With so many English language centres popping up in recent years, parents are often bewildered as to which to choose for their preschool child. As such, Kiddy123 decided to pay a visit to Lorna Whiston, one of the first English language centres to be set up in Kuala Lumpur, to let parents have an idea what to look out for in choosing a centre. Lorna Whiston stands out as an English language centre that takes pains in helping students make progress in developing their language skills, a reputation that has been built through two decades of success in providing English Language, Speech & Drama, and Public Speaking programmes for 4 to 18-year olds in Malaysia.
For preschool children (4 to 6-year olds), Lorna Whiston has a choice of weekly Language Development or daily Intensive Language Development classes. Besides developing the child’s language skills, these programmes are also designed to encourage academic, social, physical and emotional development.
During a tour of Lorna Whiston’s Taman Tun Dr Ismail centre, Kiddy123 saw bright and cheerful classrooms, each with their own little library of colourful, specially selected age-appropriate books to tempt the children to read. We saw children confidently taking their early steps in the English language and responding enthusiastically to their teacher’s gentle encouragement. We also peeked into the studio for Speech & Drama programmes complete with a store for all the props.
We took the opportunity to talk to headteacher Marianne Dark to find out how their programmes can help your child gain confidence and competency in using the English language. Marianne is from the UK and has been working in education for 23 years, of which 15 has been with Lorna Whiston in Malaysia. Here is an excerpt from our time with her.
Kiddy123: Ms Marianne, you have been around for a major part of Lorna Whiston’s impressive 20-year history in running English language programmes in Malaysia. From your vast experience, what do children in this country need most to improve their language skills? Is it earlier exposure to the language? Or more effective ways of learning?
Marianne: Exposure to the English language is very important to gain fluency in the language, and the earlier the exposure the better. The more opportunities children have for learning and using the language, the more fluent they will become. We encourage our students to make English a part of their daily lives. The students of our weekly English Language programmes not only attend classes, they take home any two books of their choice to read, bringing them back the following week for their teacher to check their comprehension. After a year’s four terms, they would have read almost 90 books, not counting any extra books they might have read during their holidays.
Accuracy in language is also extremely important. Children need skilled and qualified teachers to help them learn the language accurately right from the start rather than having to unlearn their mistakes later on. Lorna Whiston has been a leading provider of English education all these 20 years because we have placed great importance on the quality of our teachers. All our teachers are specially trained native English-speaking teachers from countries like the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Having said all that, I believe that if anyone is to learn a language successfully, they must first enjoy the language.
Kiddy123: Getting children to enjoy the language, is that the secret of your programmes being so effective?
Marianne: Yes, we believe so. Our methodology provides the best learning experience for young students -- one that is fun and enjoyable, one that will inspire them to develop a life-long love for learning. We use various forms of literature such as plays and novels, and our lessons are based on stories that children enjoy. Our teachers are trained specially to teach children and they are all very passionate about teaching. The outcome is always lessons that are exciting and energising, lessons that stimulate the child to think and to voice out their thoughts and opinions. Mums and dads often tell us that when a new week comes their children will ask excitedly, “Is it Lorna Whiston today?” When we hear that, we know we have succeeded in helping the child to enjoy the language.
But while we want our students to enjoy themselves in our classes, what we are aiming for is far more than just fun. Our lessons aim at enabling every student to develop an understanding of the language that will help them to communicate confidently and effectively in any situation, now and later in their life, whether it be in a social, educational or work environment. We want to help our students discover their voice in the English language.
Here, we see each of our students as an individual. We work individually with each child to find out his or her strengths and weaknesses so that we know how to help him or her. That’s why we keep our class sizes small -- the maximum is 12 in a class. In our classes, we do not only teach, we spend time to celebrate the children’s strengths to build up their confidence, and support and encourage them in whatever they are weak at. We make every effort to discover and bring out the best in each of our students. That makes a difference.
Kiddy123: Besides English Language, Lorna Whiston offers Speech & Drama and Public Speaking programmes. Could you let us know what roles these programmes play in helping children improve their language skills?
Marianne: Speech & Drama helps young children develop language skills such as listening, speaking, vocabulary and grammar. It also introduces them to acting skills. The children who join our Speech & Drama programmes for 4 to 6-year olds enjoy lots of activities using drama, phonics, enacted stories, rhymes and songs, which develop their awareness of sounds and their oral skills.
Our Public Speaking programmes are for the upper primary and secondary school children. These programmes help in building confidence and self-esteem, and effective listening, speaking, and presentation skills. They are different in content and focus from our language programmes and also offer the possibility of entering an external exam, if desired.
After finishing Lorna Whiston’s Language Development programmes for 4 to 6-year olds, children will be able to further develop their language skills in the Language Extension programmes for 7 to 12-year olds and Advanced Language programmes for 13 to 18-year olds, plus the Speech & Drama and Public Speaking programmes.
Lorna Whiston programmes offer the perfect complement to the local schooling system, by providing an international learning experience in the English Language. They are also popular with Malaysian students who attend international schools and require specialised focus on certain aspects of their English.
Find out more about Lorna Whiston English Language Centre.