Homelearning: Tips on how to teaching Chinese

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Growing up, I never really liked Chinese New Year. I mean, come on, engaging in small talks with a bunch of people you have not met for the last 364 days doesn't sound very sincere to me. Moreover, the bit which I had immense phobia of was greeting those relatives! How should I address them? What is the difference between a 姑妈 and a 姑婆? Such things instil fear in me. 

Fast forward, post children, things are still quite the same. I am still plagued with fear. What's worse, this time, i can't be asking my parents what do I call so and so before entering their houses! And, in addition, I have to remember what my kids' greetings! Woah! that is really a whole new level! However, I do enjoy decking my little Barbie and Ken dolls in gorgeous outfits and teaching my children about the traditions of Chinese New Year as much as I am not a big fan myself. 

Currently, I am trying to work on Big K's Chinese. I never did worry about her ability to converse in Mandarin as she had the best environment to thrive in. Everyday, after school, she'll be at my in-law's place and they speak mainly in Mandarin whilst at home we predominantly speak English. However, lately, I've gotten feedback that her writing skills aren't up to the mark and her school teacher also commented that she isn't sensitive enough towards Chinese characters. Meaning to say, she has no idea that particular word is a Chinese word. My bad. As honestly, I haven't been getting her to do much writing in Chinese. I have this mentality that they will naturally pick up in school. Boy was I wrong! The onus is on the parent to revise with the child whatever they have learnt. It is hence a good idea for all mummies out there to expose your little ones to Chinese at a young age. 

Much emphasis is still being placed on rote learning and constant drilling through spelling and repetitive writing of Chinese characters. While it may work for some, some may get bored and lose interest. What's worse, it may instil fear or resentment and hence hinder progress. We should help these little ones embrace and learn Chinese in a more fun way. In order to learn the language effectively, one should go beyond the subject that is examined, according to our Minister of Education. It is also imperative that preschools are aligned with the new directives so that transition into primary school will not be a traumatic experience for your child (and you). Learning Chinese boasts economic value because of a resurgent China.

So since I am trying to work on inculcating family values and getting Big K to practise more Chinese, I decided that a theme on family would be apt. below are some activities done with Big K who is currently 4+ years old:

This chart is awesome! It tells me who is 姑姑 and 伯伯!

I made these in order for her to recognise the words. I started off the activity by placing the control card next to her for her to identify. Somewhat like the 3-part card in montessori teachings. Thereafter, I took it away and got her to paste the words on the corresponding boxes.

Mazes are a great way to stretch the child's concentration! 
Penmanship is being worked on by writing the word 公公

Motor skills i.e.. cutting are being worked on over here. 

These exercises gotten from a book called "Play and Learn" published by EPH complemented my teachings.

Another activity which perhaps you could consider is to do up a family tree. It is very important to keep the language alive. Here are some other ways to make Chinese fun:

Learn through songs
This doesn't have to be limited to nursery rhymes. It can be anything from 三字经 to the latest Mandopop song. I recall my Secondary school teacher using Faye Wong's songs to teach us Chinese with a big pond as a backdrop! So 诗情画意! (I hope I didn't get the idiom wrong!)

Read posters
Take every opportunity to read. This can be in the form of posters or menus. The desire to read more will follow naturally.

Inquiry based learning
Get your little ones to use Mandarin to ask questions that interest him. Get him to order a meal or ask for a pair of chopsticks in Mandarin. To communicate effectively is an important and practical skill for life! 

Tune in to FM93.3
Turn on a Chinese channel on the radio whenever there is a chance and expose the little one to the language.

Flashcards and storybooks
Consistency is the key. The flashcards has got to be big for younger children. Preferably A5 size. You may paste a set of words at the child's regular learning corner so that he is exposed to the words daily. Change the set of words on a weekly basis or when you think the child has recognised the words.

Draw or write with a Chinese brush. 

I am not a big advocate of technology for young kids but honestly, sometimes we've got to give in to the great array help out there. We particularly like the Chinese Class app by Monki. It is linked to the Chineasy series, if you are familiar with it. The graphics are great and it is suitable for beginners who are trying to get the strokes right. Great app for kids ages 4 to 7.

Another great portal to check out is Crazy About Chinese. Created by bilingual ex-TV host Diana Ser. She has created short engaging video clips that are particularly useful for piquing the interest of our little ones.

Feel free to share with me how you engage your child in Chinese. 
Remember, 活到老学到老! Have fun learning Chinese!