Sino Montessori School
Courtesy of Jeffery Sweet

Teaching Chinese can be forced or presented in an unnatural way. We found a method of teaching behaviors, building upon a child’s natural curiosity, using hands on materials, teaching through multiple senses, and other fantastic philosophies in a pedagogy called Montessori. However, we couldn’t find an effective educational program in Arizona that teaches Mandarin Chinese. So Ling obtained a job at an International Montessori School in Hong Kong and we packed our bags and moved to Hong Kong.

Ironically we found that their Montessori classroom experience helped our children learn a second language, more so than the cultural experience of Hong Kong. The Montessori school in which they attended had a representation of children from 50 different nationalities all learning English and Mandarin Chinese simultaneously. We realized that learning a second language can be difficult when it is forced, but children can flourish when learning occurs in a natural way. For example, rather than teaching the translation of the greeting of hello and goodbye, their Montessori classroom used language to greet students and other visitors when they enter the classroom. It was a practical application versus an academic lesson. It was interaction rather than memorization.

The Montessori classroom was a perfect setting for this type of learning. It is an exploratory instruction, that uses practical lessons, not formal classroom instruction, so children can experience the learning not just memorize it. The secondary language of Mandarin Chinese was taught on a full time basis exposing children when they are young, when the brain is wired for language learning. Children don’t learn their primary language after they entered their formal school years. It only follows that their secondary language should also be learned at a much earlier time in their lives. Visit for more information.

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