Little Chinese speakers hatch in UK's first bilingual nursery

Updated: 2015-11-12 10:48


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At a tender age of two, Barclay Hammer can already say "hello", "bubbles", and "wash hands" in Mandarin.

"Fish", "horse" and "more food" are part of Ursula (also two)'s vocabulary, which contains more than 50 Chinese words.

Sounds like any ordinary child learning to speak? True, only that Barclay and Ursula don't live in China, and their parents aren't Chinese.

So where did they learn how to speak the language of the world's fastest-growing economy? At Hatching Dragons, Britain's first bilingual English-Mandarin nursery.

According to Hatching little Chinese speaks at Britain's first bi-lingual Mandarin-English nursery by The Telegraph, nursery rhymes are taught in both Chinese and English, number games are played with Chinese characters as well as Roman numerals, and sandwiches, as well as spring rolls and fried rice, are served for lunch.

Cenn John, founder of Hatching Dragons, calls the method of teaching "immersive learning", in which children learn all aspects of China in an environment that's steeped in Chinese culture, and not just grammatical lessons.

The idea is becoming increasingly popular with parents who want their children - starting as early as six-months-old - to have a linguistic advantage over their peers, in particular in the language of China.

The process is rather simple. Each child is paired two "key workers" - one English-speaking, and the other Mandarin-speaking.

"The nursery's English-speaking staff play, sing and talk with the children in English, while its Chinese staff do so in Mandarin," said John, who studied Mandarin at university and worked as a political and education consultant in China. With constant double-exposure, children are able to absorb linguistic and cultural knowledge much faster.

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