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Exposing Children To Mandarin

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A recent survey has confirmed that children are less exposed to Mandarin during their formative years. Here are some ways to build Mandarin fluency among tech-savvy kids.

Singapore’s 2020 Census of Population showed that English has overtaken Mandarin as the language most frequently used at home. Among residents aged five and above, 48.3% spoke English most frequently at home, up from 32.3% in 2010. This shows that more children are growing up with less exposure to Mandarin in their earlier years.

Given this scenario, parents here are understandably concerned about their child’s ability to do well in Mandarin. Below are ways to boost your child’s ability in the language.

‘Parents should understand that today’s children learn, consume and process information very differently from how they did when they were young, reveals Ms Peggy Lim, Academic Director at edutech company LingoAce. “Today’s children are exposed to technology at a much younger age. This has a significant impact on learning styles,” she explains.

Studies have shown that children learn more efficiently and retain information better if they connect with what is being taught. “As tech-savvy digital natives, they prefer graphics to text, are used to multi-tasking, and thrive better in conducive interdisciplinary learning environments,” she clarifies. As an online learning platform, LingoAce has mastered the use of technology to bring learning Chinese to life. In fact, LingoAce avers that technology elevates the learning process by increasing the level of engagement in ways that were not so easily possible before.

It combines Chinese fables, historical figures, and idioms with engaging animation and creative illustrations, as well as live teaching by teachers who are native speakers and trained to connect with modern young learners. “An immersive learning environment, gamification, role-playing and multi-media come together in a way that encourages an interest in the language and culture,” clarifies Ms Lim.

Another way to enhance learning with technology are tools such as the Hansvision Tablet. Filled with games in Mandarin, interactive storybooks, a bilingual dictionary, writing exercises, spelling tests, and other programmes, it could prove useful to children attending primary school.

An immersive learning environment would make learning Chinese less challenging as children pick up a language more easily when it is a part of their daily lives. If parents are unable to converse effectively in the language, arranging for someone to come to the house to play with their child using only Mandarin will increase the child’s exposure to the language and allow them to have daily and meaningful interaction with it.READ WITH YOUR CHILD
Few things delight a child more than stories. They also enjoy the bonding that accompanies a parent reading to their child. Make it a daily bedtime ritual. If you are not a confident reader, sit with your child and listen to an audio book while you follow the book. This is a good way to increase your child’s vocabulary while they absorb the expressive dynamic of the language. 

Whether parents are Mandarin speakers or not, they should remember that they are their child’s first teacher. The attitude they have towards their child’s learning will affect his or her approach to the subject, so they should involve themselves in their child’s learning process in a positive way right from the start. Being aware of their child’s difficulties and progress as well as supporting, motivating and encouraging them will make a difference to their approach to learning. Even if parents are not good Mandarin speakers, they should show a personal interest in learning the language. One way is to encourage your child to use what they learnt at school in the home. Ask them what the words mean and use them yourself. This will empower the child as they will be chuffed at being regarded as the ‘teacher’.

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