In recent years, the Singapore education scene have seen numerous debates on the emphasis on Mother Tongue languages in the education system vis a vis the practical use of our mother tongue languages in everyday use including the underlying societal and cultural meaning of practising them.
Generally, mastery of a language can be classified into 3 major categories- reading, writing and conversing. It is perhaps important to note that dialects do not apply as they are generally focus more on the conversation part of a language. It is understood that of the 3 categories, new learners are likely to exhibit difficulty in either one or two or the areas and strength in a minimum of one area. This is due to the learning style preferred which is unique to everyone.
By identifying your tutee’s or child’s learning style in languages would certainly be a good first step in trying to lay strong foundation in future learning and practicing of the language. However, it is important to understand that different teaching pedagogy would usually overlap one another in trying to achieve a same result i.e. a certain method or exercise that is used to stimulate say, the reading skills or the ability to recognise words would probably achieve the same objective as listening to the word and spelling it out on paper, although the latter is focused more on writing.
Now we understand how complex learning a language can be, let’s put down some structure with some suggested tips to nurturing bilingualism in your very own household!
1. Practice makes perfect, arrange for your child to speak both languages regularly. Create a conducive bilingual environment by making your child speak to Dad in English and Mum in Mother Tongue or vice versa. You surely wouldn’t want your child to speak solely English both in school and at home right?
2. If you think that English can be emphasised greater, given that all Maths, Arts and Sciences subjects are all set in English, head down to the library weekly as a family outing for some books picking! Choose more English books and get better by improving comprehension skills.
3. Want some balance to Mother Tongue, a good step to improve Mother Tongue language is first to understand and appreciate the language as a cultural ballast, especially in multi-racial and cosmopolitan Singapore! Immerse your child in the appreciation of the arts related to the Mother Tongue language by going for activities like Chinese Caligraphy or Indian heritage tours in musuems to drum up interest.
4. To set a good example for language proficiency, be a good role model as a parent or as an educator by speaking accurate and fluent English or Mother Tongue. Of course, an occasional “lah” or “loh” serves no harm since its how Singaporeans identify themselves with as long as its kept out of the composition papers.
5. In an unfortunate scenario that bilingualism is seemingly too difficult to master? Well, don’t stress up the children or students too much by enforcing a one-for-all approach, adopt a customised-for-one approach instead and perhaps allow emphasis to be on the conversational ability of the child first before moving on reading and writing when there are improvements. Passion makes all the difference, most of the time.
Last of all, start early as its usually the formative years that matters the most.
Now that we have 5 tips about nurturing bilingualism, do you have any to share?
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