How to Help Your Child Learn Chinese at Home
Many parents are eager to help their kids learn Chinese from a young age, but have no idea how to begin.
This is so because some children do not enjoy learning Chinese as they perceive it to be the more difficult of the two languages (English being the less difficult one). This may be true as Chinese is completely different from English, with very different intonation and writing system.
According to celebrity mum Diana Ser, this may also be partly because kids spend most of their time in school interacting with teachers and friends in English. In Singapore’s larger environment, one can get by without being able to speak Mandarin, and the kids are smart enough to understand that very quickly.
Being effectively bilingual (in both English and Chinese) herself, the mother of three hopes that her children can share her passion for both languages. That’s why, she started a website named Crazy About Chinese, to introduce fun and interesting ways to engage children in a Mandarin environment.
Actually, it doesn’t mean that your Chinese has to be perfect to teach your child. The most important thing is that you’re enthusiastic and you give your child lots of encouragement and praise. Your child will pick up your enthusiasm for the language. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t start speaking Chinese immediately. They’ll need some time to absorb the language.
Though it’s no easy task, Diana said that she’ll persevere because it is not just about the grades or even being bilingual. It’s about an attitude towards life where they must dig in their heels and get the basics right.
So, are you ready to share your enthusiasm for the language with your child? Here are 5 simple ways to help you get started!
1. Tell Stories to Them
Children’s books are good starters as children love stories. Read to them and nurture their love for reading. Sit next to your child on a sofa and not on a study table as this would make story-time special and an enjoyable activity that they’d look forward to. Encourage them to ask questions about the story or do activities based on the book. These provide opportunities to engage your child in Mandarin and enhance the vocabulary learnt from the book.
2. Sing Songs to Them
Immerse your child in the sounds of Mandarin. Songs are really effective to learn new words and improve pronunciation. Songs with action are particularly good for very young children as they can participate even if they can’t sing the song. Use YouTube to find Mandarin nursery songs and cartoons to watch or sing along to with your child. Even Chinese pop works if they like it. Repetition and familiarity with the way Mandarin sounds is an easy way to start the learning process.
3. Play Games & Quizzes
Kids are only interested in play. There are online games and applications you can use on your computer or smartphone that allow you to learn Chinese with your child in a fun way. Try breaking down the seemingly endless journey of Chinese into simple quizzes, and let it become a fun family activity! You can also give them a sense of responsibility by letting them decide on the rewards.
4. Engage in Good Daily Conversations
As simple as this sounds, it is really important for parents to have conversations in complete sentences as children pick up the language from you. The advantage of teaching Chinese at home is that you can use everyday situations and real objects from around the house to practise the language naturally. It helps to revise even mundane household items such as “washing machine” or “television”, as it helps to build connections to the objects.
5. Nurture the Love for the Language
Just like the many things in life, love for Chinese has to be nurtured. Explore and discover the rich legacy of the Chinese roots with your child. From Chinese history or Chinese literature to Chinese pop, as long as they show interest in that area, it will be an easier point of entry to engage them. You can start with introducing them to the traditions and legends of Chinese festivals like Mid-Autumn Festival and why we need to eat “yue bing” (mooncakes) and enjoy the “shang yue” (enjoy the moonlight) on that day. This may arouse their interest to find out more!