Teaching English as a foreign language in kindergartens is increasingly becoming a trend in many different countries across the world. Preschool children are given an opportunity to learn a second language, usually English in instances where their native language also happens to be the national language. China is no exception, with Chinese being their first language leaves a majority of the population and young children who haven’t been to school as native speakers with no command of the queen’s language. There are several advantages making this stage the best time to introduce the Children to the non-native language. The younger children tend to be extremely active and amusing which makes them interested in learning new things and therefore their ability to pick up English language is very high.
When teaching a foreign language to foreigners- kids or adults- it’s important to note that, even the teacher is a student too. Most importantly, familiarize yourself with the language and its culture if you don’t speak it. Even just the conversational part of the language is an added advantage. This helps to identify the difference that exists in both languages and helps create a personal bond with your students. It puts the students more at ease with you too.
What to consider:
The Chinese language emphasizes on articulation while in English we pass over some words in pronunciation. Chinese is monosyllabic and thus each character is stressed and pronounced the same way thus the sing-song feel in pronunciation. While in English, the words are more than one syllable, have a vowel and consonant in no particular order. This difference affects the pronunciation.
In English, the sentences have subject, verb and object. In Chinese, the subject of the sentence is not necessary. In English too, the verb changes according to the singularity or plurality of the subject, to express the tense. In Chinese, the words don’t change. This also means they have no superlatives in their language. To this extent, the Chinese government has banned the use of superlatives in advertising (Updated Advertising Law- September 2015).
The following games mostly emphasize spelling and pronunciation articulation.
• Language whispers.
Have the students in a circle and whisper a word to one of them and have them whisper the same word around the circle to the last individual. The last individual has to give the exact word given to the first individual in the right pronunciation.
• Scavenger hunt.
Call out a multi-syllable word and have the students race to look it up in the English-English dictionary. They then discuss the pronunciation, meaning and how to use it in a sentence. It may be done individually or in groups. It also helps with alphabetical listings, something that is non-existent in the Chinese language.
Finally, the Chinese language in written is not the same in speech thus you cannot translate directly. Rather, the translation would be amusing. Let the students do this as an exercise. Apart from the humour effect, allow them to identify the difference.