I am monolingual. I never learned to speak any other languages other than English. Well, I did have a few years of French in school but that never got very far. My father speaks Hokkien and my mother speaks Hakka but I never learned either of those dialects either. We migrated to Australia when I was a child so the need to pick up Malay, Cantonese or Mandarin at school never arose.
I have always wanted to learn a second language, but I guess it was just one of those fanciful wishes that you never really intend to fulfill otherwise I would be speaking a second language by now. To say I just don’t have the knack for picking up languages is somewhat true because I remember reading somewhere that learning a second language as a young child helps to activate the language centers in your brain which makes it easier to pick up another language when you’re older.
Then again, it is also true that if you really are determined to do something then there is no barrier that could possibly stop you. So I guess I must not really be determined to learn a new language after all.
Hubby and I have always agreed that Gavin should learn to speak Hokkien since it is his mother tongue. Unfortunately, Gavin is now two years and three months and he still doesn’t really speak Hokkien. He understands it, but he always replies in English. I suppose that is my fault. Being his primary caregiver and the person that spends the most time with him, I guess it is “monkey see, monkey do”. Since I don’t speak Hokkien, neither does he.
I do, from time to time, attempt to throw in a few Hokkien words, but lets be really honest, my Hokkien is as shabby as the first pair of climbing shoes I ever bought. Suffice to say that pair of shoes in now in the bin so that should tell you how bad my Hokkien really is. Aside from that, my pronunciation is so dreadful, I don’t think I would be doing Gavin any favours by trying to teach him what little Hokkien I do know.
Wink to Learn: Learn Chinese
So I’ve resorted to the next best thing – Wink to Learn: Learn Chinese. It is a 6-DVD set designed to teach Mandarin to young children.
The format is flash-card style where they show you a picture of something and then the written Chinese character. As they flash the picture and the character, a voice-over will pronounce the word in Mandarin. So you hear the word twice – once with the picture and once with the Chinese character. Each lesson reviews 10 words from a category (e.g. shapes, colours, animals). Each set of words is repeated once followed by lovely pictures and music as a reward for your child.
What Do We Think?
Currently, we’re still on the first disc so it’s difficult to say how effective the program is. The good news is that Gavin’s interest in watching it is picking up so I’m glad I persevered. The first couple of times I played it, he was running around and only looking up occasionally. The third time, he said, “No, Mummy. Don’t want to watch.” Thankfully, I respected his decision and put it away.
After some time (I think about a week), I took it out again and Gavin gave his full attention to two whole lessons. Deciding not to push it even when Gavin was eager to watch more, I stopped the disc and said, “Another day.” The following day, I played it for him again with the same results. Gavin watched the DVD with more attention than he did with the TweedleWink lessons.
That’s about as far as we’ve gotten because I’m still alternating lessons with the TweedleWink series.
I don’t know how much Gavin will learn from these flash cards because I certainly haven’t learned anything despite the fact that I watch them with him. I am glad he is showing more interest in them and I hope that this exposure is activating those language centers in his brain so that even if he doesn’t learn to speak Chinese through these DVDs, he’ll find it easier to pick it up when he’s older.