Tips for non-Chinese parents supporting children learning Chinese
We already have an article with Chinese language learning activities for families — from taking an online Chinese language course for children, to games, and watching Chinese movies. In this article, we share tips for supporting your children in learning Mandarin, specifically for non-Chinese parents.
Maybe this situation applies to you:
- You don’t live in China or a Chinese language speaking country
- The language in your family is not Chinese
- You don’t speak very good Mandarin yourself, or maybe none at all
Let’s see about that!
Creating an environment for speaking Chinese
Repetition is great for learning the Chinese language. It’s good if a child, after learning new Chinese words, immediately uses them in a real-life situation. Even if you don’t speak Chinese yourself, you can ask your child about what she or he learned. Usually, kids love teaching! So let your child teach you Chinese.
You could either look at the notes or the homework materials from the GoEast Mandarin teacher, and use those to create games or just ask. For instance, if your child just finished the class on different types of food, you can ask: “What would you like to eat? Anything! But you need to say it in Chinese!” Any chance your child will say 披萨Bǐsà (pizza) or 汉堡Hànbǎo (hamburger)?
We have a whole article here for real Chinese language learning games here.
Set language learning goals
It helps to set both short & long-term goals. Short term goals for learning Chinese could be:
- Learn how to count in Chinese numbers from 1 to 10 next week
- Learn how to mention basic colors in Chinese next month
- Read a children book in Chinese next month
- Write “I am eight years old” in Chinese Hanzi characters
Long term goals are more abstract:
- Find out a good learning rhythm and schedule
- Finish a certain level, YCT (Youth Chinese Test) or HSK, at a certain date
Then there are also ‘timeless goals’, which you want to always apply, such as:
- Enjoy the language learning process
- Make progress, no matter how small, with each lesson
Of course, GoEast will help you achieve these goals, but support from the parents goes a long way to our Chinese classes for children.
Join a language learning group
If you live in a big city (or even in a small city), chances are there are language learning groups, even for kids. If not, you can start one! Scout local forums, search Facebook, ask parents, hang up a poster with your mobile phone number in a Chinese restaurant or in a Chinese suburb. Chances are there are events for children.
So even if you are a parent who doesn’t speak Chinese her- or himself, you can give your child the opportunity to speak Chinese with others. This is a great way because if your child speaks with more people than just her or his Chinese teacher, she or he will get used to more accents and ways of talking.
Find an Au pair or baby sitter who speaks Chinese
First, an Au pair can be a great member of your family. This is usually a young person who lives abroad in a host family. They can take care of some parts of the households and/or children, in exchange for a place to live and maybe some pocket money. If you search specifically for an Au pair who speaks Chinese, then obviously this person can speak Chinese with your child. The same goes for a babysitter who speaks Chinese.
We don’t believe these roles can replace a real Chinese teacher, but they will create more possibilities for your child to speak Chinese, if the parents don’t speak Chinese themselves.
Lastly, how about you learn Chinese yourself?
Crazy right?! But there are several reasons to learn Chinese, and this can be a great experience for you as well. In one or two years you can achieve an elementary, intermediate or even an advanced level of Chinese speaking, together with your child. Maybe your child will go to China to study or work there, and when you visit him or her, you can also speak Chinese! Learning the Chinese language can be a great way of bonding. GoEast has Chinese language courses for adult learners, taught online as well as in Shanghai. Besides, if you tell your child to take learning Chinese seriously, what better example than to lead the way?