How to help your child learn Chinese at home and in school
Learning Chinese just doesn’t come easy for some students. Not only does the prospect of sitting down for a study session seem immensely unappealing to them, the ever-increasing number of Chinese characters that they are required to learn with each passing year means they’ll have to put in even more work just to get a passing grade.
But why do they find it so hard to master it when other students are perfectly able to get decent results in their Chinese exams? It all boils down to a lack of motivation to learn and few situations to practise the language outside of lessons.
Difficulties learning Chinese in school
Reading and writing constitutes a major part of learning Chinese in school. This includes learning to recognise key Chinese characters, understand the meaning of various idioms and being able to produce an adequately-written Chinese composition.
Depending on who you ask, that’s an incredibly tall order; the sheer number of words to be memorised – a daunting task in itself – is only a prerequisite for the more complicated endeavours of formulating new sentences and understanding dense Chinese text passages.
At the same time, struggling students would also face difficulties in their mastery of Mandarin, which requires one to practise their speech during lessons. Unfortunately, they are more likely to clam up and stay silent throughout the entire class, for fear that they would make a mistake and be ridiculed for it.
This inevitably spirals into an ever-worsening situation where their proficiency in Chinese erodes, making them do worse in exams, having to endure remedial classes where they become even less confident about their Mandarin, and so on and so forth.
How parents can help
For students having a hard time studying Chinese, it can feel like a lonely battle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As parents, we can do our part to help them overcome their fear of learning Chinese and become confident learners. #1: Expose them to more Mandarin-speaking media
One common way for students to learn Chinese is to expose ourselves to various forms of media that are presented in that language, such as songs, TV shows, news broadcasts, books or even articles posted on the internet. By listening and reading such engaging content, they’ll not only gain a better understanding of how to recognise and pronounce words in Chinese, but also become more willing to learn by enticing them to seek out more of it. #2: Make an effort to speak Mandarin at home
There’s no better way for students to learn Mandarin than to practice on their own. Parents should therefore do their best to create as many opportunities as possible for their children, especially if English is the more commonly spoken language at home.
One idea is to enforce a ‘Mandarin only’ period each day, when everyone in the family exclusively uses Mandarin to communicate for a set amount of time. By getting everyone involved, students would feel more comfortable about trying to express themselves in Mandarin without the fear of making mistakes and allow them the freedom to seek clarification about proper word usage or meaning. Even if their parents aren’t proficient in Chinese themselves, the whole family can embrace it as a learning opportunity. #3: Take an active interest in your child’s efforts in school
It’s important to keep tabs on how your child is doing in school to ensure that they’re not facing any serious problems. This goes doubly for Chinese if it’s one of their weaker subjects, as they’re not likely to bring it up at home.
Try asking your child about how their homework is coming along, and offer to help teach them where possible. Encourage them to seek you out whenever they’re stumped on an unidentifiable word or idiom. Don’t worry about being able to recognise them yourself; more than simply getting the right answers, sometimes it’s enough to let them know that you’re making an effort to help them improve. #4: Get extra help from external resources
It’s never a shame for parents to seek professional help for their Child’s Chinese grades. After all, what we want is to give them the best opportunity to excel in their studies, and supplementary learning is one such avenue for it.
With that said, it’s worth remembering that students should feel motivated to learn if they are to succeed, and an aggressive tuition regime may be counterintuitive in that regard. Make sure that your child’s supplementary classes are arranged while making sure that they still receive ample free time, and that they’re receptive to the idea of taking extra Chinese lessons.
The above suggestions aren’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but hopefully there’s something that may help your child consider doubling their efforts into learning Chinese.