Why Create a Bilingual Early Education Centre?

I am often asked why I decided to open a bilingual Early Education Centre and I guess the answer is steeped in my own personal history.

My background is Chinese having been born and raised in China, but when it came to higher education, I decided to make the transition to studying overseas.

Arriving in Melbourne in 2003, I realised that Australia was a culturally rich and diverse country. The more immersed I became in campus life, the more people I met from all over the world. I learned about their cultures and traditions and the impact it has on the way they interact and socialise with other people.

I discovered that there is a lot more to being an overseas student than just what is taught in the classroom, it was an education in the behaviour and mindset of those who chose this pathway.

For me, this realisation happened during my first English language class. Of course my classmates were from all walks of life, but what struck me was how my European, Singaporean and Malaysian classmates were able to be speak English so fluently. How did they learn to do that in such a limited amount of time?

It wasn’t until much later that I understood why.

My degree in Education required me to undertake a practical placement in a local primary school. Here children are engaged in a weekly 30-minute second language lesson. After speaking with some of the older Year 6 children, it appeared that most of them found it difficult to count to 20. Why, when they are regularly exposed to the vocabulary did they not have this basic skill? From my experience, Germans, Italians, and Singaporeans were all able to speak both their native tongue and English fluently, so why couldn’t these Australian children grasp a second language?

I did some research and found that my counterparts had grown up in a bilingual environment from a very young age. Their home life, school and the media was all in two (or sometimes more) languages. They were fully immersed in a culture that promoted and encouraged conversing in this way.

It was then that I realised that half an hour a week was never going to be enough to learn a second language, even if you started from the age of 5 or 6.

What did being bilingual mean for me?

Of course, after living, studying, and socialising in Australia, I became bilingual. I could speak both Mandarin and English and as I embarked on my career in education, it became apparent how much of a benefit that would be.

Time after time it has put me ahead of other job applicants and not just for my linguistic skills. My understanding and view of the broader world means I can relate and empathise more with families from diverse backgrounds. I appreciate and respect their upbringing and perspectives and how that impacts on how they pass their cultural and family traditions onto their children.

Being bilingual also helps me to connect with parents to understand their expectations, enabling us to work together to achieve the best possible outcome for their child.

For me designing a bilingual centre was a natural progression in my career. With a holistic knowledge of early childhood development, I knew I could make a difference in the community. With a centre that didn’t just focus on academics, but on the “art of learning,” and supporting children to be socially competent and emotionally resilient.

It was time for me to use the wealth of experience I have acquired over more than two decades in education to lay a strong foundation for our family-owned service. I strongly believe that every child is unique and that as educators it is our responsibility to embrace this and provide just as unique tailored educational programs.

In terms of language development and having also raised three bilingual children of my own who are exceeding in their literacy and mainstream studies, I wanted to offer this opportunity to others. I see the benefits as an educator, a student, and a parent. With the globe being as accessible as it is, even post-pandemic, why wouldn’t we try and give our children the best chance to succeed in a multi-lingual world?

And So True Maple, The First Bilingual Early Education Centre In Springvale Was Born.​

The Victorian Government is investing $26.2 million in helping children learn a second language. Currently around 200 funded kindergartens have a dedicated three hours additional language learning time per week, while 10 sites are trialing using an existing educator to teach the language program.

The third way being implemented is through bilingual kindergartens where children learn another language for 12 hours per week.

True Maple is different.

We are a long day care centre that provides a bilingual environment every moment we are open. Our unique inclusive space supports our children to develop and be strong in their sense of identity by being able to communicate and be understood in their own languages.

Every experience has language incorporated into them, which in turn develops their brain and cognitive skills as well as enhancing their problem-solving and emerging literacy abilities.

Children who learn a second language in this way are very in tune with the how the word sounds and can isolate individual sounds from letter combinations. This can be directly compared to those who are raised as bilingual children since birth as their brain is familiar with differentiated intonations from both languages. For example, Chinese pitch and tone is different to that of English.

Their brains automatically adjust to the differing voices allowing them to decide what the most appropriate response would be.

Beyond early education.

As a parent raising children in a bilingual environment, I have witnessed its benefits first hand. My children’s ability to differentiate between tones combined with their understanding of the composition of words has been valuable to their spelling and literacy skills.

My eldest daughter chose to read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings when she was in Year 1 and was in the top 1% of Australian students for both Year 3 and Year 5 NAPLAN tests. My son has the reading and comprehension level of a student one year ahead of him and started reading chapter books part way through Prep.

They are blossoming both academically and socially and have developed into emotionally well-rounded confident individuals. They enjoy public speaking and are able to communicate in a mature and logical way.

Like most children, they are not keen on doing home work and just want to play after school. They don’t go to any out of school tuition classes and have attended school just like everyone else. The only difference is that they were brought up in a bilingual home.

Our home-away-from-home approach to early education means we can replicate the bilingual home environment at True Maple Early Education Centre.