Fun with Mandarin a winning formula

MS Hazel Chong and her children primarily speak English at home. But for the second year running, they have won the top prize at the annual Speak Mandarin Campaign Parent-Child Talent Competition.

This year, they beat 38 other teams in the Upper Primary category to win the trophy How did they do it?

Through a combination of constant practice, creativity and, most importantly, fun, according to the mother of three. Last year, Ms Chong, 42, won the contest together with her daughter Kai Han, 12. This year, they added her 10-year-old son Li Yu to the team and won again. Her third child is four this year.

"It was Li Yu who suggested joining this year, after watching my daughter and me win last year," the interior designer said.

The nationwide competition, in its third edition, is meant for parents to bond with their children while learning Mandarin together. Parents form teams of up to three members and put up a five-minute performance in Mandarin.

This year, 14 teams from the Lower Primary category and eight teams from the Upper Primary category were chosen to enter the grand finals held on June 6 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. They were shortlisted from a total of 119 teams after the preliminary round in April.

The competition was organised by the Speak Mandarin Campaign and St Nicholas Girls' School, and supported by Thumbs Up and the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning.

Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, attended the event. Chairman of the Promote Mandarin Council Seow Choke Meng was impressed by the participants. "The standards of the performances have improved tremendously and many parents have also shared positive feedback," he said.

Ms Chong and her children presented an original and lighthearted script highlighting the challenges faced in teaching and learning Mandarin to much laughter, but it also illustrated a salient point.

"Children find it stressful learning Mandarin these days, but if we can make the learning process more fun for our children, they will grow to appreciate the language," said Ms Chong, who sang lyrics to a Jay Chou song with her children as part of their skit.

This article was first published on June 23, 2015.
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