In 2018, we launched our Introduction to Mandarin program supported by our parents and with great success. What started as part-time Chinese teachers’ employment, teaching children in small groups, has in 2022 evolved into us having full-time Chinese teachers providing all round care thus offering the children an immersive language learning experience. Tonal languages are especially beneficial to be exposed to at a young age. Without exposure to the tones when young, it becomes substantially harder to learn to differentiate them when older. We are pleased that we did not reduce our English and French staff levels, and the Chinese teachers were an addition to our team.
Our Mandarin teachers encourage the children’s Mandarin language development through songs and stories with a strong emphasis on puppets and picture cards to enable the children to understand and participate no matter their level of knowledge of the language. Art and creative development have also been a great tool in bringing groups of children together to work and listen to the mandarin through everyday play. Imaginative play has been a handy and engaging tool for our Mandarin Teachers.
The children are getting exposure to the language, but they can also learn about Chinese culture, which we feel is very important and connected to the language. We have a big celebration for Chinese New Year, and the children also participate in learning how to make different Chinese food such as dumplings. We also try to make sure that we have some dishes within our menus that reflect the Chinese culture.
We have also added activities to our Montessori shelves to reflect our Mandarin curriculum by adding learning how to use chopsticks to our practical life shelves as well as the mandarin number and letter characters so that our older children can begin to make the connection between language and symbol, as they do with English and French.