Monday, March 5, 2012

Teaching Young Children Chinese - The Must Read Guide

Children change in every learning stage, thus our teaching methods need to be changed accordingly.
The following are the helpful guidelines in teaching young children Chinese, which are more appropriate for toddler or preschoolers who just started learning Chinese:

1) Learning through plays
Young Children has short focus span, in order to get their focus and interest, you will need to let them play and learn at the same time. This has been my methodology since I started teaching my girl when she's 28 months old, and this apply in teaching Chinese too.
Some parents told me, they couldn't make their children sit down and learn, they asked me how do I make my girl sit down and listen to me. The answer is, I have never made my girl sit down to learn from me, when I show her something interesting, she would come over and listen to me.
"Interesting" is the key point here, you need to catch their attention and sell your stuff to them before their attention went off.

2) Understand the Chinese Characters
Chinese characters are Logograms, unlike English words which are Phonograms. This means, it is easier to tell the meaning of a Chinese character, than to pronounce it, while for English, you might be able to read the word, even though you do not know the meaning of it. I thus strongly disagree with the method of teaching Han Yu Pin Yin first without teaching the Chinese characters.
You need to understand the difference of Chinese and English, in order to teach your children effectively. When teaching English, we start with alphabets and phonics, but when teaching Chinese, we should emphasize on words recognition and the meaning.
Chinese characters can be very fun and meaningful, e.g. 日(sun) is evolved from the shape of sun, 口(mouth) looked like the shape of mouth, 月(moon) is similar to a crescent moon and etc.

3) Make your lesson interesting and interactive
As mentioned in point 2, Chinese characters are very meaningful, when teaching Chinese, we should make it fun and interesting by elaborating the meaning of the word, instead of forcing the kids to memorise the meaning of the word, which could be very dry and boring.
E.g. when teaching 人(human), we can use our body to make the shape of this word by putting our hands down and stepping forward. You can tell the kid,"all human are 人, do I look like the word 人?"
E.g. when teaching 哭(cry), we can ask the kid what will come out from the eyes when you are crying? If the kid says "tears", you can tell him "yes, tears, look at the word哭, does it look like someone crying with a drop of tears below the eyes?

4) Not necessary to teach the simple words first
Some parents thought they should start with easy words or words with lesser strokes first, but this is not the case. Simple or tough words are the same to our little ones, they memorise the words through its graphics, some simple words might be more confusing to them. E.g. 三(three) and 川(river), they might think these 2 words are the same.
Difficult words like 美(beautiful) can be broken down into 羊(sheep) 大(big), which you can explain like "a big sheep is considered beautiful", 一只大大(big)的羊(sheep)是不是很美(beautiful)? A story can make the kid memories the word easily.

5) For multiple sounds or meaning characters, teach the most commonly used one first
Some characters have more than one sound or meaning, we should teach the commonly used one first. E.g. 好(for meaning of "good", it is pronounced as hao3; for meaning of interest i.e. 爱好, it is pronounced as hao4), we should teach the kids 好 means "good", if you are behaving yourself, you are 好宝宝(good baby). After they accepted this word, we can introduce them to other meanings of the word.

6) Use proper pronunciation
It is common to speak local Chinese in our country, we are especially lazy in pronouncing the 翘舌声母like Chi, Shi, Zhi and long sound ended with "ng". We should speak proper language when teaching young children, as it is easier to pick the language up at young but it will be very difficult to correct it after they grow older.

7) Teach the words that they can see and understand first
It is easier to learn words like 头(head), 手(hand), 口(mouth), 爸爸(father), 妈妈(mother), 生气(angry), 开心(happy) than words like 很(very), 的(adverb), 哪里(where).
We should start with words that the kid can visualise or understand first.

8) Keep your explanation simple and short
Try not to give long explanation on a word, the kid might not be able to absorb all. E.g. when you teach 坐(sit), you may explain it as "宝宝坐在椅子上的坐"(baby sitting on a chair). Tell them something they can understand, instead of confuse them with long winded explanation.

9) Avoid teaching similar words at a time
Words like 鸟(bird), 乌(dark), 枭, look very similar to the kids. They will easily get confused over the words. We should teach them the easy one first, example 鸟(bird), the next time when they see 乌鸦(dark bird i.e. crow) we can explain to them this word 乌 is not bird, it does not have the 'eye' (point to the dot) in it, it means dark colour.

10) Encourage early reading
There are kids who can recognise more than 1000 Chinese words but do not like to study Chinese. Parents should encourage reading in young kids once they are able to recognise a few words. They will only appreciate the Chinese characters when they realise those characters can tell them story when put together. Reading help to cultivate their interest in Chinese and encourage them to find out more about Chinese language.

Do not force if your children are still not picking Chinese up. The above are just some useful tips which might or might not be suitable for your kids. This article is written in English to assist those English speaking parents, but it is more advisable to teach Chinese by speaking and explaining in Chinese.

I hope the above is useful for you :) Do like my Facebook page "Learn The Fun Way" if you like this article and would like to get more updates :)

2 comments:

Duke Cheng on September 21, 2014 at 9:05 PM said...

I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and  I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!

Chinese Lessons for Kids

Mr Jon on June 7, 2016 at 5:02 PM said...
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