The word itself sends shivers down learners’ spine. Not only does it affect the learner, but also the parents who are just as clueless as to how to help their wards. As an educator, I have been thrown the question umpteen times – “How can I help my child to learn Chinese at home?” My answers are always the same – start from basics; speak the language and read the books.
Speak Mandarin Day at Home
To be able to write fluently in Chinese, one has to be able to converse in Mandarin fluently. This is the case with all other languages because speech is the fundamental element in mastering any language. Dedicate two days in a week as your family’s “Speak Mandarin Day”. Involve everyone in the family and whoever fails to converse in Mandarin will get a forfeit. The whole idea is to make it a fun learning day, and most importantly, to get your child to speak the language without duress.
Reading the right books
Undeniably, reading is the next fundamental element. Start young with your child and start off by reading to them. As you read, your child will pick up the proper pronunciation, the sentence structures and grammar rules subconsciously. Choose big picture books because they can best capture children’s attention and you can even discuss the pictures with your child as you read.
As your child enters primary one, choose books that come with hanyu pinyin and get them to read to you. Do not fear that they would be overly-dependent on the hanyu pinyin because the main focus here is to get them engaged in reading and to be able to understand the story. Remember, through reading, children will be able to pick up grammar, vocabulary and sentence structures along the way. As they progress to upper primary, get them to pick up books of their choice. Ask them to share the story with you.
With these two simple activities practised consistently, the love for the language will be sowed and they will definitely reap the fruits of their labour soon enough.
This article is contributed by GRAM’s Learning Centre
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