In Singapore, where it is possible to get by with speaking only in English, it can be quite the struggle motivating children to excel in Mandarin.
How many times have you heard fellow parents admitting that even for them, speaking in English is “easier” than speaking in Mandarin? In fact, have there ever been times when you felt the same way? It may feel like a hopeless cause when you speak Mandarin to your children, only to have them speak English back to you. Every. Single. Time.
If that is the case, you deserve a pat on the back for trying even harder to encourage your children to learn Chinese. There is a way for it to be easier.
Mandarin For Toddlers
It is never too early to implement Mandarin in your children’s daily lives. The good news is that Mandarin for toddlers can be a fun and natural learning experience. This stage is perfect because they are receptive, curious, and most of all interested in play.
Do not wait until they are in primary school to start getting serious about Mandarin. They will have enough pressure then already. To make the transition easier, get them interested in Mandarin in their preschool years. Follow these tips for creative ways to teach your toddler Mandarin in Singapore.
1. Narrate your actions in Mandarin
Speak to your child in Chinese is a general “blanket” advice. Yes, it is important to do so in order to provide an “immersive” Mandarin-speaking environment at home. But there is another goal: speak to expand your child’s vocabulary.
Once you are mindful of this purpose, you may converse with your toddler in Mandarin differently. How so? By increasing your effort to narrate and verbalise your actions and surroundings with more descriptions.
Many of us tend to talk to toddlers in simplified language or “baby talk,” but try not to dumb down your language.
When you intentionally select certain nouns, adjectives and verbs to describe common activities (i.e. cooking, taking a stroll, painting, etc.), your child will experience the beauty of the Chinese language, and be exposed to new metaphors, idioms and sayings.
Yes, it may take more effort on your part in the beginning, but think about it: If you persevere, eventually your child will pick up these vocabulary words and speak more eloquently.
2. Adopt a play-based approach
As mentioned above, Mandarin for toddlers is mostly about play. Choose fun activities such as “Simon Says” or Chinese story time, and keep them brief. Little ones may have shorter attention spans, so stick to bite-sized, 10- to 15-minute activities to retain their interest and engagement.
A play-based approach is as much about your attitude as it is about the content you are teaching. Refrain from losing your temper if your child is reluctant to speak in Mandarin at first. Make it light and fun, encourage their participation, and cheer them on whenever they make progress. This could be uttering a sentence half in English and half in Chinese. Gradually they will improve.
3. Surround them with Mandarin-speaking friends and teachers
If you meet like-minded, Mandarin-focused parents, approach them for an informal playdate where everyone speaks Chinese. It may be quite an eye-opener for your little one to witness their peers and their peers’ parents conversing in Mandarin. Kids feel motivated to learn something when their friends are learning it too.
With that same idea in mind, look for Mandarin classes for toddlers that provide a solid foundation for Chinese, while nurturing fluency and a love for the language.
Steeped in our centres’ philosophy of “100% Respect, Zero Fear,” the Mandarin classes for toddlers at MindChamps Chinese PresSchool follow a natural, immersion-type approach filled with songs, games, nursery rhymes, traditional Chinese poems, and hands-on learning.
The point is to empower children to enjoy Mandarin – not turn them off from it.
“We make it fun and interactive such that children can ask questions, explore the answers, be engaged, and not even know they’re learning Mandarin because it feels so natural,” said Joyce Sun, centre director of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool at Tampines.
Written by Jenny Tai
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