Diana Ser is a trailblazer in Singapore’s media industry, having spent over two decades telling stories and engaging audiences across platforms including print, television and radio. Effectively bilingual in English and Chinese, Diana has hosted live television events, radio shows and high-level corporate and government events in both English and Mandarin.
Married with three children, Diana firmly believes in the value of embracing two languages. She recently launched an online site, Crazy About Chinese, to teach the language with videos starring her daughter Jaymee Lye. We caught up with her in an email interview about her latest ‘baby’ and her struggles in trying to promote Mandarin learning for her kids.
Why did you decide to produce your “fourth baby”, ‘Crazy About Chinese’? How did it come about?
It came from a struggle that many Singaporean parents are facing nowadays – Chinese was driving me and my kids nuts. I thought I did a lot for my two older kids when they were younger to lay the foundation for Chinese learning, but it turned out that I wasn’t doing nearly enough. Even now, they are both still struggling with Chinese in school despite getting decent grades. Jaymee, my third, gave me one more chance to try and do things differently. ‘Crazy About Chinese’ is basically a platform to share with other parents what I’ve tried, tested, failed and then succeeded at times.
What do you hope to achieve with this online edutainment program?
I hope to demonstrate that it is not that hard to get our kids to like Chinese a little more. With fun activities to pique their interest, guided play will be great for fostering parent-child bonds and family ties while encouraging purposeful learning. The activities are meant to be short and simple, so busy parents are not daunted. On top of that, I also hope to foster a community where parents and caregivers can help each other out and cheer each other on when the going gets tough. I also look forward to exchanging ideas with other parents – it’ll be a great learning opportunity for me as well!
Why is advocating bilingualism an important cause? How has being bilingual helped your career and everyday life?
In a world where talent is global, why speak only one language when you can do two? In Singapore, we are fortunate to be positioned to learn two languages easily. Plus, being bi-cultural makes you more interesting! Being effectively bilingual has presented me with many opportunities, having presented for both English and Chinese programmes when I was in media. I was also presented with the opportunity to produce my own shows on Channel News Asia and hosting ‘live’ shows.
How is this new online venture different or similar to your previous capacities in the media?
This is very different from what I have ever done before, and it is definitely a lot more fun “working” with Jaymee. The best thing about ‘Crazy About Chinese’ is that we also invite story ideas from other parents – this makes the program not just my “baby”, but something everyone can be a part of. I loved the media and all the shows I have produced, but this one is definitely the closest to my heart
Watch Diana teaching Jaymee how to count in Mandarin in her video below.
How did you marry your past experience as a journalist and presenter in producing the program?
From the story idea to research, to buying props and directing the crew and talent – I do it all by myself. It is a vast difference from when I had a team at the TV station! However, having written and produced my own stories, this is something I know I enjoy doing. Previously in the print newsroom, I learn how to angle and “package” my stories, and this is critical now for Crazy About Chinese. On social media, attention spans are shorter, and viewing may often be done on mobile devices. So I have to build on my traditional media skills, to speak.
What struggles do you face in trying to promote Mandarin learning?
The biggest struggle is that you don’t see “returns” quickly as nurturing takes time. I felt discouraged at times when I didn’t see progress despite all the hard work put in, but the results did show eventually and I am very proud of Jaymee. It will take time for the seed to grow and bear fruit. The best parenting advice I have ever been given is this: Just keep investing, and do not expect any ROI (returns on investment). Someday, your child will show you what he/she has internalized.
Any interesting happenings you’ve faced while producing ‘Crazy About Chinese’ with Jaymee?
The challenges usually revolve around working with kids! Jaymee gets tired or fed up with repeated takes. When we filmed the Christmas episode, I had her decorating the tree which had a Hansel and Gretel House of Candy theme. She refused to return the decorations because she loved them so much. I could not pry them away from her hands! So I had to get the “security” (who was the retail assistant) to get her to return the items.
What are the upcoming plans for ‘Crazy About Chinese’ that viewers can look forward to?
I hope to organize a Meet & Greet session with parents and caregivers to say hello, and eventually host my own workshops and seminars for the community to bond and exchange learning experiences. In the program, I will also have interviews with other parents and experts for more tips and insights on learning Chinese.
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