Hear from the experts at EtonHouse Zhong Hua Pre-School – Singapore’s first 100% Chinese Immersion Childcare centre
Research findings indicate that the early years are the best time to learn a new language. What does this mean for parents, especially for the majority of Singaporean parents whose children are expected to be well-versed in both English and Chinese when they start formal schooling?
What if your child doesn’t show an interest in Chinese, or worse, resists the idea of learning Chinese? What if your command of the Chinese language isn’t as strong as you’d like and you’re worried about imparting the wrong information? What if you don’t know the language yourself?
Take heart that nothing is impossible and that there are ways you can help your child nurture an interest in Chinese even when it seems like an uphill battle.
Show them how Chinese is used in daily life
When you’re out and about, point out Chinese words and explain what the words mean. Whether it’s a road sign, an item on a menu or a flyer you’ve been given – it’s a good opportunity for your child to realise that Chinese is all around us and why it’s important for them to understand the language. If you’re not an expert in the Chinese language, it’s time to harness technology! An app like Pleco is an English to Chinese (and vice versa) dictionary that tells you the meaning of each Chinese word and teaches you how to pronounce it.
Even though English is the official language in Singapore, Chinese is still widely used. Lead by example and try conversing in Chinese whenever you can. It can be a ‘thank you’ at the checkout counters, asking for a glass of water while in a restaurant or even a simple greeting to a neighbour. By showing how speaking Chinese can help to break barriers, you can open your child’s eyes to see how we can better connect with the people we encounter.
Teach them the meaning behind Chinese words
Learning to recognise Chinese words can be daunting. After all, you won’t be able to phonetically guess how to pronounce a new word if you’ve never learned it before! Instead, why not try and tell a story behind some basic Chinese words to help your little ones better identify with the language? Being able to connect with the words through imagery could help children be more interested. Here are some examples:
口 kǒu – The Chinese character for mouth resembles an open mouth.
人 rén – The Chinese word for person almost looks like a stick figure with two legs.
门 mén – The Chinese character for door looks like a doorframe.
Chinese characters are also made up of different graphical components called radicals, which give meaning to genres of words. Knowing the context in which some common radicals are used could help children make a connection between the numerous Chinese words and grow their understanding of the language.
氵- This radical usually means the word relates to water or flow
犭- Chinese characters that contain this radical are commonly associated with animals
子 – Words with this radical denote that it’s related to children
These are two easy ways to pique the little one’s interest in learning Chinese. Give some of these suggestions a try, and turn your child’s struggles with Chinese into fun, learning opportunities!
For more strategies on how to support your child’s journey in learning Chinese, visit EtonHouse Zhong Hua Pre-School located at 681 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore’s first 100% Chinese Immersion childcare centre. Book your tour here and receive 10% discount on school fees for the first term (worth more than S$500)!