“My child don’t like Chinese.”
I’ve heard this many times while chatting with other parents. And I can understand why.
English is the preferred mode of communication in most corporate industries, thus the most common language spoken at work and home. Even if you have Chinese/dialect speaking elders living with you, chances are, they would try to speak English with the child as it’s deemed a more “educated” language.
Being from a Chinese speaking background myself, I had to force Oliver to use the language cos that’s Mommy’s preferred mode of communication. However, that resulted in me sounding like a broken record half the time, having to remind him to, “讲华语 (speak Mandarin)” every time I find him lapsing into English. Figures, since ALL his classmates speak English at school, including his fellow seat mate from China.
Oliver is starting to become the rare case amongst my friends, they will marvel when they hear him speak the language so comfortably, proceeding to lament how “children nowadays don’t use Mandarin anymore”, some even “hates it”.
Unfortunately, it’s not a flowery path for me as well. Oliver tends to use English in his natural state, needing constant reminders to do otherwise, and I wonder if it’s not making him at least a bit resistant?
When I heard about the Brickz programme from Square Education Studio, I signed up for a trial lesson.
What is the Brickz programme?
Brickz uses Lego to help children master Chinese. Here’s how it works:
- Child is shown a short story based on a certain theme. (e.g. Introducing concepts like heights and balance, family and school, dealing with emotions etc)
- They read and discuss the story, write down keywords and proceed to use Lego to build the theme.
During the entire period, the child is constantly encouraged to use the 4 core language skills designated in the MOE Chinese language syllabus: 听，说，读，写 (Listening, speaking, reading, writing).
When I was there for the trial lesson, Oliver was alone, but Chloe, the principal of Square Education Studio, told me in normal classes, they will be working in small groups of four, which also fosters social skills.
So does it work?
The simple answer is, Yes. After the lesson, I realized Oliver is:
- Speaking in pure Mandarin actively with me (unlike his usual tendency to start with English)
- Able to remember the keywords learnt at the lesson, even after a week. (usually if you ask him if he’s learnt anything, it’s like you’ve pressed an amnesia button)
Most importantly, he’s willing to go back to the centre and “play with the big sister”.
I would say, it’s a success.
However, that’s cos Oliver is already rather comfortable with the language. I can also see how he’s still resistant to some parts of the course like words writing (He hates 习字). That would definitely take some time for him to get used to.
But I do think, on the whole, the environment creates a positive connection to the language itself, as the entire module is based on play.
Chloe told me using Lego to teach Chinese isn’t something new. The Lego curriculum in China is enjoying huge success and currently on their third edition. She had collaborated with renowned Lego curriculum specialist, Mr Mao Guangming, to design a programme specifically to fit local standards.
If you are interested to let your child try out the Brickz programme, you can call Square Education Studio to enjoy a free trial lesson at +65 6844 9003.