“A different language is a different vision of life.” - Federico Fellini
Children need to enjoy learning a new language. It’s unlikely that a child will see the worth in learning Chinese for their future career. That said, an increasing number of teens are opting to do Chinese at GCSE, A Level, and degree.
After all, Chinese (and Mandarin, in particular) is the most common language in the world and China happens to have the world's second-largest economy. Additionally, China has a rich culture and a fascinating history.
So how can you teach children Chinese outside of school?
Which are the best ways to encourage children to take up a foreign language like Chinese?
In this article, we’ve got some advice on how to help your child discover Chinese in the UK!
Resources for Teaching Children Chinese
When it comes to language learning, there are different levels and methods to consider. This is especially true for children who can lose interest quickly and turn their attention to new things.
The first way to teach children Chinese is through traditional resources such as books, bilingual dictionary, Chinese vocabulary books, etc. These resources focus on the academic aspects and include things such as:
- Chinese characters and ideograms
- Chinese culture, language, and literature
- Exercises focusing on linguistic skills
You can also use a book to learn Mandarin and learn more about the history of the People’s Republic of China as well as see some of the beautiful landscapes. It’s a great way to get the child interested in the culture. In general, children will use these kinds of resources in primary and secondary school, sixth form and college, and university.
Books and printed resources are better for memory than digital resources.
That said, kids also love audiovisual resources. Audiovisual resources can include digital resources such as programmes, apps, or the internet. Using different resources can help children to improve more quickly in Chinese. You can choose from:
- Free Chinese YouTube channels from native speakers wanting to share their mother tongue.
- Fun YouTube channels with Chinese teachers from the UK or other English-speaking countries.
- Television channels broadcasting Chinese-language programming from reality TV to cooking shows.
- Podcasts and radio shows that you can listen to whenever and wherever you like.
You’ll need to take the age of your child into account.
Which Is The Perfect Age for Learning Chinese?
A lot of people will tell you that learning to read and write in Chinese isn’t easy, especially once you reach a certain age.
This begs the question: When is the best time to start learning Mandarin Chinese and learn it as quickly and effectively as possible?
The answer is quite simple: it depends on the options. Ideally, you want to start:
- From age 5 if there’s an option at school.
- In secondary school to learn new skills.
- At sixth form or college to improve their CV.
- At university, if they want to use it professionally.
Keep in mind, while there are somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 Chinese characters, only around 3,000 are needed in everyday Chinese life.
The characters aren’t the only difficult thing in Chinese: intonation, phonetic transcription, and pronunciation are also tricky obstacles to overcome. It’s therefore important that your child starts learning Chinese as early as possible so that these things are easier.
There are a number of places where they focus on promoting Chinese. In the UK, 12 universities are members of the Confucius Institute Network UK:
- Confucius Institute for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
- Confucius Institute at University of Central Lancashire, Preston, England
- Confucius Institute at University of Liverpool
- Confucius Institute at the University of Nottingham
- Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield
- Confucius Institute at Cardiff University
- Confucius Institute at the University of Wales, Trinity St David, Lampeter
- Confucius Institute for Business, London School of Economics
- London Confucius Institute, SOAS, University of London
- Confucius Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine, London South Bank University
- Confucius Institute at Lancaster University
- Confucius Institute at the University of Manchester
Of course, these tend to benefit students at university rather than children. As we said, they promote learning about Chinese language and culture which has many benefits for children:
- They can gain an interest in foreign languages for work and in daily life.
- They can study a new language to improve their CV.
Did you know that Chinese is becoming more popular at GCSE and A Level?
Of course, sixth forms and colleges have language departments where students can learn Mandarin Chinese at AS Level and A2 Level. They can take Chinese lessons or, if they don’t feel like studying it at A Level, attend extracurricular Chinese lessons at private language schools or groups for children to learn Chinese.
It’ll be difficult to learn how to speak Chinese fluently before a certain age due to the levels offered. Generally, only universities offer advanced Chinese lessons. These classes can include:
- Language theory, especially on linguistics courses.
- Practical and theoretical lessons. This tends to be the case with Chinese degrees.
- Practical uses of Chinese, especially for business, in either universities or private language schools aimed at training professionals.
- 10 Tips for Helping Children Master Mandarin more Easily
As we know, focusing solely on the grammatical aspects of Chinese will leave children bored and wanting to do something else. That’s why you need to find fun and original ways to learn a language, such as:
- Mandarin Chinese conversation classes
- Visiting a Chinese-language museum
- Going to the cinema to see a Chinese film
- A Chinese cooking workshop
- A Chinese-themed picnic
Did you know that there are around 1.3 billion Chinese speakers?
While learning to speak the language can take time, it’ll be worth it. A child needs to learn at their own pace and naturally practise the language. While each learner has their own needs, we do have 10 tips that should help most students:
- Tip #1: Sign your child up to Chinese lessons for kids at a Chinese association.
- Tip #2: Download an app, at your child’s level, for learning Chinese.
- Tip #3: Provide them with traditional Chinese resources like books.
- Tip #4: Get your child private Chinese tutorials to help them progress at their own speed.
- Tip #5: Subscribe to Chinese-language channels so that teens can watch them at home or on the go.
- Tip #6: Participate with them in Chinese cultural workshops so that they become interested in Chinese culture.
- Tip #7: Find enjoyable cultural activities such as traditional Chinese drawing or Chinese calligraphy.
- Tip #8: Send them to Chinese conversation workshops to practise their speaking skills.
- Tip #9: Take them to Chinese classes for kids so they can meet other people their own age learning the language.
- Tip #10: Organise a trip to China so they can try out what they’ve learnt.
Here are some of the tips for teaching Chinese to children.
The Advantages of Learning Chinese as Soon as Possible
The sooner you start learning Chinese, the better. It can take ages memorising all the different Chinese characters. Additionally, since Chinese is an official language of many large organisations, your child will benefit professionally from being able to speak the language and also enjoy broadening their cultural understanding.
Learning Mandarin can also stimulate a child’s creativity. Even children as young as 6 can learn Chinese by listening to audio files. Learning everyday vocabulary will quickly enable to read on their own.
They can also learn more about other languages in China such as Cantonese and Wan or learn the Pinyin system. It might be worthwhile learning a regional language if they plan on travelling to a certain part of China.
These aren’t just different dialects of Mandarin but rather languages in their own right.
There’s nothing better than immersion in a Chinese city like Beijing or Shanghai in order to learn how to speak the language. This is great for those who want to learn to speak Chinese fluently. They'll get to hear the language being spoken, better understand the tones, and learn grammar without having to study it in dry Chinese grammar lessons. By learning to speak Chinese from a young age, they’ll be able to work in China when they’re older.
No need to search the Internet for Mandarin lessons London; just log on to Superprof and choose from our more than 1,000 Mandarin tutors!
Learning a foreign language such as Chinese will be a challenge for the future. Learning more about the language and culture of an economic power like China will open a lot of doors for them in the future.