A bespectacled girl enjoys learning Chinese

5 Principles for Teaching Your Child Mandarin Chinese

Learning Chinese is difficult enough. Teaching it is no easier. If you have tried teaching your child Chinese, you may realise that teaching Chinese requires more than just linguistic skills. You’re right. An effective Chinese teacher knows not just the language, but also research-backed principles behind language acquisition. Here are some helpful principles you should know for teaching your child Chinese.

Two boys pointing their fingers at different directions during a grocery store trip

1. Immersive Learning

The idea of the immersive learning method is to immerse yourself in situations where, by design, you have to use the target language. Applying this to learning Chinese, a Mandarin-speaking environment is the most conducive. Because everywhere you are in is a classroom. In a restaurant, you need to order in Mandarin. In a grocery store, you see only Chinese labels. On the streets, you see only sign boards in Chinese. This primes you to pick up Chinese more quickly.

The lack of an immersive learning environment explains why learning Chinese could be challenging in Singapore.

Although a substantial proportion of the population is ethnic Chinese, the day-to-day communications are in English. Therefore, the responsibility of creating an immersive learning environment falls on the parents’ shoulders. If you would like to know some of the ways you could do this, check out this article.

Understanding how spaced repetitions helps with learning is important in learning Chinese

2. Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve & Spaced Repetition

Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve (or simply ‘the forgetting curve’) tells us that our memory of a new thing we have learned fades over time. Spaced repetition tells us that repeated exposure with multiple-day intervals in between solidifies the memory and turns it into knowledge that remains with us.

Instead of cramming glossaries in short bursts of time, you will want to repeat the new terms, words and phrases your child has acquired over time. The name of this practice: spaced repetitions. A strategically thought-out spaced repetition involves the revision of vocabulary based on topics and vocabulary applied in sentence structures.

Understanding how intelligence is manifested differently in children helps them enjoy learning

3. Theory of Multiple Intelligences

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This famous quote may or may not have come from Albert Einstein. But it brings out the concept of multiple intelligence.

The Multiple Intelligences theory explains that we humans have different types of intelligence. It challenged the traditional view that focuses on a single type of intelligence, the general intelligence, which only focuses on cognitive abilities. It introduces another eight types of intelligence: verbal-linguistic (word smart), logical-mathematical (reasoning smart), visual-spatial (picture smart), bodily-kinaesthetic (body smart), musical (music smart), interpersonal (people smart), intrapersonal (self smart), and naturalist (nature smart).

Mainstream classrooms employ the more traditional linguistic or logical methods of instruction. But one size does not fit all. If your child does not learn well under the traditional methods, try incorporating other methods, like pictures (spatial intelligence), music (musical intelligence), social experience (interpersonal intelligence) and an experience in the outdoors (naturalist intelligence).

Learners learn best when they are also having fun

4. Theory of Gamified Learning

“Learners learn best when they are also having fun.” That is the core belief of the Gamified Learning (GL) theory.

Like how video games intrigue children, young learners show similar levels of engagement when the game-based elements are incorporated into learning materials. This is relevant today more than ever before. Because today’s digital-native young learners are exposed to game-based elements in the toys and games that they play from a young age.

An example of gamified learning: At LingoAce, our pre-school learners immerse in animated stories with our own original characters, Tigo and Duoduo. They get to know new friends with Tigo, and learn new words with Duoduo. Each lesson is just like a different episode of a children’s programme.

Incorporating physical movements, like gesturing and signing, helps children pick up new Chinese words and phrases

5. Total Physical Response (TPR)

The last thing a child could do in the traditional classroom is to make excessive movements. But the Total Physical Response (TPR) method says that creating physical movements to define words, phrases, and sentences help learners make connections to them.

An example of how you apply TPR in teaching your child Chinese: Say you want to introduce飞机 (fēi jī, which means “aeroplane” in Chinese). You first enunciate the pinyin “fēi jī”. Then, you make a

gesture of a flying aircraft and mimic the sound of a roaring engine. Now, get your child to repeat after you. This helps your child pick up the new word by connecting it to the gesture and the sound.

By involving the auditory and physical senses, your child develops a deeper impression of the new word. Repeating it from time to time makes the impression and learning lasts.

Teaching Chinese is no easier than learning it. It takes continued commitment, well-informed pedagogy (such as the five principles shared above) and passion to make it work. We are here to make it work together with you.

At LingoAce, 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 Chinese learning first-hand through a free trial lesson with us today.

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