Learning a language is one of the best ways to connect with cultures across the world (or even with your own culture!). And as your children grow, they may find that knowledge of a language helps them to make a difference in their field of work or study.
That said, learning a new language takes dedication and focus. It can certainly be difficult! But when it comes to learning Chinese for kids, there are plenty of strategies and activities you can use to make the process go smoothly.
Different children will likely do better with different language learning strategies. But if your family is just beginning the exciting journey of learning Chinese, here are some fun strategies to try.
#1. Grab Their Attention
It’s essential to get your kids’ attention, especially at the beginning of the language-learning process. After all, if your child’s first experience with learning Chinese is dull, they aren’t likely to be inclined to continue the learning process.
Especially if your kids are relatively young, one of the best ways to grab their attention is to use cartoons. Some cartoon programs have built-in language lessons. Your kids might also enjoy Chinese cartoon programs aimed at children. Even by just watching, your kids may be able to start to learn how to build sentences and pronounce words.
#2. Read Books in Chinese
Though the concept is a bit similar, reading books in Chinese has some distinct benefits. You and your child can take turns reading pages aloud. And if you come across an unfamiliar word, it’s an excellent opportunity for your child to learn something new.
Picture books are perfect for reading together. If there’s a word your child doesn’t recognize, they can first try to determine the meaning from context clues and from the illustration. They can then check their answer in a Chinese-English dictionary.
#3. Make It Immersive
Though Confucius was an ancient philosopher, his ideas are still a core part of Chinese culture. He saw that the benefits of education extended far past the classroom; Confucius believed that “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”
Connecting Chinese language learning to Chinese culture will create an immersive experience for your children. At De Yin, we believe that the traditional focus on the building of moral character is an integral part of learning Chinese.
One of the best ways to help children develop their hearts and minds along with their language skills is to introduce them to different Chinese myths and legends. Captivating stories will help kids expand their imaginations while forging a genuine connection with the culture.
#4. Try Flashcards
When it comes to learning to write in Chinese (or any language for that matter), most kids probably won’t be thrilled about just sitting down and writing. Luckily, there are other more engaging ways to start to understand Chinese characters. One of these is flashcards.
There are a few ways you can use this tool. You can purchase or download these free flashcards with a Chinese word on one side and a picture on the other. You can show your child the picture and ask them to say and write the relevant character.
If your child likes to draw, you can also incorporate art into flashcard learning. You can show your child a character and ask them to draw a picture of what it describes.
You can also make an effort to combine learning the language with your child’s other interests. For instance, you can make special flashcards for your child. If your kid likes animals, make animal-themed flashcards. If you want more ideas, review our top 10 Chinese learning tools for kids.
#5. Make Chinese a Part of Life
Learning Chinese for kids is more likely to be successful if it involves more than classroom-like study. It’s also more likely to be useful if your kids frequently engage with the language.
That’s why bringing Chinese into everyday activities can be fun and effective. If your child likes to sing, let them try singing karaoke along with Chinese songs. For kids who like to cook, making a meal using a recipe written in Chinese can be a fun activity, too.
#6. Label Their World
You can turn the process of learning Chinese into a game for your kids when you make stickers with Chinese characters and let your kids label their favourite things. For example, you could create a set of stickers with words like “basketball hoop,” “train,” or “birdcage.” Your child can test their knowledge by going around your home and placing the stickers where they belong. That’s an excellent way to gamify the process of teaching kids Mandarin at home.
#7. Work on One Character At a Time
For very young kids, tracing giant Chinese characters is an excellent way for them to get familiar with the Mandarin language basics. You can get creative with the definition of “tracing,” too. For example, you can use Cheerios or another snack food and have your kid place them within the outline of a large Chinese character. As a bonus, your child can always eat the Cheerios once they’re done!
If your child is artistic, they might enjoy colouring or finger painting Chinese characters. Though it might seem slow to learn one character at a time, this method is excellent for younger kids to start familiarizing themselves with the characters and forming positive associations with the Chinese language.
#8 Learn from the Best
Though doing fun activities is a core part of learning Chinese for kids, having some help from expert teachers and native speakers makes a significant difference. When your child learns from experts, they’re more likely to develop correct pronunciation. They also will build a solid foundation to continue their Chinese language studies if they wish.
Both virtual and in-person learning can help your child’s progress. In many cases, virtual and in-person language schools let your child connect with other kids learning the language.
If you’re thinking about enrolling your child in Chinese language school, you and your child can try our free two-hour language lesson before committing to a class.
With your help, your kids can learn Mandarin Chinese and have fun doing it too. Remember that your enthusiasm will be contagious. If you’re excited about them learning a new language, your kids are more likely to be, too.