As one of the most difficult languages to learn, Chinese – one of the mother tongues – is a PSLE examinable subject that many parents fret over. The fact is, immersion is the key to fluency in any language. If your child has little interest in the Chinese language, getting him or her to study it will be an uphill task.
Growing up immersed in a largely English-speaking environment, I found the Chinese language irrelevant and boring. However, there were a few simple things that kept me rooted to my mother tongue and eventually helped me become proficient in the language. If your child is struggling in his or her Chinese exams, try these 4 simple ways to interest your child in Chinese instead of drilling them.
1. Learn Chinese with Comics
If your child finds Chinese characters too tedious to be worth reading, a textbook passage will simply turn him/her off. Comics, however, can get them started on reading with less text and more pictures. In the past, many Japanese manga comics were translated only into Chinese and as a result, I had to read Chinese in order to enjoy the adventures of Doraemon and the like. In fact, some comics may even contain Chinese characters that are beyond the child’s learning scope and help in growing their vocabulary.
2. Watch the News in Chinese
You must be wondering: “How would watching the news help when my kid can’t even understand it?” Well, that’s the way we all begin to learn a language. Even without completely understanding what is being said, watching the news and other television programmes in Chinese will help your child to subconsciously recognise subtle tonal differences and grammatical structure – all while helping them develop an interest in current affairs.
3. Challenge their Chinese Vocabulary
Whenever possible, you can quiz your child on the Chinese equivalent of any nouns or verbs you happen to be using. Be it the names of food, feelings, or clothing, take the opportunity to teach your child how to say it in Chinese. It doesn’t matter if he or she forgets – the goal is not to drill them and make it a dreaded activity, but a fun game that kids will look forward to playing.
4. Share the Family History
Giving your child a personal interest in Chinese can start from emphasizing the importance of knowing his or her family history. When I was a child, my mother made me learn how to write the names of my closest family members and told me stories about my grandparents: how they migrated from different parts of China, how they met, and so on. These fascinating tales helped me see how the language was an important part of my culture.
What if I’m not fluent in Chinese?
If you’re not fluent in Chinese or don’t speak the language at all, this is a good opportunity for you to learn together with your child. Not only does it get them more interested in the language, it also gives your child some friendly competition and a sense of pride if he or she is more fluent than you. You can even encourage your child to teach you as that will help them reinforce what they have learned.
What other methods do you use to get your child excited about learning Chinese, or any other language?