5 Fun Ways To Help Your Child Learn Pinyin
If you plan to teach your child Mandarin Chinese, a great place for your child to start is by learning Pinyin. So, what is Pinyin? It is an efficient system designed by the Chinese, where Mandarin Chinese words are spelled out, according to the sounds they make, with the Roman alphabet. “Pinyin” means “spell out the sound” in Mandarin Chinese. Pinyin was initially developed to make it easier for English speakers to learn Mandarin Chinese. Once your child is confident in Pinyin, the switch between English to Mandarin Chinese and back will be much smoother.
Taking the first step can seem challenging, so here are 5 ways to help your children learn Pinyin:
1. Use the Hanyu initials and finals table
It is easier for children to understand new systems when broken down into smaller bits. This Hanyu Pinyin table displays the Pinyin syllables in columns and rows. It categorizes them as ‘initials’ and ‘finals’. A Hanyu Pinyin table may seem intimidating to a child at first glance. It is up to you to help them befriend this useful table and make it seem interesting. Each Mandarin Chinese character begins with an initial and ends with a final.
The table makes the characters easy to understand and translate for English speakers by using the Roman (English) alphabet to spell out the sound of each initial and final syllable. You can pick a few syllables at a time and practice it with your child until they are confident. Make the table into a display poster and put it up in your child’s playroom to help them revisit it every time they walk into the room. You can use a Hanyu Pinyin table that has colorful pictures and symbols to make it more appealing for your children.
2. Include facial expressions, tone of voice, and hand gestures while practicing Pinyin
When starting with Pinyin, one minor difficulty your children might face will be to learn new sounds and tones. Integrating facial expressions while pronouncing sounds and using emphatic hand gestures will engage the active minds of your children, and they will be able to mirror your tones.
Facial expressions will create a visual reference for them, while hand gestures like pointing or waving will make it easier to remember through association. When you smile, frown or show any other emotion through your face, it impacts your child’s memory and creates a positive association. It is always more efficient when you and your children spell out the characters together. Subtle acknowledgment of their progress will also strengthen their learning.
3. Integrate storytelling with learning
Familiarize your children with the sounds and tones of Mandarin Chinese while you put them to bed reading them children’s storybooks. Chinese bedtime stories are a great way to pique your child’s interest in Chinese culture. This is the best time to answer your child’s questions related to Mandarin Chinese like ‘what is Pinyin?’, ‘how are they used’, etc. The comfort of your voice, along with the regularity of the night routine, is sure to help them ease into the language without any bumps.
You can ask them to try and look at picture books with beginner-level Pinyin guides while you explain what the pictures mean. The colorful pictures can draw their attention while guiding them towards how the characters sound. Visual learning is more effective with younger children under age 12. Some popular Chinese stories for children include ‘How Molo stole the lovely Rose-Red,’ ‘Janice goes to Chinatown,’ ‘The Golden Beetle’, and many more.
4. Make Pinyin a part of playtime
Integrating learning with play has proved to be an efficient strategy for children of all ages. Playtime environments open up and engage a child’s mind to explore new things. You can use paint, clay, and crayons to allow your children to create Mandarin Chinese characters. This will encourage their creative abilities and enable them to invent their own methods to learn Pinyin. Children also love role play games, especially when they mimic adult activities like cooking, teaching, shopping, etc.
Combining spell sounds with these games can also be very enjoyable. Online animated games can incentivize children to stay hooked to Pinyin for longer. Some online games that help children learn Pinyin are ‘Digital Dialects,’ ‘Learn Chinese by Guihua Zhu,’ ‘Chinese in flow’ and more.
5. Keep it fun
One important thing to remember while teaching your children Mandarin Chinese is to keep the learning environment light and enjoyable for them. Despite our best intentions, learning can become a task for our children. It is helpful to remember that our children need a conducive learning space as their knowledge grows. You must soothe them as they face minor frustrations in their journey, and bring them back to the game so that their motivation to learn stays strong.
So, sing the Pinyin song along with your children and play some online Pinyin learning games with them as you and your child make this learning experience a time for bonding.
Common challenges while learning Pinyin
For children who are used to reading and writing in the English language, Pinyin might seem confusing at first glance. It might all appear the same to them when they look at it at first.
It is better to be prepared for some hiccups along the way while your child is learning a new language. The pronunciation of Pinyin letters is very different from the English letter pronunciation. Initially, children might forget the Pinyin pronunciation and return to their English pronunciation. Mandarin Chinese language sounds are unique. They don’t resemble any other language in the world. So, learning the Pinyin sounds will still be a challenge, irrespective of what a child’s first language is.
Learning Pinyin can be a fun, informative, and engaging experience for your children, provided they have all the helpful resources at their disposal. The journey begins with sounds, syllables, and pictures and can go on as long as your child desires. Once they know the basics, the sky has no limits. Whether they want to learn Mandarin Chinese to reconnect with their roots or become a professor when they grow up, it is up to them to dream, and it is up to us to fuel their dreams.
LingoAce has many helpful and innovative resources specially tailored to your child’s needs. Each lesson your child takes with us is a product of over 100 hours of curriculum creation, courseware production, mock teaching, teacher training, and quality control (QC) rounds. Experience a redefined Mandarin Chinese learning experience first-hand through a free trial lesson with us today.