Little Chinese speakers hatch in UK's first bilingual nursery

Updated: 2015-11-12 10:48


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Nurturing little minds for a global market

John opened the nursery in May, partly because he wanted his own three-year-old son to be fluent in Mandarin.

"I wanted my own boy to be fluent enough at an early age to be able to sustain that in later years," he said. "It's also a way of helping to break down prejudice to different cultures, in this case Chinese, by learning about them through song and language. I want to help children be globally confident and capable in a changing world."

With Hatching Dragons, John is helping parents in his situation, namely English speaking adults who want their children to learn Mandarin.

"We have to become able to communicate with a market of 1.37 billion people. Some of the children who come here may one day work in China, but more importantly they will be able to engage with the Chinese diaspora that will continue to come to Britain to study and work," said John.

"We obviously wanted our children to have a good start in life and knowing another language is a great way of helping them achieve that," said Elliott Hammer, father of Barclay Hammer and his four-year-old sister Macy, who's also learning Mandarin.

"I learnt French at school, but how many French speakers are there? It's a number game. China is going to be the world's largest economy. It just makes sense to learn Chinese," Hammer added.

"Only recently we were at the Museum of Childhood with Barclay and he ran up to a Chinese family and said hello to them in Mandarin. He didn't know them, but he knew they were like his Chinese care(give)rs at nursery. It's just fantastic to watch."

The cost starts at £350 ($532.8) a month for 10 hours a week. For full time care of 50 hours per week, it is £1,500 ($2,283) a month. Expensive as it may seem, the price looks much more reasonable when compared to the average cost of £25 ($38) an hour charged by Mandarin speaking nannies in London. The nursery also offers an "affordability scheme", partly subsidized by the Corporation of London, for children of low income families.

Interestingly, there are a few Chinese children registered at the nursery among the others who come from English-speaking families. Their parents have enrolled them to learn English with the comfort of the nursery's Mandarin speaking staff.


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