- Tip #1: Sign your Child up to Chinese Lessons for Kids at a Chinese Association
- Tip #2: Download an App for Learning Chinese
- Tip #3: Provide them with Chinese Resources
- Tip #4: Get your Child Private Chinese Tutorials
- Tip #5: Sign Up Teenagers to Chinese Language Channels
- Tip #6: Participate with Them in Chinese Cultural Workshops
- Tip #7: Find Resources to Make Learning Fun
- Tip #8: Send them to Mandarin Chinese Conversation Workshops
- Tip #9: Take them to Chinese Group Classes to Meet Other Learners
- Tip #10: Encourage your Child to Write to a Penfriend
- Tip #11: Enrol your Child in an International School
- Tip #12: Organise a Trip to China with Your Child
The Chinese language is actually a group of related languages that are spoken by around 16% of the world's population. However, these languages aren't necessarily mutually intelligible, which means a speaker of one mightn't be able to understand the speaker of another.
Within China, the languages in this group are considered dialects. However, there's a strong case for them being classified as different languages, namely the mutual intelligibility we just mentioned.
Of the languages in this group, Mandarin Chinese is the most common and is spoken by around 960 million people. Mandarin also has a number of different local varieties and dialects which are also not mutually intelligible. However, to keep things simple, it's generally considered to be one language.
There's a standardised form of the language which is used officially, taught in schools around mainland China and is what you'll learn if you study Chinese. Generally speaking, Chinese and Mandarin are used interchangeably in common parlance and when we say Chinese, we mean Mandarin Chinese. If we're referring to another Chinese language, we'll say which one.
Learning a language, especially one as complicated as Chinese, can take anywhere between 3 and 10 years of practice as well as the right approaches when children are concerned. Children need to be interested in learning a language or they’ll quickly give up.
So how exactly can you help children to learn Chinese?
Since it can be difficult for a beginner to start speaking Chinese, in this article, we’ve got some tips for you on making learning Mandarin Chinese effective and enjoyable for your children.
Tip #1: Sign your Child up to Chinese Lessons for Kids at a Chinese Association
To learn how to speak Chinese, there’s nothing better than working with native speakers. There are plenty of Chinese associations around the UK who like to promote Chinese culture and language.
Did you know that despite a growing demand for Chinese speakers, more students are still studying European languages like French and Spanish?
They can work on Chinese pronunciation, tones, and conversational Chinese in group classes and learn to read during literature classes. There’s often a focus on grammatical aspects of the language so that they can get by in the language.
If you are based in London, then you might like to contact the Children's Chinese School which offers courses for kids aged 4-17. Costing between £45 and £55 an hour, lessons are conducted in the comfort of your own home which is perfect for those children who prefer to be on familiar ground. Classes typically run for 2 hours at a time with regular breaks.
The Chinese courses aim to introduce children to the Mandarin language whilst in a comfortable environment, using modern teaching methods to keep the lessons fun and active. The classes are even tailored to your child's interests to make them excited about the prospect of learning Chinese, and are designed to improve your child's reading, listening and writing Mandarin skills whilst also teaching them colloquial Mandarin so that they can participate in conversations and be social with Mandarin speakers. With their help, your son or daughter could even find a penpal in China to engage with (see more on penpals below)!
Moreover, the teachers of this language course are committed to encouraging confidence with language learning and offering the pupils a steady and progressive improvement in their abilities.
All teachers are DBS checked and highly qualified in the Mandarin language.
That’s our first tip for getting your kids involved in learning Chinese.
Tip #2: Download an App for Learning Chinese
How many children would prefer to play on a tablet rather than go to class?
Probably almost all of them! A good tip for learning Chinese is to get them learning digitally. Both free apps and paid apps can help children to learn!
You can download an app according to your child’s level:
- For beginners, there’s Pleco, which can help you get started with Chinese characters.
- Intermediates can use HelloTalk to meet other learners.
- Anki is useful for experts wanting to broaden their vocabulary.
As well as the above more specialised apps, the industry's dominating language learning app, DuoLingo, offers Mandarin as a choice. DuoLingo is free and is ever popular which just shows how well it works.
DuoLingo is a very popular award-winning language learning app that boasts the ability to help you learn Chinese online by spending just five minutes a day going over its mini-tutorials. The addictive free app enables students to earn points for correct answers, race against the clock and move up levels. All of these aspects combined to make DuoLingo an exciting way to learn a new language like Mandarin.
As well as Mandarin, you can learn German, learn Japanese, learn Arabic, learn Italian and many more languages.
Tip #3: Provide them with Chinese Resources
Even mobile-addicts can enjoy a good book from time to time. That’s why you should get your child some good books on language learning and learning Chinese including:
- An English-Chinese dictionary
- The writings of Confucius (it’s a collector's piece)
- A Chinese vocabulary book and a Chinese grammar book
If you are keen for your child to learn Mandarin in a way that he or she perceives to be a bit more "fun", then “My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book” by Faye Lynn Wu is the perfect paperback option. Not only does it introduce Chinese symbols and words, it also gives them a great insight into Chinese culture which is something you can't put a price on. The rhymes are fantastic, and help the learner to grasp all of the basic sounds of Mandarin Chinese without much effort at all. It's a great way for them to learn a brand new language!
See a few samples taken from the book below which show how the book is formatted:
"A is for Ài 爱. Ài means Love.
B is for Bāozi 包子. Bāo zi is the name of a popular Chinese snack that consists of a stuffed bun.
C is for Chá 茶. Chá means Tea."
You can buy this lovely, educational storybook from Amazon.
With these, your child will be ready to start their intensive Chinese lessons!
Tip #4: Get your Child Private Chinese Tutorials
Whether they’re planning on learning quickly or just getting the hang of Chinese, private Chinese tutorials with a private tutor are an effective way of teaching them a new language.
Because a private Chinese tutor can tailor their lessons to the needs and abilities of the child.
Did you know that there are Chinese tutors on Superprof all over the UK?
It’s not difficult to get started. The private tutor will act as a guide and integrate cultural knowledge about China into their lessons, too.
Every parent wants the best future for their children, and further academic support is sometimes necessary for helping children achieve their best. They may be performing lower than average for a number of reasons, but even students that excel in school can benefit greatly from the help of a private tutor and achieve top grades. Whether they’re at primary school, secondary school, college, or university, academic support tutorials are great as, more often than not, a language tutor will be able to offer additional insight into the country's culture rather than simply teaching them the 'commercial' language.
The main difference between one on one tutoring and learning in school is that, with academic tutoring, you're usually the only student and thus get all of the focus. Unlike in school where the teacher is tasked with providing general instruction to a number of students, tutors are expected to tailor their lessons to each individual student.
Superprof is an online platform for tutors to advertise their services and to connect with pupils. The website offers you the option to filter tutors based on your preferred search criteria, whether that be price, years of experience, location, etc...
Some Chinese tutors are natives from Chinese provinces, whilst others are those who have mastered the Mandarin language as a second language or additional mother-tongue. While not all are qualified teachers, many have experience of teaching students of various levels and can put together a series of online or face to face lessons for you.
Tip #5: Sign Up Teenagers to Chinese Language Channels
The best way to get teens to work on their Chinese speaking and listening is to give unlimited access to Chinese audiovisual resources such as:
- Chinese films with famous actors
- YouTube channels covering topics that they’re interested in
- Sites with podcasts on Chinese culture and the People's Republic of China
A good variety of resources can help keep things interesting. You could even take them to the cinema to see a film!
Additionally, most of these resources can be taken with them wherever they go, helping them learn to read and write on their own and practise speaking and listening to native speakers.
Tip #6: Participate with Them in Chinese Cultural Workshops
In order to teach children more effectively, you need to use a variety of learning resources, especially when it comes to learning languages. There are tonnes of options when it comes to learning Chinese:
- Chinese writing, characters, or sinographs.
- Games for remembering words, characters, and meanings.
- Immersion classes on Chinese culture like the Chinese New Year, for example.
Have a look at local Chinese associations for these kinds of events.
These will help you keep your child interested in the language and make learning it much easier. You can also join in, making it an activity you can both do together.
Tip #7: Find Resources to Make Learning Fun
Learning Chinese doesn’t need to just be about studying and memorising ideograms and new vocabulary. There are plenty of amazing Mandarin Chinese resources for learning more about the language.
Why not learn about traditional Chinese painting?
Artistic kids will love this as there are plenty of great Chinese artworks that can inspire them to learn more about China and the language.
Kids can also enjoy Chinese food, which is varied and relatively healthy.
Why not do a Chinese cooking workshop together one Saturday afternoon?
It’d be a great opportunity to use some Chinese food vocabulary from the previous week’s lesson. It’ll also make you realise how much easier it is teaching them Chinese!
Another idea is to let your little one watch their favourite TV programmes in the new language.
If you aren't sure where to find translated episodes of your child's favourite shows, then the first places to look are on Amazon TV or YouTube for Kids. What's more, if you have a Sky TV package subscription, you can often find channels dedicated to foreign languages and may discover a channel that you and your child can watch on a regular basis to get them used to hearing the sounds of Mandarin when spoken by natives.
You never know, you could discover a new cool cartoon!
Tip #8: Send them to Mandarin Chinese Conversation Workshops
Which is the best way to make friends and practise a new language?
Conversation classes, of course! You can find them in larger cities and educational establishment. While you usually have to pay to attend, some of them are free!
It’s recommended that you practise at least 2 hours per week in order to maintain your level.
The goal is to be able to speak with other learners from all over the world. Everyone is in the same boat and it can help you speak with more confidence. It’s also perfect for helping your child speak fluently. After just a few sessions, they’ll be completely indepedent.
Tip #9: Take them to Chinese Group Classes to Meet Other Learners
You’ll soon see that Mandarin Chinese isn’t the only type of Chinese around, there’s also Cantonese and Wan, to name a couple. While some variants may seem very similar at first glance, you’ll soon see how varied and different they are. An awareness of these will also help your child become more aware of just how diverse Chinese culture is.
Chinese associations can help them become aware of this. These associations are often run by volunteers and native speakers. They are keen to share their culture and language with everyone, including children. They’re also great places to meet new people with the same interests. They might even end up going to China in the future with their new friends!
This will encourage your child to learn, making learning Chinese much easier.
Instead of searching for Mandarin London or Mandarin Leeds courses, why not enlist a Superprof Mandarin tutor?
Tip #10: Encourage your Child to Write to a Penfriend
Not only is maintaining a friendship with a penpal made so much easier now that you can correspond via email, text message, Skype, Whatsapp and more, this also facilitates a better bond by allowing you to get to know each other much faster thanks to a quicker connection and prompt replies!
No more waiting for letters or postcards to arrive in the post!
Another great advantage of helping your child find a penpal is knowing that he or she will have a connection who they can call on when they decide to take their first trip to China.
Whether you ask to stay with them or you request their advice for accommodation in the area, it is always useful knowing someone local so that they can show you the best places to go, talk to you and introduce you to others. So, even if your child and their penpal don't click, they may happen to get on really well with one of their friends instead!
Using the telephone to speak to someone in your second language can be absolutely terrifying, even for someone who is a near-native. Not being able to communicate using body language or facial expressions, nor being able to see the other person's reactions and responses to what you're saying (or trying to say!) can feel humiliating but please don't let this hold your child back from trying to have a spoken conversation with their buddy. The more regularly they do it, and the more encouragement they get from you, the more confident they will be in speaking to absolutely anybody in their new language!
A couple of examples of websites dedicated to those seeking penpals from other countries are My Language Exchange and Global Penfriends. The first protects your personal details whilst allowing you to create a profile and check the identity of others by viewing what they've said about themselves and their reasons for wanting to pair up with someone as well as looking at their picture.
The latter, meanwhile, is a family-friendly website which hopes to connect genuine people with mutual interests. Its existing members have nothing but positive things to say.
You may want to take charge of the process if your child is too young to surf the Internet on their own.
Tip #11: Enrol your Child in an International School
Indeed, some schools may not offer the option to study Mandarin but there are many schools across the country which have this and many other languages on their curriculum. Day and boarding school Hockerill Anglo-European College, located in Bishop's Stortford between London and Cambridge is an example of an establishment for 11-18 year-olds which offers Mandarin at GCSE level.
What's more, schools like the above often have great links to schools in the countries of the languages which they teach and can, therefore, offer the opportunity to take part in school trips abroad or exchanges. While it may be costly, you should try your best to snap up the opportunity to let your children take part in a non-compulsory exchange trip. Not only could they make great friends with their exchange student, but they will also learn so much more than can be learnt in a classroom just by being amongst the Chinese culture.
You can find a list of all of the international schools found in the United Kingdom by visiting the website Expat Quotes.
The Cambridge IGCSE Chinese Mandarin course states that it:
"[aims] to develop an ability to use the language effectively for purposes of practical communication. The course is based on the linked language skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing, and these are built on as learners progress through their studies.
The syllabus also aims to offer insights into the culture and civilisation of countries where Mandarin Chinese is spoken, encouraging positive attitudes towards language learning and towards speakers of foreign languages."
Tip #12: Organise a Trip to China with Your Child
An intensive Chinese course is always better in China! There are tonnes of options in addition to Beijing and Taiwan. There are a number of different types of language exchanges and language stays:
- Language classes in the morning with cultural activities in the afternoon.
- Staying with a host family in order to fully immerse themselves in the language.
- Work-study stays in a business (usually for over 16s).
- A holiday where they travel wherever they want in the country with other learners.
Of course, you need to plan this type of trip: think about getting in touch with all the appropriate authorities in the UK in order to arrange visas, accommodation, etc. Travelling is the best way to encourage your children to learn a language.
In short, learning a foreign language is always an enjoyable challenge, no matter what age the learner. To make teaching your child Chinese easier, just follow our advice and consider getting some help from one of the many great tutors on Superprof!