November 12, 2020
Making Mandarin Fun: 8 Tips for Parents
“I hate my Chinese class. I don’t like learning Chinese. I don’t want to write characters …”
Are these the words you’re hearing from your child? Whether mumbled or yelled, these few words are indicative of a problem about to explode. If your youngster has been doing well in his or her Mandarin classes but develops a sudden aversion to it, you need to find out what changed. Student frustration with a subject escalates rapidly and it’s far easier to address the problem at the onset.
Kids tend to show immense interest and enthusiasm when they are first introduced to a new class or activity. Everything is new and fascinating. However, their interest rapidly wanes if the class becomes mundane, tedious, or too difficult. In other words, fun and stimulation have been lost. At five years old, kids love learning Mandarin but by the time they are seven to ten years old, many do not. If your child is beginning to exhibit these signs, now is the time to turn the tables and help your child by making Chinese classes fun. And FUN really is the magical word! Fun means engaging in activities that are interactive, relevant to their world, and mentally stimulating.
Your child’s Mandarin teacher at school will probably be looking after dozens of children in any given class. Of course, this impacts the teacher’s ability to focus on a specific child and can result in missing the warning signs and causes of a student’s frustration. As the parent, you know your child better than anyone; you are the best person to influence, nurture, maintain, and foster their learning interests.
If your child begins to show signs of annoyance and even irritation when he or she has to do her Mandarin homework or prepare for class, you should be prepared to step in and prevent the situation from unraveling even further. Incorporating tools to help your child become relaxed and interested in learning Mandarin can be the best way to accomplish this.
Follow these 8 easy tips to help your child love learning Mandarin again:
- Be there with your child, mentally and emotionally, during the learning journey! Help ease the feeling of isolation that exists before acquiring confidence in a foreign language. Celebrate every new word learned. Stickers are a wonderful reward for effort and accomplishment. Create a “My Mandarin Accomplishments!” board and watch it fill up with those stickers.
- Buy and incorporate Chinese books, games, puzzles, sing-along music, and age-appropriate movies that attract your child’s interest. Make use of their natural curiosity and attraction to these items – then play the games and sing with them.
- Enroll your child in an extracurricular language program that meets at least twice a week. A young child’s brains (and their learning capacity) function like a sponge. Immersion, or as close as you can achieve it through increased exposure, increases their comfort zone in the learning process. Remember: having fun is important, but the goal is to develop solid linguistic foundations and skills. If your child is having tons of fun but isn’t showing improvement, it might be time to start searching for another program.
- Expose your children to Chinese cultural and sporting events. You could even sneak off to Beijing to spend a weekend there. Participate as a family to give them insights, understanding, and delight in learning more about the culture (and in extension, the language).
- Join some of the Mandarin programs with your children to make it less intimating for them (you’re their safety blanket at this point). When they become comfortable and confident in their own learning ability, simply step back and let them fly on their own.
- Expand your family’s social circle by organizing playdates with neighbors and their children who speak Putonghua. Encouraging playtime with young native Mandarin speakers helps lay the groundwork for new friendships and increased language learning.
- Create a Chinese corner at home and set a time for your child to teach you a few Chinese words on a daily basis. Make a treasure box and let your child fill it with Chinese words that he or she just taught you (then handwrote onto flashcards), and display the box proudly.
- Be supportive of your child and don’t squander their interest. But at the same time, don’t push them too hard! Pressuring your child to learn too much in one go or filling up his or her schedule with too many Mandarin-related activities will result in burn out, and make him or her dread Mandarin time – the very thing you’ve been trying to remedy. Remember, learning a foreign language is a marathon, not a sprint, so expect a few snags along the way.