When we talk about the Chinese language, it's important to remember that there are actually multiple related languages like Mandarin, Cantonese and Wu which are spoken by around 1.31 billion people around the world.

Of all of these languages, Mandarin Chinese is the most common, with about 70% of the population of China speaking this version, plus millions of other people around the world in their work and family.

When your child will start to learn Chinese, they will almost definitely be learning Mandarin, unless you specifically look for classes where they can study other dialects like Wu or Cantonese.

No matter which dialect they're studying, it will take a lot of time, work and practice to reach even an intermediate level. Chinese is a complex language because of its grammar, vocabulary and tones in pronunciation.

This means that for children to really excel in learning, they need to have a fun, motivating time even as their practising their language skills, whether it's writing characters, reading, listening or speaking.

No one would want to continue to study something that they find difficult and boring!

So what are some ways that we can make sure kids have fun while learning?

Here are our top ten tips on making Mandarin Chinese classes more effective and enjoyable for your children.

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Wang
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Xiaotong
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Tip #1: Enrol your child in a school that uses an immersion-based methodology

Enrolling children in a Chinese course is usually the first step for most parents who want their children to practice and understand Chinese characters and vocabulary, or even the Latin writing system of Pinyin.

However, some types of lessons. are being proven to be more efficient at helping children actually learn, especially for children 8 years and younger.

Because children are much better at passively acquiring language rather than actively learning it, the traditional classroom setting may not actually be the best choice for them.

We all know that young learners aren't great at sitting through grammar explanations or memorising rules and vocabulary so they can build on it later.

In fact, some studies show that, in traditional lessons, older learners are better than younger learners (around 8 years old) at listening to, understanding and applying a language rule.

Instead, they should be encouraged to listen to native speakers interact and imitate their pronunciation and tones, an idea that language schools around Australia are starting to use in their curriculum.

For example, the Australia Mandarin Education Academy (AMEA) in Sydney encourages their students to use Mandarin as a way to communicate while solving problems and working with others, and the teacher will speak almost exclusively in Mandarin.

Try arts and crafts to help your child learn
Children can learn Chinese through arts and crafts activities which help with speaking and listening. | Photo Credit: Kevin Malik- Pexels

Another benefit of AMEA is that they offer a free trial, so you can decide if their course style is right for your children, without worry about term fees.

Tip #2: Hire a Private Chinese Tutor for Fun Lessons

Hopefully, you can find a great immersion-based school in your Australian city, but if not, you can always look for a private tutor on websites like Superprof.com!

Superprof is an online platform where tutors advertise their services. Learners can look for a teacher in their areas and filter for things like price, experience, online or in-person etc.

The best part about these classes is that they can be tailored completely to the needs and interests of your child. For example, if you need your child to learn Cantonese, you can find a native Cantonese speaker.

For older children who are studying the language at school, private lessons could help to practice written characters, the Pinyin system, reading comprehension, the pronunciation of certain tones and more.

Private lessons are also useful for students of all ages who are preparing for an HSK exam. No matter the level, HSK exams have a specific structure, and it's important to understand and practice the tasks you'll be asked to do a lot.

Another important benefit of tutoring is the flexibility of being able to choose the time and location of classes, in a way that fits in with your family's schedule.

Tip #3: Look for Mandarin Chinese Conversation Events or Workshops in your area

Looking for a way that your child can practice their language skills while also making friends? Well, conversation classes are a very good way to achieve this!

Unfortunately when it comes to language study, memorising grammar rules and vocabulary isn't enough to actually improve your level. What learners need more than anything is practice!

The more students speak, the more comfortable and confident they will start to feel in their own abilities. While it can be overwhelming at first, the benefit is that students can see the real-life applications of what they've been learning in classes.

This will make them more excited about their studies because they can see the real-life value in them, plus, they'll be improving in fluency with every conversation.

Another similar option is a language exchange, where Chinese speakers speak in English and your child will respond in English. This isn't just about language, but also a cultural exchange.

Your child can learn about life in other parts of the world and hopefully make some lasting friendships!

Tip #4: Get involved in Chinese cultural events in your city

There is a huge Chinese diaspora in every city in Australia, and this is something you and your child can take real advantage of during their studies.

Cultural events are another way that learners can take what they've learned throughout their lessons and apply them in real-life situations, all while building their listening, pronunciation and fluency skills.

There are a few different ways that you can find community events to get involved in. A great resource is the Chinese Association in your state, for example, The Chinese Association of Victoria.

They usually have lists of different clubs and activities for your kids to get involved in, like Tabletennis groups or Conversation Clubs, as well as events like Chinese New Year celebrations.

Events like this can help keep your child interested in the language and make learning more fun. Of course, you can also join in, making it a nice activity to participate in together.

You can even become a member of one of these associations and get invitations to different events throughout the year. Membership isn't free, but usually only costs around $80 a year.

Learning about Chinese communities around the world
Cultural events are one of the best ways to work on language skills (are they're often free!) | Photo Credit: Hiep Duong- Unsplash
The best Chinese tutors available
Yimeng
5
5 (9 reviews)
Yimeng
$45
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Wang
5
5 (8 reviews)
Wang
$35
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Xiaotong
5
5 (4 reviews)
Xiaotong
$30
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Connie
5
5 (2 reviews)
Connie
$38
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Xiu fang
5
5 (5 reviews)
Xiu fang
$50
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Poppy
4.9
4.9 (9 reviews)
Poppy
$35
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Elizabeth
5
5 (5 reviews)
Elizabeth
$50
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Ashley
5
5 (7 reviews)
Ashley
$32
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Yimeng
5
5 (9 reviews)
Yimeng
$45
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Wang
5
5 (8 reviews)
Wang
$35
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Xiaotong
5
5 (4 reviews)
Xiaotong
$30
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Connie
5
5 (2 reviews)
Connie
$38
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Xiu fang
5
5 (5 reviews)
Xiu fang
$50
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Poppy
4.9
4.9 (9 reviews)
Poppy
$35
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Elizabeth
5
5 (5 reviews)
Elizabeth
$50
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Ashley
5
5 (7 reviews)
Ashley
$32
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Let's go

Tip #5: Make sure they have plenty of Chinese Learning Resources

At first glance, we might think of more traditional learning resources as the main ways for learners to study. Some examples are:

  • Copybooks for practising written characters
  • Textbooks or grammar books
  • Flashcards

These resources can certainly be useful for both older and younger learners, as they're usually well-structured, with the level slowly getting more difficult as you go through them.

However, if you're planning on buying some Chinese books for your children, they don't necessarily need to have detailed grammar exercises and activities to be useful, especially for younger learners.

How about a storybook that your child will love to look at? You could try a bilingual one, where the stories are written out in both Chinese characters and English or Pinyin.

Then, as a fun activity, your child could draw some of the words that pop up in the story, then label them, carefully copying character after character out of their book.

For example, if they finish reading 'The Dragon Princess', they can draw a huge, colourful dragon and underneath write  '龙' in simplified Chinese and 'lóng' in Pinyin.

Older children can try something similar, but with stories appropriate for their age group, such as middle-grade novels like 'Where the Mountain Meets the Moon'.

But learning resources should be limited to just things to read! Let's check out some more interesting types of resources...

Tip #6: Use a good range of resources to keep your child motivated

Keeping kids excited about language learning takes a little bit of work from both parents and teachers. If you're simply present them with book after book, they're probably not going to have a fun time.

Instead, there are plenty of audio and visual materials that could be really interesting for your child, for example:

  • Famous Chinese films
  • YouTube channels with interesting content
  • Podcasts on Chinese culture and history

If you're lucky, you may have a cinema nearby that shows the most recent Chinese films in their original language. Even if there are subtitles in English or Pinyin, it's important that the audio is in Chinese.

This way, not only is your child having a lot of fun seeing a film that day, but they're also practising listening to the tones and pronunciation of native speakers.

The same goes for YouTube videos and channels. Your child can access thousands of videos, either about actually learning Chinese or about other content they may be interested in.

For younger children, this could include channels like Miss Panda Chinese which features plenty of bilingual songs, animations and storytelling.

They can follow the stories of their favourite character and listen and watch along, all while taking in the pronunciation and tones.

Older children might like Shoushou Chinese, a funny channel that helps more advanced learners understand the differences between the Mandarin Chinese you learn from textbooks and the Mandarin Chinese actually spoken in China.

Podcasts are another interesting learning tool, but one of our tips is that they are better for students who already understand Mandarin Chinese quite well.

One good thing about podcasts is that you can usually find transcripts of the shows on a website and use them to look up vocabulary you didn't understand.

Tip #7: Download a Chinese Learning App

Use an app to help your child learn
With free learning apps, children don't just learn about the Chinese language, but also have fun | Photo Credit: Patricia Prudente- Unsplash

How many children would prefer to play a game rather than spending time studying?

We would say probably all of them! Online apps turn learning into play so children won't even notice that they're actually studying Chinese.

Let's look at some of the apps for different your child’s level:

  • Beginners: Pleco helps learners start to write Chinese characters.
  • Intermediates: HelloTalk can be used to meet other learners online and speak together.
  • Advanced: Anki features a lot of more advanced vocabulary for experienced learners.

We also must mention one of the most popular language-learning apps, DuoLingo, which now offers Mandarin Chinese.

DuoLingo features mini-tutorials that are structured as a quiz and feature cute pictures and games. Each one takes about 10 minutes or so, but they're so fun that your child might not notice they've been 'studying' for an hour.

Don't forget to give your child a notebook while they're playing, so they can write down anything they found particularly interesting!

Tip #8: Find a Penfriend for Your Child to Write To

With online platforms like Skype and WhatsApp to download, keeping in touch with people from other parts of the world has never been easier! Instead of waiting for letters to arrive, you can get instant responses.

Writing back and forth gives your child the chance to memorise and write different characters and maybe learn some new ones. They also get the chance to read quickly and maybe even listen to audio messages.

After a while, they may even decide to make online calls, where they can chat in Chinese and English about their day, books they're reading, apps they want to download and more.

Of course, if your child is quite young, you might prefer to control the process of finding a penfriend, to make sure they are safe and find someone who shares similar options.

There are a few platforms that facilitate these kinds of connections. Some examples are:

    1. My Language Exchange
    2. Global Penfriends
    3. Tandem

On each, you can create a profile, look at the profiles of others and try to connect with someone who you think has mutual interests.

A further benefit of having a penpal in China is that, if your child ever decides to visit, they'll already have a connection with someone they trust on their first trip

They could stay with them or ask for advice with organising accommodation, navigating transport and general tips on how to enjoy their city!

Tip #9: Enrol at an International School and Make Friends

International schools are slowly becoming more popular around the world due to their interesting curricula and their globalized view of education.

One of the most interesting things about International Schools is that learners come from all over the world, and it's likely that some students are native Chinese speakers.

This means that not only can your child learn Mandarin Chinese in school classes, but they can also speak with their friends in Mandarin during breaks.

It's true that many International Schools are actually boarding schools, but many actually function as normal day schools as well, depending on the needs of the learner.

A few of the more well-known day schools that teach IB are:

  • Carey Baptist Grammar School, VIC
  • Mercedes College, SA
  • Newington College, NSW
  • Queensland Academy for Science Mathematics and Technology, QLD

You can find a list of all of the international schools in Australia on the IB World Schools Yearbook website.

 

Tip #10: Take Your Child on a Trip to China

Travel to China and practice speaking
Travelling to China could be the best way for your child to practice their Chinese speaking skills. | Photo Credit: James Coleman- Unsplash

There are different ways you could organise a trip for your child to visit China and plenty of places to visit!

Some popular options are:

  • Intensive Chinese lessons in the morning with cultural activities in the afternoon.
  • An immersive exchange where they are hosted by a  Chinese family.
  • Short internship stays in a business (usually for over 16s).
  • An organised group holiday with other learners of their age.
  • Visiting China as a family and encouraging them to speak and read.

The biggest benefit of visiting China is that they get to see the language in action and be constantly surrounded by the sounds and visuals.

It's an exciting and also efficient way to throw themselves into their language skills, even if they might feel slightly overwhelmed at the beginning.

The important thing is that they receive enough encouragement and support from the people around them that they can begin to feel more comfortable and actually enjoy using their language skills to communicate.

Did you get some new ideas from our ten tips?

Hopefully, you did! Just remember that, while learning a foreign language is a challenge, it shouldn't be a chore, especially for young learners.

Use videos, apps, websites, storybooks and more to make every lesson enjoyable for your child!

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Giulietta

Giulietta is an English-language teacher currently working in Italy who loves fashion, history and finding the best restaurants in whichever city she finds herself in!