How can you make learning Mandarin fun and effective for your preschooler? Huang Ying, Head of Chengzhu Mandarin Education lets out six fun secrets.
6 Secrets To Encourage Your Child To Learn Chinese
Secret 1: Keep it natural
Language is ‘caught not taught’. From day one, talk to your baby (not at him) using a mixture of baby talk and adult language. Use a wide range of words, incorporating them in reading games and other activities. Use them frequently and naturally in your baby’s presence.
Children learn through osmosis. They acquire language when they are exposed regularly and in natural settings, e.g. at home or in a play environment. Interact with your child as they grow; have dialogues and expose them to a variety of experiences that bring them into contact with different places, people and Chinese materials. As they grow older, their horizons need to expand in order for their vocabulary to expand too.
If you are able to write in Chinese, label objects around your home, introducing new words into your conversations gradually. Encourage friends, relatives, siblings and other visitors to speak and play with your child in Mandarin.
⇒ Related Read: Raising Billingual Children: 10 Tips To Improve Your Child’s Chinese
Secret 2: Exposure! Exposure! Exposure!
Expose your little one to real-life experiences in places where Mandarin is spoken. When a language has a direct relevance to your child’s life they will absorb it easily. A holiday to China or Taiwan will be fun for the family, though there are also many opportunities here in Singapore. You might consider joining an adult accompanied Mandarin or bilingual enrichment programme that incorporates play, music and colourful activities in their class, enabling your child to absorb Mandarin in a rich language environment.
Secret 3: Read stories
Children love stories and they love being read to. Be creative with your reading. Keep it light and fun by using funny voices and make funny faces. Find quality and age-appropriate videos that are fun to watch and allow you to use words in conversation afterwards.
⇒ Related Read: How To Choose Good Mandarin Picture Books For Kids
Secret 4: Music and songs
Music is a great way for young children to pick up the natural rhythm of language, to hear the correct pronunciation of sounds and to remember vocabulary. Songs with simple melodies and repeated phrases work best. Let your child fall asleep listening to their favourite CD; play it in the car. You may get tired of it after a while but your child will not! If you are not a natural Mandarin speaker – it’s a great way for you to learn the language too!
Secret 5: Be a role-model
Experience the process of learning with your child too. Your preschooler will be much more excited to learn something if they feel your excitement! You will both benefit so much from this process.
Secret 6: Remember the two magic Ps
Patience and Praise. These two qualities help make learning Chinese a fun and natural part of everyday life. Studies on brain growth and early language development have shown that language acquisition in infants is dependent on their early neural connections (synapses). These connections are stimulated through responsive interaction with others, ideally during the first two years of life. The most effective learning occurs when these interactive experiences are both nurturing and enjoyable. The more positive, fun and importantly, natural, a child’s experiences; the easier it is for them to pick up one, two and even three languages simultaneously.
By Huang Ying, Head of Chengzhu Mandarin Education.
For more tips from the experts, read our Enrichment and Preschool Guide.
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