Teach kids Mandarin Chinese at Home
How can I introduce the Chinese language to my child? Is it possible to teach kids Mandarin Chinese myself if I don’t speak the language, and am a non-native speaker? Yes it is possible! This post will give you an introduction of the Chinese language, Chinese characters, and show you how you can teach kids Mandarin Chinese at home from ground zero. It includes free printable materials for you to keep and use to assist you on your language learning journey.
I would like to introduce Amanda, also known as Miss Panda, who is here to share her expertise on teaching kids Mandarin Chinese. This is the first post of a series of Learn Chinese For Kids on Bilingual Kidspot. Make sure you check out the other lessons!
An Introduction to Mandarin Chinese
Let’s take a look at six fast facts about Chinese language. This will help you have a general understanding of Chinese language before you dive in. When I refer to Chinese I mean Mandarin Chinese, the official language of China and Taiwan.
1.Chinese is NOT one of the most difficult languages in the world.
“Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world” is a statement with no research support. Learning how to speak Chinese is actually quite easy. Do you know that if you can count from one to ten in Chinese you can use the combination of these numbers to count all the way to 99 in Mandarin? Are you surprised?
2.Chinese is a tonal language
Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones plus a neutral tone. It technically has a total of 5 tones, but because people often disregard the fifth you might hear Chinese native speakers say, “Chinese language has 4 tones.”
Mandarin Chinese is not the only tonal language spoken by Chinese. Many of the other Chinese languages spoken in different regions in China are tonal as well.
For example: Cantonese, which is spoken in Canton province and its neighboring area as well as Hong Kong (Hong Kong Cantonese) has 9 tones. Hokkien, which is used in Fujian province and neighboring areas, has 7 tones.
3.Chinese characters are not as complicated as they look.
If you understand how a character is put together you will find it quite fun.
There are three important elements to Chinese characters – image, meaning and sound.
Is this information new to you? If so, you will find the following interesting.
Chinese characters are divided into 6 categories. The first Chinese character formation category is the drawing of things or animals. These characters are in the “pictogram group.” Chinese characters in the pictogram group are like pictures, and they are the most well-known group of Chinese characters for non-native speakers and beginners. Young Chinese children find these characters easy to remember.
Many of the picture words are used like “roots” in Romance languages. These are called Chinese “radicals.”
A Chinese radical is a component of a Chinese character. All Chinese characters are listed under different radicals in a traditional Chinese dictionary as an index, which provides a way to look the character up.
Radicals are like Lego pieces or building blocks for Chinese characters.
Among the remaining five Chinese character formation categories, the “phonetic-semantic compound group” is the most important. Chinese characters in this group make up about 80% of all Chinese characters. A phonetic-semantic compound character has one part that indicates its pronunciation and another part that indicates its meaning.
4.There are two Chinese writing systems: Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.
Traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and many overseas Chinese communities. Simplified Chinese is used in China and Singapore. Traditional Chinese characters are the foundation of Chinese writing. Simplified Chinese characters are formed based on traditional Chinese characters and some are transformed from Chinese cursive calligraphy styles.
The simplification process of Chinese characters started in Mainland China in the 1950s. Simplified Characters have fewer strokes. Let’s look at the picture below for a comparison.
5.Chinese is a language with no verb tenses and no verb conjugation.
In general, since there are no verb tenses in Chinese you just add the time, date, or certain part of the day to the sentence to indicate if the action or event occurred in the past, present, or future. Doesn’t that make things easier? Do I see a smile? In addition to the verb tenses, the singular form of a noun in Chinese is almost always the same as the plural form.
6.Raising a bilingual child requires consistent language input and practice no matter what language you choose to teach your child.
Second language acquisition is similar to first language acquisition in this way. We need to consistently provide our young learners plenty of target language input. Speaking to your child and listening to songs, nursery rhymes, and stories with hands-on activities, gestures, and movement work wonders for young children. Learn with your child together on this bilingual adventure.
How do I pronounce Chinese words?
Here Pinyin comes to the rescue! Pinyin is the romanization of Chinese writing and has become an international standard system. “Pin Yin” literally means “spell” “sound” in Chinese. Pinyin is not used to replace the Chinese characters but it gives a way to connect the Chinese language with the world. Classic Chinese books aren’t typically written in exclusively Pinyin, however, Pinyin is a great tool to help beginners learn how to pronounce Chinese.
A craftsman must sharpen his tools if he wants to do his work well.
Now that you have an overall basic understanding of the Chinese language let’s move on to the materials that you can download to use right away to start your Chinese language fun with your little one!
15 Basic Chinese Expressions – Printable
Basic Chinese expressions that you can use every day with your bilingual child:
How are you?
You are welcome.
Excuse me./ I am sorry.
Time to eat breakfast.
Time to eat lunch.
Time to eat dinner
Time to have snack.
Are you ready?
I am ready.
Time to go to bed.
You can Download your FREE Printables here.
10 Chinese Character Cards – Printable
Visual tools for your bilingual home:
Included are the following high frequency words:
One, two, three, up, down, person, big, small, door, fish.
Note to non-native Mandarin Chinese speaking parents:
-Read the Pinyin on the printable notes for a pronunciation guide.
-Listen to the audio tracks that go with the notes.
-Display the character cards on your language play wall to introduce Chinese writing.
You can Download your FREE Printables here.
Raising a bilingual child requires consistency: Today, Tomorrow, and every day
Be playful, smile, and remember that every little step counts!
In the comment section below please share with us:
What is one tiny step you will take today for your bilingual child with the knowledge and materials you have received here on how to teach your kids Mandarin Chinese?
If you have a word, a phrase, or a sentence you would like to say in Mandarin Chinese to your adorable child just tell me in the comment below and I will put together a resource file for Bilingual KidSpot readers!
Amanda Miss Panda
Make sure to check out our extensive Language Resources list on Bilingual Kidspot. Miss Panda has also contributed to the Mandarin Chinese section, which has an exhaustive list of resources to help teach your child Mandarin Chinese.