With language being a natural part of our communication cycle, it can be advantageous when children know more than one language. It helps them discover the world in newer ways and understand it better too. That’s why the Singapore education system promotes learning a second language including your mother tongue as part of schooling.
In fact, for many families with Chinese heritage, Mandarin Chinese becomes their second language, which they would like their new generation to learn and understand. With over 16 percent of the world’s population speaking Chinese across different dialects, it’s certainly important to learn Mandarin.
As noble as that sounds, it may be cumbersome to get kids to learn a second language, especially at an older age when it is “cooler” to know English among peers. It’s smarter to start them young, where kids are naturally adept at picking up a new language and will seamlessly make it a part of their vocabulary.
So, don’t wait till your junior starts primary school. Use these 10 techniques that will help in learning Mandarin for kindergarten students.
Learning Mandarin For Kindergarten Students: 5 Best Techniques
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1. Read Mandarin every night
For children in kindergarten, you can rely upon basic storybooks to help your child learn the language. Bring home a collection of short stories and let your child pick one every night.
Of course, this does not mean that you stick to Mandarin every night but give the child a variety to choose from so they make the language a part of their nightly exercise.
Reading a story in Mandarin will help your child associate with the language better and also learn new words and emotions. Picture books are great too and further help associate different objects and words.
Moreover, you can always translate it into English to help them understand further.
2. Add Chinese movies/shows to their TV time
Screen time has tremendously increased in the past few years and there’s little you can do about reversing that now. Instead, make sure that you use this time more productively. If your child wants to spend the next 30 minutes watching one cartoon after another, negotiate with them to watch something in Mandarin for 15 minutes.
There are several movies and shows across streaming platforms that they can watch in Mandarin, especially translations, which will only help them learn the language more successfully.
For older children who can read, subtitles are a great way to get them acquainted with a new language as they understand what’s happening. Your child will automatically take more interest without you realising.
3. Add new Mandarin words to their vocabulary every week
Make a journal of new Mandarin words that you want your child to learn every week. Give your little one a new set of words to learn every week and you can even place them around the house to keep your child reminding about the same.
You can add them to the fridge door using magnets or place them in their room on the study table or play area. The idea is for your children to remember to learn those words and the more often they see it, the faster they’ll be able to pick them up.
Another great technique would be to write and paste Mandarin words across different objects in the house. So, the table can be zhuōzi, television can be diànshì, and a car can be chē. Depending on your child’s reading skills, you can adjust the words.
4. Incorporate Mandarin into your day
Slowly and steadily, start adding Mandarin to your daily conversations. For instance, you can count from one to 10 or higher every day, or sing a nursery rhyme in Mandarin. At the same time, ask questions that your child will find it easy to answer.
For instance, you can ask in Mandarin, “Have you seen my blue clip?” And encourage them to answer in Mandarin. At the same time, ask questions like, “what colour is the carrot?” Encourage them to answer ‘Chéngzi’ in Mandarin instead of orange. Also encourage to say please, sorry and thank you, in Mandarin.
5. Work with a professional tutor
Once you’ve covered the basics of Mandarin and your kids are picking it up well, you should encourage them to learn the language completely and for this, you may require a professional tutor. This works on both – private and school levels – depending on your language selection.
If your kids are learning Mandarin at school, speak to their tutor about how you can be more involved in the learning process. You can also get a clear idea of where your child needs help and how can you make it a better learning experience.
However, if you haven’t opted for Mandarin in school as the second language, you can always hire a private tutor and help your child learn the language in a more effective manner.
You can also look for different apps online that also help with the learning process. Look for Pleco for beginners that get you started with Chinese characters. There’s also Hello Talk for older children, while the app Anki is useful for experts who want to widen their vocabulary.
Learning Mandarin For Kindergarten Students: 5 Practical Tips For Parents
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1. Be responsive
Make sure to observe your little one’s reactions and continue the conversation according to the same. It will ensure that your child participates in the conversation, allowing them to strengthen their command of the language.
2. Ask and answer as often as possible
There’s nothing like the good ol’ question and answer round when learning a new language. Try and have complete conversations in Mandarin to further help your child learn the language. Asking questions stimulates the mind and will ensure your child works on sentence construction, grammar, vocabulary and speech before answering the same.
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat
An age-old technique that works all the time is repeating the words you want kids to pick up more often. For children, it may just sound the same initially, but they will start associating it eventually with the language.
4. Use songs and actions
Just like learning any other language, use nursery rhymes, songs and even movies in Mandarin to expose your child to the language itself.
When speaking to your child in Mandarin, make sure to exaggerate your body language and add more facial expressions to get their attention. It gives children visual cues to associate different words with different emotions.
By the time your child starts learning Mandarin for kindergarten, they’ll be well-versed with the basics of the language.
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