5 Valuable Ways to Encourage Your Child to Learn Chinese

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Knowing a second language can open many doors for children throughout their lives. However, many kids aren’t too enthusiastic about studying to learn Chinese; they may struggle to learn their native tongue or don’t see the value of being bilingual. To get your children on board with learning a second language, you’ll need different ways to entice them. Here are five methods you can use to get your kids excited about another language!

1. Immersion

Learning a new language doesn’t happen overnight. While vocabulary practice and word games are a solid foundation, children learn best when hearing the language around them. Immersing kids in an environment where they are constantly exposed to Mandarin will help them learn Chinese much quicker. Some ways you can engage your child socially include:

  • Join a study group
  • Shop and dine in Mandarin-speaking establishments
  • Virtual play sessions
  • Chinese pen-pals
  • Play traditional music 
  • Chinese-language board games

If you have difficulty finding a group to meet up with, look online for virtual options. Many Chinese parents are looking to expose their children to English, making them excellent connections for educational play!

2. Animation

Cartoons are a resource that many parents overlook. While relying on the TV is a poor practice, using it as a teaching tool is a subversive way to provide some real edutainment. Because animation is a huge draw for kids, it allows them to see language being used in context while featuring the content in a way children understand and enjoy.

There is a wealth of Chinese animated films for learning consumption. Many kid’s shows are rebroadcast with foreign language dubbing or have country-specific versions of their own. For example, the Jim Henson company has filmed over 100 unique Sesame Street episodes in the language. Experiencing such cartoons not only helps kids learn Chinese, but it simultaneously exposes them to more of the culture.

3. Native Language Tutors

Using a tutor is always an excellent choice to promote engagement, especially if you have little experience with the language yourself. However, not all educators are created equal. Tutors who speak Chinese natively have advantages over bilingual teachers whose primary language isn’t Mandarin, such as:

  • Colloquial pronunciation: Because it’s their home language, these tutors can teach your child how to avoid an accent and speak clearly using the proper dialect. They’re also more likely to catch mistakes since their ear has been trained since birth.
  • Native phrases: Another benefit comes from their cultural experience. There are many idioms that are used in English that don’t translate well into other languages. The same can be said of Chinese, though a native speaker can teach conversation-appropriate ones.
  • Cultural awareness: Since they grew up in China, these tutors will have valuable first-hand cultural experience. While a standard tutor may know to cover the highlights, a native speaker can help students learn Chinese through cultural examples.

4. Apps and Online Tools

Just like animation, kids love to be distracted by the internet, apps, and games. Finding online courses is great as they are generally short and students can go at their own pace. If you work alongside your child, you can also help them grasp challenging concepts. Many websites have different activities to keep your child entertained while they work.

Because kids often view play time as the opposite of school, you can use online games and apps as a reward for a hard day’s study. Apps also let kids learn Chinese on their individual schedules. If social situations are too uncomfortable, adding some iPad time to the schedule will help bolster studies while offering your little learner a break from “work” for the day.

5. Make Practice Fun

From memorizing vocabulary to identifying script, learning Mandarin can be tedious if you don’t find ways to spice things up. Try incorporating Mandarin into everyday life, such as spotting car colors on the way to the store or making paper lanterns for a Chinese celebration. One great way to make kids more enthused to learn Chinese is through the kitchen. Using traditional Chinese recipes will assist with vocabulary while your child helps make dinner for the family. Even a walk around the block provides opportunities to practice the language by identifying flowers, trees, and more common objects!

Conclusion

The best way to approach the situation of your child learning Chinese or any second language is to participate with them. Learning with them shows how important the process is. It can also be an excellent chance to bond as you two help each other to learn Chinese. Even just learning the basics of Mandarin may help you spot issues with speech and make minor corrections. As both of you learn together, you may even find that your child is tutoring you on the intricacies of the Chinese language!

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