When it comes to Chinese for kids, parents are always looking for resources. Learning Chinese can be challenging for kids, and finding good, quality learning materials can be even more of a challenge. With that in mind, we’re always trying to make learning Chinese for kids as simple and accessible as possible. To help you in your quest to learn Chinese, here are ten quick ideas you can use to regularly improve your student’s Chinese:
1. Enroll in Chinese classes
It may be obvious, but immersion in the language is the absolute best way to learn Chinese for children. We have quite a few friends who are Chinese teachers at the elementary school level, so we know first-hand that the value they provide to their students is the superior option out there. That said, Chinese classes are still not available in most school districts across the United States, so this is often not an option. Even when they’re available, they’re often impacted and parents are forced to place their child’s education in the hands of fate with waiting lists. Another great option is studying abroad, but this may be less feasible at younger ages.
2. Chinese learning games
Playing Chinese games like Chinese Fridge is our next favorite way to learn and practice Chinese for kids. Children often grow bored in a learning environment if they’re not adequately challenged or stimulated. Since kids love to play games, it’s really a natural way to absorb information. The problem is a lot of the Chinese games online currently are not very captivating, are low quality or simply too limited. For example, the BBC at one point created a couple of Chinese learning games online, but these games have a very limited vocabulary set and were never further developed. That’s why we’re working hard to build superior Chinese learning games with our Chinese Fridge apps, with a robust set of vocabulary that’s constantly expanding.
3. Chinese flashcards
Flashcards are a little less dynamic compared to games, but they can still be fun and challenging. We recommend trying to make the flashcard learning method as much like a game as possible by doing things like using a points system for correct answers. However, this may be difficult for families that don’t have a native Chinese speaker for pronunciation drills, but at the least flashcards can be a useful way to practice recognizing and reading Chinese characters and associating them with their meanings.
4. Chinese songs for kids
There are seemingly endless Chinese songs for kids out there. Children love songs and are happy to repeatedly practice them, which makes them perfect for reinforcing vocabulary. In addition, Chinese songs for children are a great way to expose kids to some basic Chinese culture. Stay tuned for our future post about Chinese songs that you can use to help your student learn Chinese, but for now here are couple of examples of good songs to get started:
5. Chinese Textbooks
While learning from Chinese textbooks for kids is easiest in a classroom setting with an education professional, they’re still another option for learning Chinese. It’s probably best to pair Chinese textbooks with other modes of learning, like supplementing classes or in conjunction with tutoring, otherwise textbooks can be difficult for kids to navigate.
6. Study menus and grocery store placards
Menus can be a great way to learn how to read and write Chinese characters for food words. In addition, menus are often a great learning resource you can take back home to study if they have basic paper versions. If your student is relatively new to Chinese, be sure to consult a native speaker or instructor before practicing pronunciation in the restaurant though — not everyone is patient with rough pronunciation if they find it difficult to understand.
7. Find a personal Chinese tutor
While not every family can afford private tutoring, one-on-one tutoring can help eliminate problems specific to your student. First see if any after school programs offer tutoring for free, then look into tutoring centers or asking teachers if they or anyone they know would be interested. Another increasingly popular form of tutoring is Skype tutoring or other video conferencing — if you live in an area with few local Chinese learning resources, this can help you overcome geographical limitations by leveraging available tutors across the world.
8. Get a Chinese penpal
In the internet era, finding a Chinese penpal online is easier than ever. Of course you need to make sure your student communicates safely and doesn’t give out too much personal information, but email penpals are a great way to start. Once at a comfortable level, the two parties can use a chat program to practice in real-time, and eventually possibly try voice chat.
9. Chinese TV and Movies
Chinese TV programs and movies are easy to find online through services like Netflix or websites like Youku. Sometimes you can find TV and movies with subtitles in both English and Chinese, which can help your student pair pronunciation with both meaning and Chinese writing simultaneously.
10. Contemporary Chinese music
While this method of learning is probably better for more advanced students, there is a trove of contemporary Chinese music videos online on websites like YouTube, Youku, and others. These often have karaoke-style Chinese writing for the lyrics to accompany the song, which can be helpful for learning Chinese characters. In addition, you can use radio websites like TuneIn to listen in on live radio from countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore and beyond.