For my second post this week, I am pleased to share with you a guest post from Katherine Tay, owner of Happy Cottage, an online webstore for Chinese books.
I have been buying books regularly from Katherine and have also attended a workshop where she shared more about Chinese homelearning. So, I thought that it would be great to have Katherine share with us top 5 tips on how to engage preschoolers in Chinese language on the homefront!
Many mommies often comment that it’s difficult to teach Chinese and their children are resistant to learning the language. Indeed, Chinese is a more difficult language to learn as compared to English; you need to remember the “shape” of the words as they are pictorial in nature. I have shared about the nature of Chinese characters here.
What can a parent do to help our child(ren) in the learning of Chinese language?
#1. Be a role model
We are our children’s role model. I’m sure everyone agrees. So lead by example with regards to learning the Chinese language. If you are able to converse in Mandarin, I encourage you to do so with your children so that they have the chance to learn the language. If English has been your primary language of communication, are you able to integrate Chinese into your communication? Maybe a certain amount of time per day, or certain days in a week. When they listen more, they will feel more comfortable with the language, and "absorb" more words to engage in a conversation with you. Even if your child replies in English, you can repeat what he says in Mandarin, and continue to converse with him in Mandarin. Encourage him to speak to you in Mandarin; gently correct him when his wrong by repeating what he has said in the correct way.
Have you ever have the experience of someone speaking to you in Mandarin, you had the tendency to reply in Mandarin as well, even if it’s mixed with English? That is the same way we want to influence our children.
Learn together with your child if you are not so proficient in it. Listen to Chinese songs or watch a Chinese show together. Your child(ren) will catch onto your enthusiasm and learning spirit.
#2. Make Chinese real and practical for the child
When a language becomes a subject, it becomes a chore to learn it. As adults, we are motivated by our needs to learn a new language. For children, they won’t give you their attention if you tell them they need to learn Chinese because they are Chinese, or that they need to pass the examination, or that it will benefit them in the future etc.
Make Chinese part of their daily life. Use it at home while playing games, watching TV, during meal time… Also, many grandparents can converse in Mandarin (no offence to grandparents who converse in English) but I see many old people try very hard to communicate with their grandchildren in English. Grandparents are actually a great source for the children to learn from and practice Mandarin/ Chinese with. Let the children speak to them in Mandarin instead.
Besides the opportunity to use it at home, you can find the opportunity for them to use the language in the external environment, for example when ordering food or reading Chinese signages.
#3. Reading with your child
I cannot emphasize this enough. Read to learn more words and sentence structure. Highlight to them the words which you are teaching or have taught them that appear in the story so as to build up their confidence in reading. This is especially for books which use good description as they are a great source of learning for composition writing.
#4. Do learning activities he likes (投其所好)
You can slowly reduce the resistance when you engage him in doing something he enjoys. Like for my kids, they like to cut and paste. So a lot of my learning activities involve these two skills.
You can teach Chinese at anytime, anywhere. I’ve done it while they were playing with Playdough.There are a lot of things you can do with story books. You can do dramatization of the story, change part or ending of the story with your child, engage in oral comprehension with your child, or play games based on the story.
Katherine Tay is a mother of two preschoolers and is an ex-Primary School Chinese teacher. Katherine started Happy Cottage as a means to share the Chinese books and useful resources she has used with her children in her goal to create a condusive environment to encourage and cultivate the love of Chinese language and Chinese books at home.
Happy Cottage is located at: http://happycottagesg.blogspot.com/