Pre-school and Childcare Full Day
Encourage Learning Chinese for Kids
Asked By : MummyLizz
Words from the Expert:

Question: How can parents encourage their children to speak Mandarin?

Answer from the Expert:

Parents often ask me, “What is the best way to encourage my child to speak Mandarin?” My response is always the same: that first we must understand why their child doesn’t want to use the language, before we can find the right solutions to encourage them.
The most common problems that children encounter are the lack of opportunities to speak, along with fear or shyness to use the language. This is invariably due to traditionally harsh teaching methods in school or parents’ high expectations of their child. Naturally, parents want the best for their children but often place a lot of pressure on them with a tendency to scold them if they use the language incorrectly.
If you are a parent who faces the challenge of nurturing an enjoyment of learning Mandarin in your child, follow these useful tips:

  1. Role model good conversation: providing you are able to speak Mandarin – role model strong language yourself. Alternatively, expose your child to someone who is a strong speaker. Use rich vocabulary as you engage your child in conversation.  Equally important – be an active listener. Also, providing quality books, music and videos in Mandarin is a great way to stimulate language development.

  2. Tap into their interest: what interests your child? What are they enthusiastic about? Whether a love of animals, dance or sport, make an effort to support and encourage these passions using Mandarin. When my son was five years old, he was mad about volcanoes and earthquakes! He watched a lot of documentaries in English, so I then found Mandarin books about the subject and read those to him. Afterwards, he would happily chat in Mandarin about his hobby.

  3. Cultural exchanges: one of the best ways to learn a language is to visit the country where it is spoken. Just two weeks of total immersion within a rich language environment has an amazing effect on language development! When my son was younger and attending programmes at Julia Gabriel Centre, he joined an Overseas Learning Adventure to China. It was a great opportunity for him to practise using the language in real life situations and to understand more about Chinese culture at the same time.

  4. Other children: children of all ages learn from each other – they are the best language teachers! During the Overseas Learning Adventure my son picked up a lot of vocabulary and sentences from local Chinese students while attending the immersion classes as part of the trip. He still talks about the Chinese friends he made and the activities he enjoyed in that class!

  5. Use it or lose it: a fun activity you can to do at home with your child is creating voiceovers for cartoons. Switch off the sound on the television, watch the pictures and make up your own script. Or, try creating your own advertisements. Let your child come up with their own version of an ad first which you then recreate adding more words to help your child expand their knowledge of vocabulary.

  6. Appreciate and praise: sadly, all too often I hear the following: “My child’s Mandarin is not good. He doesn’t want to speak it”. “She cannot remember the words”.  “The way she speaks is just like an Ang Moh”.  If we do not believe in our own children and show them that they have our support, we cannot expect them to find their own confidence. Encourage your child to speak freely without fear of judgment. Praise, praise and praise!

When children are encouraged within a positive, nurturing environment, when they feel supported rather than pressurised and receive plenty of praise, they feel good about themselves and are more likely to enjoy the process of learning, leading to a desire to speak Mandarin.

The Expert:

Huang Ying
Principal of Chengzhu and Mandarin Programme
Chengzhu Mandarin Centre