“I’ve tried speaking to my child in Chinese, but he always replies to me in English.”
Sounds familiar? You are not alone.
Children who grow up in an English-speaking environment are often reluctant to speak in Chinese even after they enter kindergarten or nursery school in Singapore. It is unsurprising then for children to display resistance towards learning Chinese.
The first step for your child to enjoy learning Chinese is to inculcate the right attitude towards their Mother Tongue. Be a positive role model. When your child sees you walking the talk, speaking in Chinese in your day-to-day conversations, they will feel more comfortable picking up the language.
Here are five other ways parents can encourage a love for learning Chinese in their preschool children.
5 Ways to Make Learning Chinese Fun for Preschoolers
1. Discover the Origins of Chinese Characters
Everyone loves a good story and children are no exception.
Trace the origins of Chinese words to their pictorial form and explain how they evolved into Chinese characters.
Often times, nursery school children are amazed when they discover that words like ‘man’ (人) resembles a walking man, or ‘fire’ (火) is inspired by a burning fire. When kids connect the dots themselves, a natural curiosity is fired up in them to find out more about the stories behind other Chinese words.
2. Dedicate a day for Chinese immersion
Research has shown that the best way to learn a language is through immersion.
Set aside a day in the week where everyone is encouraged to only speak in Chinese. This may take some initial adjustment, especially if your child has always been in an English-speaking environment. Make this day enjoyable and withhold any negative comments if they are not ready.
If you are not fluent in Mandarin, you can turn to resources online such as Chinese educational programmes or Chinese cartoons on YouTube for a fun way to learn.
By creating a positive association with the language, your child will be more receptive towards their Mother Tongue. Once they are more at ease with their Chinese verbal skills, they can slowly work on acquiring reading skills in Mandarin.
3. Develop Chinese Literacy Skills in Your Nursery Children
Besides introducing Chinese story books, you can play games like spotting Mandarin signages when you are out and about. A little competition to keep your child’s eyes peeled for these posters or signages will make them more aware of how Mandarin is commonly used in everyday life.
At home, you can do likewise and label things around the home in Chinese. Through daily observation, your child will learn to pick up these commonly used words and add them into their Mandarin word bank.
Choose Chinese titles that are age appropriate and be dramatic when reading to capture their attention. As nursery children enjoy repetition, reading the books over and over again will reinforce the words they hear regularly.
4. Watch the Language Come to Life
If your child finds reading too one dimensional, you can take him for Chinese productions and dramas which are targeted at nursery school children in Singapore.
This is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn Mandarin as the language comes alive through storytelling and acting. By listening to Chinese continually in an engaging manner for an extended period, children will emerge from the theatre feeling less dreadful about the language.
5. Enroll in a Chinese Preschool or Chinese Enrichment Class for Toddlers
For non-Chinese-speaking parents, it may be an uphill task to teach your children Mandarin if you are not confident in the language. To overcome this roadblock, there are Chinese enrichment classes for toddlers and Chinese preschools where trained teachers can fill the gap.
While a Chinese enrichment class for toddlers helps to reinforce what your child may have learnt in school, Chinese preschools like MindChamps Chinese PreSchool provides an immersive Mandarin learning environment.
In MindChamps Chinese PreSchool, the Chinese language is infused into the curriculum from nursery school to kindergarten level in Singapore. This builds a strong Mandarin foundation in children across all ages, preparing them for a bilingual education system when they enter primary one.
What’s unique about MindChamps Chinese PreSchool is their Chinese Culture Appreciation programme. Preschoolers will gain an insight into China’s rich history and culture through hands-on activities such as clay modelling, calligraphy, tea appreciation and Chinese painting.
Raising a bilingual child from an early age can give them a head start to their future academic success in primary school. Provide your child with the right support to make Chinese learning enjoyable and fun.
Written by Susan Koh