During Mandarin classes in the Children’s Museum in Missoula, children started out by learning the word for “cat”. “Mao, mao, mao” they said, noting that the word sounds very much like the sound a cat makes.
The Mandarin Starters class is taught by native speaker Mingzhu Yuan. She started the class to share her heritage.
“I want to let them experience Chinese culture and learn some Chinese,” said Yuan. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology focusing on early childhood development, Yuan enjoys presenting the experience of learning a new language to young children.
According to Kira Huck, the museum’s program and outreach manager, language classes are important to the overall museum programming. Languages incorporate learning about other cultures and subjects the museum covers into children’s learning.
“They’re still learning so much so fast and they’re constantly learning new words, so I think it’s easier for them to pick up new words in another language,” Huck said.