At Agora Portals International School we know the importance of learning Mandarin Chinese in childhood
What if we told you that if your children learn Mandarin Chinese during their childhood, they will be more globalised citizens in the future?
It is clear to all of us that the brain is much more malleable at the beginning of life than when we reach adulthood. In fact, the saying that children ‘absorb concepts like sponges’ is well known. A popular saying with which several scientific researches agree, such as this one published in the journal ScienceDirect mentioning that childhood is the best time to learn languages.
Although English is the language par excellence, it is not the most widely spoken language in the world. The first place in the ranking is occupied by Mandarin Chinese, spoken by more than one billion people. Aware that Chinese society is becoming increasingly important in a globalised world, we want our students to integrate as much as possible and that is why, in our faithful commitment to multilingualism, we offer, among other things, training in Mandarin Chinese. In fact, our students have the possibility to take the exam to obtain the official qualification of the Confuncio Institute.
“We cannot deny the fact that the Chinese economy is growing overwhelmingly in the last decade. Opening the door for our children to learn Mandarin Chinese is almost a practical advantage, especially for their future careers,” says Miss Tsang, Chinese teacher at our school. To this advantage associated with their future curriculum, we also have to add the added benefit of greater integration, as by learning Mandarin Chinese, our children will appreciate a culture and language different from their own: “China has a very deep and fascinating culture and history that is sure to open up children’s horizons,” explains our teacher.
A language simpler than it seems
You are probably wondering whether Mandarin Chinese is too complicated for a young child to learn. Its alphabet is completely different from ours and, therefore, the writing becomes somewhat more complicated. Moreover, at first glance it may seem to be a language with somewhat difficult phonetics. But nothing could be further from the truth: “Mandarin Chinese is a very pictorial language made up of thousands of characters (not alphabets) and four different tones”, says Ms Tsang.
So, in the classes at Agora Portals International School, the children learn Mandarin Chinese through intentional games, songs, exercises adapted to their abilities and fun activities. “Children need to feel engaged in order to learn”, she says. In short, a way of learning that strictly follows the methodology of our school, in which the student is the protagonist of his or her own learning and in which the teacher becomes a motivator and guide so that the students find the solutions to the problems that arise by themselves.
In the learning of Mandarin Chinese, specifically, teacher Tsang follows a methodology based on Game Based Learning. And the fact is that, in games, teachers and families can find a great tool for reinforcing concepts. As Jean Piaget said: “children do not play to learn, but they learn because they play”.
Learning Mandarin Chinese as a child ‘wires’ the brain
The benefits of learning Mandarin Chinese in childhood are far from being limited to a better integration into the future world of our children. There are also advantages in their cognitive development.
The fact is that this language helps to work both brain hemispheres at the same time. At least, this is what scientific research carried out by experts from the Wellcome Trust, believes, who discovered that speakers of Mandarin Chinese use the right and left hemispheres at the same time when speaking their language. Speakers of Anglo-Saxon languages, however, use only one
This statement finds its origin in the fact that Mandarin Chinese is a language where phonetics is very important: a word changes its meaning depending on the way it is pronounced. Therefore, when needing to interpret the intonation of what is being said, a person needs to use both hemispheres.
Mandarin Chinese and mathematics: what is the connection?
Have you ever wondered why the Chinese always seem better at maths than us? Without going any further, China and Singapore have been at the top of the Informe PISA for years when it comes to mathematics education: their students are the best.
And this also has to do with their language, where everything is constituted through logical thinking. In Chinese there is no specific word for numbers; for example, 24 in Mandarin Chinese is ‘two-ten-four’. This makes it much easier to learn mathematics, including the first levels (for example, when learning the multiplication tables).