Being a bilingual student in Singapore has its challenges, especially when the child’s environment is predominantly in English.
What about speaking, reading and writing in Mandarin?
As a result of a strong English environment that our children are constantly immersed in, some parents realise that their children tend to fare poorly in their primary school Chinese compositions compared to their English compositions. Naturally, this can be concerning because we do not want our children to be left behind in either language.
Why do primary school Chinese compositions seem harder to write than English ones?
For starters, a lot of children tend to think in English and translate their thoughts into Chinese when they pen down their stories. The true meaning of what they intend to convey is lost in translation as a result of this process.
The lack of vocabulary can also be an issue as children struggle to find the right words to describe what they want to say. Therefore, we can appreciate how frustrating it must be for children who are desperately trying to put in their best efforts at their primary school Chinese composition writing, and despite their best efforts, fail to achieve their expectations.
How can we help our children to write better Chinese compositions at school?
We can encourage them to start a journal!
One of the main issues in primary school Chinese composition writing is the thinking process of our children. In order to help our children to write better, we need to guide them to think in the language that they are writing. Thinking in Chinese leads to a more effective flow of sentences when they put their thoughts to the paper.
To facilitate this process, children are encouraged to keep a journal that is written only in Chinese. For a primary 1 child, they can begin a journal using only hanyu pinyin to start since hanyu pinyin is the focus for that level. Talk to your children about their thought process in Chinese so that they can translate that into their writing. When they gain confidence, they can progress to basic Chinese characters.
Use this opportunity to work on the precision of their character strokes as they practise their writing. There is no rush to expect a full page of writing from your children at this stage. In order to encourage Chinese composition writing to take off effectively, we can begin by doing a daily journal of one to two sentences in hanyu pinyin.
Does Chinese composition writing get more difficult as they progress in school?
As they move to Primary 2 where Chinese characters become the focus, the journal evolves to writing mainly in characters, with hanyu pinyin supporting words that your child may not know how to write yet.
MindChamps Chinese Curriculum Lead, Ms. Hu Mei suggests that journal writing at this age should be kept to the five basic sentences that begin with these phrases, “I think”, “I feel”, “I learn”, “I know”, and “I like”. Using these structures, you can encourage your children to write in very simple sentences to promote thinking in Chinese.
Naturally, as your children move to the next level in Primary 3 and 4, their journal writing content should be increased. This will be in line with the expectations of Chinese composition writing requirements at school, where they should write at least 50 to 80 words. Continue to engage your children in their journal writing by asking them to include more details like what they have done in the day.
At this stage, getting their ideas on paper is more important than being overly concerned about their grammar structure. We want to motivate children to get involved in writing in Chinese, especially if this is an aspect that they struggle with at school.
In the crucial years leading up to PSLE, your children are expected to use suitable words, phrases and sentences in their Chinese composition writing. Journalling can help to develop this skill as well. With the early exposure to journal writing at a young age, your children will be used to the rigour expected of them since the progression has been slow to accommodate their learning process.
Help! I cannot even write a Chinese composition myself.
How can we help our children if we struggle to speak in Chinese? For starters, we can learn with our children by reading with them. Use books with hanyu pinyin to ease our own struggles with the language. You do not need to be perfect in Chinese, because the most important thing is to model reading behaviour for your children.
If we show our children that we are trying, this motivates them to press on too. We can get our children to be little teachers and have them explain the story, or words, to us. Even with the increasing difficulty in their Chinese text, we can still employ this method to encourage them to teach us (and themselves) in the process.
Where can we go to
get more help with primary school Chinese composition writing?
Do you need a little more external support? Never fear – you can check out our Primary Success enrichment programmes or PSLE Success programmes. Designed to help your children fill the gaps in their schoolwork as efficiently and comprehensively as possible, these programmes can be the helping hand that gives your children an extra boost.
The Chinese curriculum aims to help your children master Chinese grammar and structure, as well as expand their knowledge of vocabulary and idioms. Most importantly, they will emerge from the programmes with the ability to articulate themselves and converse in the Chinese language confidently.
Book a session with us to review your child’s learning style, download our brochure for more information, or register for our programmes here.