5 Ways to Speak Chinese outside the Classroom.
Create the Space:
It is not necessary that parents learn Chinese but it is very helpful if you continue to expose yourself to the language and share that experience with your child. One parent jokingly informed me that she mandated that her child only speak Chinese at home. To most all of her daughter’s responses she replied with a thoughtful “Dui” which means yes in Chinese. She laughed that she had no idea what her daughter was saying but that she learned to read her daughter’s body language and was easily able to interpret her general needs while encouraging her second language learning in the home.
I have been using the Pimsleur Approach and downloaded the files into my dropbox. I listen to the lessons during road trips and long commutes. The girls enjoy correcting my tones and reviewing the sentences I have learned. They enjoy teaching me and when native speakers overhear our exchanges they are more apt to engage the girls in conversation which is the perfect supplement to their language learning.
Last year I purchased the Tuttle Chinese For Kids Flash Cards. Right off the bat the girls knew almost 25% of the words and required only minimal prompting on a few. I cannot read Chinese and actually even struggle in reading pinyin but I have the Pleco app on my android phone. With Pleco I am able to type in the pinyin word, match it with the correct Chinese character and play an audio of the word for the girls. It’s amazing how smart they think I am even though I don’t speak Chinese. They are excited with the opportunities that I provide for us to speak the language with one another even if I am doing much more listening than speaking.
Enlist the Support of Native Speakers:
When it comes to learning site words it is not required to hire an overpriced tutor to review index cards, play matching / rhyming games with your child and identify or sound out words while taking walks or playing scavenger hunt games in the yard/home. The same can be true of learning non-native words with an experienced speaker. There are fun matching games that can be purchased on-line (asianparent.com, betterchinese.com, chinesebooksforchildren.com, ahachinese.com). If you are unable to read Chinese stories to your children purchase Chinese books with accompanying CDs. Reading Chinese to your child provides the same benefits as reading English. Reading to your child in Chinese (with a CD) increases your child’s exposure to the language, characters, improves comfort with the written language and supports what they are learning in the classroom.
Connect with the Teacher:
Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher so that you are provided with a weekly or monthly list of key vocabulary words. If the teacher emails these words to you print them out and create your own flashcards, encourage your child to read the words to you throughout the week or before your weekend starts. Your teacher is always the best resource to help you identify ways to support your child’s language learning.
For many Chinese language teachers English is not their native language. Make multiple attempts to engage the teacher. Their may be a few stumbling blocks during the first interaction but as you constantly work on developing a relationship with the teacher the language barriers and cultural differences will become less obvious. The teacher is your best aid in helping your child to succeed make every effort to develop this relationship.
There is so much that happens for your child in the classroom. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic there are so many other things that are happening in the classroom. Play dates have been a great resource for my girls. My oldest can have an emotional response to her peers minor disagreements and there are some ways in which this disrupts her learning process. Play dates provide increased opportunities to enhance her social relationships in the classroom which allow for better learning opportunities.
Play dates do not have to take place in Chinese but we have really benefited from relationships with bilingual parents. Bilingual parents have been key in helping me to understand the Chinese culture, increase my exposure to the Chinese language and in providing me with great feedback regarding my daughter’s expressive and receptive Chinese language. On Chinese New Year our daughter played Pai Gow poker with her classmates grandparents and several other children. While I never thought my child would learn to gamble at such an early age we all enjoyed ourselves and viewed it as a great cultural experience.
If you find it difficult to incorporate the second language into your daily routine then rest assured that you are supporting your child by Reading to Them Every Night. Rest assured that the best gift you can provide your child is a strong grasp of their First Language (English). Read to your child every night. Support them in their phonetic and sight reading. The stronger your child is in their first language the better opportunities that they have to excel in their second language.