Q&A with Rhona French

What do you love about teaching Mandarin Chinese to children?

There are many reasons I love teaching Mandarin Chinese. Obviously, the opportunity to speak the language regularly and gain a more intimate knowledge of it as I teach is wonderful. However, I think it’s the process of singing, dancing and devising creative ways in which to share the language that is especially rewarding. Each class is different and each lesson unique. Many of the children I have worked with have never heard Mandarin before and so the enthusiasm and interest with which they approach the class is wonderful. Knowing that you’ve delivered an engaging and entertaining lesson that will stick with the children long after the class is over is a fantastic feeling, it’s pretty incomparable.

What do children love most about your classes?

It depends on the child! Most of the children in my classes are toddler/pre-school age and so especially enjoy the songs, dancing and games that we introduce. I vary the activities hugely in my classes so that all the different children gain opportunities to express themselves in differing manners, such as, for instance, joining in with different actions in the story, taking on different roles in games and sharing their knowledge in the cultural activities at the beginning of each lesson. I have found that all children love showing off their language at any opportunity! No matter their personality, each child enjoys sharing the language and signs that they have retained and I make sure they have plenty of chances to do so.

How easy is it for children to learn Chinese with Little Mandarin Classes?

Surprisingly easy! I have been very jealous of the children’s ability to learn and maintain vocabulary and phrases at an extremely fast rate. I think this is down to a number of different elements within each class;

  1. the kinaesthetic element Every lesson incorporates British Sign Language (BSL) and plenty of physical activity which makes the lessons engaging for the children as well as assisting with memorisation

  2. Repetition Each lesson plan involves a great deal of repetition but in a creative format. Children have the opportunity to revisit the same vocabulary in a game, a song, or by it being subtly repeated within a story. This repeated element really aids memorisation.

  3. Excitement and fun! I have such negative memories of language learning at my school. I think that for many of the children, the LMC classes are a refreshing departure from traditional language learning techniques. Rather than focusing on learning lines of vocabulary from a textbook, children can instead use the language in a way they enjoy which is far more engaging than an ordinary language lesson.

Would you recommend children to learn with Little Mandarin Classes?

Certainly! For all of the reasons listed above! I think the classes are fun and fulfilling for many children and in many ways don’t feel like an average class style. Even children who have struggled with language learning before should perhaps give Little Mandarin Classes a go. Their take and approach to languages might provide just the breath of fresh air that such a child needs to flourish.

What is your favourite BSL sign?

I love the sign for “hé” (and) in BSL. It’s a very logical and intuitive sign and has appealed to me ever since I started learning BSL. It also, like all the BSL signs, helps a lot with language learning! Learning how to say “and” in Mandarin is not the most exciting process but it is so useful and important! It’s been really helpful to have the sign to keep the children interested and aid retention.

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