The struggle parents face in getting children to be proficient in Mandarin is not new. It has plagued parents for the last 30 years, or even more!
Most parents understand the growing importance of Mandarin and hope that their children will be proficient in the language. On top of doing well in school, parents hope that their children will develop a lasting bond with Chinese that will come in handy in their adulthood. Here are some tips on how to prime your child for Chinese success:
#1 Expose children to Mandarin at a young age
At birth, humans have the gift to learn all languages. Babies below the age of 6 months can differentiate sounds from all languages on the planet. However, between 6 and 12 months, they start filtering out sounds that they do not frequently hear. After 12 months, they will no longer register those sounds as being a language.
As Mandarin is a tonal language, non-Mandarin speakers register Mandarin sounds as music. Scientific research has shown that the brain of a child who is consistently exposed to conversations in Mandarin (watching videos don’t count!) before the age of 12 months processes Mandarin sounds in his left brain (the side for language) rather than his right brain (the side for music) even if he doesn’t speak a word of Mandarin.
If you’ve missed the 12-month window to lodge Mandarin subconsciously in your child’s brain, fret not! All toddlers are sponges for learning languages. With constant exposure, a toddler can pick up Mandarin easily as long as he is motivated to learn. How to motivate toddlers to learn? Make it fun and make it useful!
#2 Inculcate the right mindset
Chinese has the reputation of being a difficult language to learn because it is not phonetic. There is also a certain amount of memorization involved to learn the Chinese characters, which leads many to perceive it as a boring language to learn. We should refrain from perpetuating this mindset in our children.
Make positive statements like: “Chinese helps daddy in his work” and “Mommy likes listening to Chinese songs because the lyrics are so beautiful and poetic”.
Keep in mind that the perceived difficulty in learning Chinese is in learning to read and write, not listen and speak.
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