According to the language learning platform Babbel, English and Mandarin Chinese are the two most spoken languages in the world. English has long been the primary language of international trade and cultural exchange, even outside of the Anglosphere. Though Chinese is not as widely spoken outside of China and places where there are huge Chinese diaspora communities, it is starting to gain more importance given the rise of the Chinese economy and the flourishing of the massive overseas Chinese community.
In this emerging global context, the demand for bilingual education in Chinese and English is now on the rise. Language acquisition tends to be easiest during a child’s formative years so it makes sense for parents concerned with these language trends to ensure that their children enter preschools that offer effective Chinese-English education.
If you want your child to develop a strong foundation in these languages, you must consider the quality of education they will receive. Here are seven factors to consider before you choose a bilingual preschool for your child:
1. Benchmarked Against the HSK International
Singapore is a country that is no stranger to Mandarin Chinese or English. However, the locally used forms of these languages are not well understood throughout the wider English or Chinese-speaking communities. As such, choosing a preschool that teaches internationally recognized forms of the languages should be a priority.
A reputable bilingual Chinese-English preschool should align its Chinese language program with international standards, such as the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK). The HSK is a standardized test that assesses non-native Chinese speakers’ proficiency in the language. A preschool that benchmarks its curriculum against the HSK ensures that students receive a structured and internationally recognized Chinese language education, preparing them for future language proficiency assessments.
2. Synchronization Between Chinese and English Curriculums
Effective language acquisition requires a synchronized approach between the Chinese and English curriculums. The preschool should offer a curriculum that not only introduces both languages but also integrates them cohesively across subjects, ultimately helping students master both languages. A well-thought-out synchronization ensures that students can seamlessly transition between either language, encouraging a natural and immersive language-learning experience.
In Singapore, Kinderland Preschool and a handful of others offer this type of synchronized learning, allowing for deeper mastery of the languages used as well as of the subjects being taught. To see if your child fits the Kinderland system, check out Kinderland’s activities on YouTube.
3. Qualified Teaching Staff with True Bilingual Proficiency
The quality of education is significantly influenced by the competence of the teaching staff. Look for a preschool that employs qualified teachers proficient in both Chinese and English, rating at around a C1 or C2 in both languages when using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. Truly bilingual educators can create an environment where language learning is not only structured but also engaging, ultimately encouraging children to develop true proficiency in both languages.
4. Cultural Integration and Exposure
A holistic bilingual education encompasses not only language proficiency but also cultural understanding. A preschool that incorporates cultural elements from both China and Anglophone countries into its curriculum is probably going to be better placed to teach your child the nuances of Chinese and English. Most importantly, cultural integration enhances students’ global awareness, helping your child develop a well-rounded understanding of the diverse cultural contexts associated with each language.
5. Interactive Language Learning Tools and Resources
Incorporating interactive language learning tools and resources can make the language acquisition process enjoyable for young learners. A forward-thinking bilingual preschool should leverage multimedia, age-appropriate books, and language-learning games to engage students in both Chinese and English. These resources not only enhance language skills but also make the learning experience enjoyable, encouraging your child to learn more about these languages on their own.
6. Language Immersion through Daily Activities
An effective bilingual Chinese-English preschool should extend language learning beyond formal lessons. Be sure to shortlist preschools that incorporate language immersion into daily activities such as storytelling, group discussions, and playtime. The wider incorporation of both English and Chinese within these contexts helps ensure that children are consistently exposed to both languages at this critical juncture, promoting a natural and practical understanding of language use.
7. Parental Involvement and Support
Language learning should not stop in the classroom. If possible, your child should have some continued exposure to Chinese and English at home. To create a more cohesive language-learning environment, look for a preschool that actively involves parents in the language-learning journey. Regular communication, parent-teacher conferences, and workshops can help parents support their child’s language development at home and beyond.
Choosing a bilingual Chinese-English preschool for your child can provide them with limitless opportunities in an increasingly multipolar world. As both English and Mandarin Chinese continue to flourish in economic and cultural spheres, the decision of which bilingual preschool should give your child critical early language education takes on more weight. Considering the seven factors outlined above should give you the confidence and the grounding to choose a school that will make the biggest positive impact on your child’s language development.