Just before Baobao turned 2 years old, we discovered that she has started learning Spanish on her own with the help of one of those bilingual activity tables that taught colour in Spanish. She was naming most colours in Spanish and had learned some of the letters of the Alphabet song in Spanish from YouTube Kids. Although she kept selecting the auto-suggested videos for nursery rhymes in Spanish, there was not much learning being done.
After we had taken away the tablet, I started looking at alternatives for how we could teach her Spanish without screens as she was still young then. My other concern was also how to get her to pick up Mandarin Chinese as that is the fixed second language for us here in Singapore.
There are suggestions online where households should approach a method where one parent speaks only in one language to cover as many languages as possible. We tried speaking to her in Mandarin and Spanish (I had to learn Spanish myself via Duolingo to support her learning) but it didn’t take very well.
Friends I spoke with said they had the LeapFrog 100 Words Book which was bilingual in English and Spanish. I decided to get that for Baobao to see if it would help.
For Mandarin, I stumbled upon a company that made their own Press-and-Learn English Malay Chinese Words Book. While it wasn’t as technologically developed as the LeapFrog book, it worked quite similarly in terms of switching languages and tapping on the words to hear it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make any real progress with it as it was more of a ‘hear and listen’ sort of learning rather than active interaction.
A few months after we took away the tablet, Baobao eventually learned to handle the usage well within allotted time and would return it when time was up. With this development it was easier to introduce learning apps when she reached 2.5 years old.
As we are currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation, having to work from home and taking care of Baobao was quite challenging unless she had a morning study programme while I was clearing work.
One of the apps I discovered was Studycat’s Fun Chinese app. It is a little pricey in terms of unlocking all the categories to learn but they do offer a 30 day free trial if you subscribe in app or on their website and cancel before the trial period is up.
I started Baobao on the free trial of the Fun Chinese app when she was 2 years 7 months old. The great thing about the app is that they speak completely in Mandarin Chinese – even the prompts. The words are repeated enough times when you play through the games, there is a revision at the end of each game. If you fail the game they still unlock the next stage for you to progress.
She breezed through the app pretty well and had started remembering the words in Chinese better than when we had read to her, spoke to her or used audio books. After a week I started her on the trial for the Spanish app as well.
It’s only been about two weeks since we’ve started her on this new programme. She currently uses the app twice a day daily – once for Chinese and once for Spanish. We’ll see how it goes in a few months.