirely in the language. Read them with your children and discuss the meaning of new and unfamiliar words with them.”

Mdm Dharmaraj Pushpalatha
PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Paya Lebar Blk 23
Top tip: Take kids to Tamil language events

In school: “Every child who comes to kindergarten looks for his or her mother. So I do my best to be a motherly figure and speak kindly to the children, to create a closer bond with them. I also end my Tamil lessons with cultural games to cultivate their interest for the language. I tell them stories with props that I have made or I show them pictures of food, so they can link what they are learning to their own life experiences.”

At home: “Take  your children to the different Tamil language programmes, such as Tamil story-telling sessions at the library, and Tamil cultural functions at Community Centres. Of course, do watch Tamil television programmes with them too!”

Mdm Zhou Shaojuan
My First Skool,Blk 742 Woodlands Circle
Top tip: Use wordless story books

In school: “I guide the children through their daily experiences, to use words, phrases to describe what they see. In one of the lessons, they learn about the life cycle of a butterfly -- how the caterpillar emerges from the egg, and how the butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis. This is a wonderful and fulfilling experience that the children have, and I am always there to answer all their ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions.”

At home: “Engage your children through daily storytelling, talk about the characters in the story, have discussions about how else the story could have ended. You can even use wordless storybooks and create your own stories with your children!”

Mdm Chong Pou Khwai
PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Tampines Changkat Blk 358
Top tip: Everyday chit chat in mother tongue

In school: “I conduct daily storytelling with visual aids to ensure children listen with understanding. I ask questions related to the story to challenge their thinking, and encourage them to share their opinions with the class. I also involve them in show-and-tell activities, so they can speak their mother tongue with confidence.”

At home: “Converse with your child in mother tongue language during their daily activities, such as meal time, shopping for groceries together. This way, you can bond with them while getting them to practise the language.”

Mdm Valliapan Meenatchi
PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Ang Mo Kio - Hougang Blk 929
Top tip: Watch Tamil TV and films

In school: “My lessons are connected to Tamil culture and other cultures. Festivals like Pongal, Racial Harmony Day and Deepavali are always big celebrations for us. I address each child’s different needs, and encourage them to be confident in class along with their peers. All this contributes to their enthusiasm in learning.”

At home: “Watch educational children’s programmes and movies in your mother tongue language with your child! It can be an enriching and bonding experience.”