How your kids can speak more Chinese (without complaining)

Who says English speaking kids do not and cannot love Mandarin?

Many parents ask us the same thing – why do my kids refuse to speak Chinese? Aren’t they a little too young to hate Chinese? 

Surprise one: they actually can speak Mandarin. Watching through our webcam of the class, parents were amazed at how much Chinese their kids can and will speak.

“I sat down to watch via the TV screen in the waiting area. What happened next shocked me. He spoke in Chinese. Actually not such bad Chinese, either. You have to understand I’d never really heard him try before – he’d always refused to perform when asked, coyly insisting (that it was the “wrong” language for the social situation at hand, what with me being all English-speaking and so on,” says Bronwyn Joy, mother of P, K2.

P having fun speaking Chinese during our Jun Holiday camp

P having fun speaking Chinese during our Jun Holiday camp

For some, their unwillingness to speak Chinese despite learning it in school or from additional classes boils down to a lack of confidence (rather than vocabulary).

That’s why we have focused on building this confidence through constant encouragement, role playing and digital coins. As kids become more confident, they are naturally more willing to converse in Chinese.

“We have been extremely impressed by the huge improvement that our son Mark has experienced through KidStartNow. Despite daily half an hour Mandarin classes in preschool for the last 2 years, he has resisted speaking Mandarin and even refused to let me speak to him in Mandarin. However, within one class at KidStartNow, he has been very open to learning Mandarin and receptive to me speaking Mandarin to him at home,” says Carolyn Chin, mother of Mark, an N2 student. 

“Mark really enjoyed the fun and interactive style of teaching where children learn through play and interest is nurtured, unlike other tuition schools. We have been really grateful in particular to teacher Marissa for her patient and interesting teaching style.”

Mark volunteering enthusiastically during his Chinese class

Mark volunteering enthusiastically during his Chinese class

What can parents do to build up oral confidence?

Outside class, you can help your kids build this oral confidence. As we wrote in a previous article (https://blog.kidstartnow.com/2014/06/19/28/), the most important tip is realising that getting comfortable with Chinese takes time (months not weeks), and it is very important to encourage baby steps.

For instance, a common issue with kids from predominantly English speaking families is incorrect Chinese pronunciation or wrong usage of vocabulary. As parents, we naturally want kids to speak correctly, and as we get worried about our kids’ speaking ability, we sometimes get frustrated and impatient. While it is normal to get worried, kids are very good at reading our expressions, and this can hurt their self-confidence in Chinese, leading them to clamp up. 

Instead, the best thing to do is praise baby steps. In class, we constantly emphasise to kids that it is okay to make mistakes and it is more important to keep trying and keep improving. When kids try to say something in Chinese but get it wrong, we praise their effort and tell them the correct expression – reinforcing this by having them repeat after us at the end.

Through this method of encouragement and positive reinforcement, we build up their oral confidence and willingness to speak Chinese.

Which games or activities did the kids enjoy the most? How can parents adopt the same activities at home?

We found that kids really enjoyed the role playing activities in camp – not surprising since preschoolers love to mimic. This is also a great way to build interest in Chinese, as well as develop oral confidence and word recognition.

While speech and drama classes, costumes and props are nice to have, you can easily do role-playing at home with items at home and a dash of improvisation and imagination 🙂 

Take for instance our recent story involving Pirate Panda and his adventures in a vegetable farm. While having panda, carrot and pumpkin soft-toys are nice (and kids absolutely adore it), you can do role-playing with items easily found at home like a teddy bear or real carrots, etc.

Props like the ones we use in class are nice to have, but parents can easily improvise at home

Props like the ones we use in class are nice to have, but parents can easily improvise at home

Just grab a Chinese book your child enjoys (preferably with dialog so they can pretend to be characters), and have your kids act out the various scenes.  

For parents who aren’t as confident in their own Chinese skills, try choosing books with audio read-aloud, so you can read together with your kids.

Our popular animated storybooks are a great way to help even reluctant Chinese readers love to learn Chinese, and kids are quickly drawn to our exciting stories, animation and sound effects. It also contains audio read-aloud and text-highlighting, so parents can read together with kids regardless of ability. We are offering a free 30 day trial (http://www.jiejieandfriends.com/signup, referral code is “SKA”), so give it a try now!

Try out our popular animated storybooks now

Try out our popular animated storybooks now

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