Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nurturing a love for Chinese #2 - Speak it, use it!

I recently had lunch with an associate who runs a Chinese enrichment centre and had an engaging discussion on the nurturing of a love for the Chinese language. She shared that for her, it is a concern when she sees parents mainly leaving it to enrichment centres but do not attempt to follow up from home.

To put it simply, a weekly enrichment of less than 2 hours, while good, will be even better if parents attempt to support by speaking to their children and do "read alouds" / read together with their children. You may be asking how do we do it and here's sharing 3 ideas. :)

1) Assign a Chinese speaking role to someone
For us, this 'role' goes to my parents. It was initially very hard for them as Dumpling was not exposed to Chinese till 16/17 months old and the inertia for them to start communicating to her in Mandarin was really high. I kept reminding the folks and I have to say that it takes a lot of effort on their end but after toughing it out for 3 years, it is really nice to be able to hear Dumpling communicating with them freely in Mandarin.

2) Dedicated Mandarin speaking time each day
If (1) is not possible, try setting aside some time daily for a pure Mandarin exposure. One of the things which I initially started with was that I would communicate to Dumpling only in Mandarin during meal times. I'd ask her questions, help her along if she struggles with expressing herself in Mandarin and even when it was one-way most of the time when we first started, at the very least, I know that she had some exposure to the language and I was exposing her to some vocabulary, etc.

I then increased it slowly to cover craft time as well and this is also where my Mandarin improved slowly too. :) A lot of parents also tell me that their children would not reply to them in Mandarin but in English and that is pretty common. But I'd urge you to continue with your attempts because at the very least, some form of exposure is better than none. If they were to reply in English, it also shows that they are able to understand the question. You can then paraphrase their answers in Mandarin so that they know what the response should be in Mandarin.

3) Introducing Mandarin in fun, bite size approaches - CHANT IT & SING IT!
The resistance towards the language for young children happens when there was little exposure, when the children feel that it is hard (e.g. is not able to express themselves fluently due to lack of knowledge) and when it is not fun.

Something which Dumpling really enjoys are fun 儿歌 which involves actions. Here's one to share:

You can also do other popular English rhymes / songs and search for the Chinese versions too. Here's are 2 to share!

:: Itsy Bitsy Spider

:: London Bridge 

This is part of a 10-part series:
Part 1: Read Read Read (books of a different kind)
Part 3: Watch it!
Part 4: Play It! 
Part 5: Write it! (小书 Small Book)

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  1. Thanks for linking up Alicia! Great tips you shared here that remind me that I should stop being lazy and start doing something about improving K's chinese language.

    1. Thanks for popping by Rachel. I am a worrywart especially when I see the struggles my hubs had when younger because he did not have the home environment to support him. So I try very hard! :)

  2. I'm trying too but have been getting resistance from S on and off. But the good thing is, her Chinese teacher tells me that she's learning well in school.

    1. Hi Susan, the resistance part is pretty common. Dumpling would very often reply me in English too and I'd just remind her over and over again. At the very least, at least we know that they understand the language :)


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