Diana Ser On Helping Kids Learn Chinese, Other Languages; And Her PSLE Tips For Parents
Effectively bilingual in English and Chinese, Diana Ser understands the benefits of mastering more than one language.
In a recent chat with theAsianparent, Diana shares tips on how to help children when learning a new language as well as how she is helping her daughter prepare for the upcoming PSLE.
Diana Ser Shares Tips On Helping Kids Learn A New Language
There is no question that being able to master more than one language puts someone so far ahead than those who don’t.
In one of her previous interviews, Diana spoke about how being bilingual has brought her many professional opportunities. It is no wonder why Diana believes in the importance of learning one more language, especially now with her three kids growing up in a more interconnected world, and this generation of children becoming global citizens.
“I think when you pick up a language, you will naturally pick up the values from that culture. So whether it is Mandarin—because ethnically I am Chinese—or Japanese, Thai, Tagalog, Malay, or any of the Southeast Asian languages, you will naturally pick up the values,” Diana said.
“So when you pick up a language you will naturally pick up the values from that language, and I think at the very, very least it teaches you empathy. You know why the other person is behaving the way they do, they say the things they do. And I think empathy is critical when it comes to getting along with people and when it comes to leadership as well, so that should stand them in good stead,” the broadcast journalist and mum-of-three added.
Diana also noted how learning a second language allows children to have more confidence because they get to understand not just the language but also the learn about ethnical roots.
“My children’s Mother Tongue is the Chinese language. I think when they have an idea of where their roots are, it makes them more confident about who they are and in future, wherever they end up in the world, and I believe that many of our children in this generation will become global citizens.”
She said being bilingual allows her children to “have a sense of who they are” wherever they end up in the world.
“[Bilingualism] should give them [an] anchor. When you are anchored just like a big tree, you will feel more solid, and you will feel more confident, to do whatever that you are doing,” she continues.
Expose Frequently, Practice Regularly
So for parents who want their children to pick up and master a second or even a third language, Diana has some advice: it is about “exposure and practice.”
“The practice portion of it is more challenging when it comes to a language like Chinese because… it’s like drawing in a way, and it’s hard work because the sequence of the stroke will matter to the actual composition of the character. If the sequence of a stroke in a han zhi—in a Chinese character—is wrong, the entire composition will look off, and you may be marked as wrong,” said Diana noted.
“It’s a language that is difficult, but it’s something that is almost like a no-brainer [that] if you put in the effort, you are going to get it right. So it’s just a matter of putting in the effort,” Diana added.
She also said that exposure plays a vital role in getting kids to language mastery.
According to Diana, [Singapore] doesn’t have enough parents who converse to their children in Mandarin. This often means insufficient exposure to the language.
“The way to do is to outsource it like most of us do,” Diana quipped.
“I really think that for languages you need a minimum of two exposures a week, and as the kids go up to upper primary, for example, it gets really challenging because, with P5 and P6, their workload starts getting a bit heavier.”
Diana said id she could do it all over again, she “would have exposed them to at least two times of Mandarin a week and if time and resources permit, [she] would [have] exposed them to three times a week, just to get the foundation right.”
Diana Ser Has Tips On Preparing for the PSLE
Aside from teaching her kids languages and reading classics, the mum-of-three is also helping her kids prepare for the year-end exams.
Diana, whose son has already taken the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) previously, has now her daughter to help prepare for the major exams.
“I think now that it’s my second PSLE, I am a lot more calm (sic), less frantic compared to the first one,” Diana shared.
“I think what’s important is to realise that much as mummy wants to help her—because I feel like I have some ownership over the outcome, I feel that I want to help her—I am starting to recognise that sometimes I may not be the right or the best person to do it. So, I am not shy to admit that I outsource quite a fair bit because, yes, I can help her with languages, but unfortunately my work schedule is such that I don’t have fixed timing,” admits Diana.
“So I am not shy to say that mummy can’t do it, I am going to get someone else to help me,” Diana reveals.
Diana also noted how important it is to focus on the end goal when it comes to the PSLE and reminds parents not to get “too hung up” about the preliminary exams and use the results of these exams to help better prepare children for the PSLE itself.
She likened the preliminary exams to dress rehearsals in performances. Diana said the preliminary exams allow students to apply what they have learned so far and identify areas that need improvement.
“I see the prelims as like full dress rehearsal in performance terms. I do a lot of full dress rehearsals, and I take my rehearsals very, very seriously. For the simple reason that one, they let me go through the processes, and I am very clear about what comes next. I use the rehearsal to help to go through the paces, and what is expected of me and secondly the rehearsals help me to find out where the kinks are, meaning where are my weak areas, so it’s the same spirit I regard the prelims,” the 47-year-old actress explains.
“The last thing I want is for [my children] to peak at the prelims. I don’t want them to peak at the prelims. I want them to peak at PSLE!” Diana points out.
“So I spoke to [my daughter], I said I don’t think that there’s a lot of time to do very many big changes. Let’s try to consolidate what we have achieved so far and give it our very best shot,” Diana said.