As I mentioned before, if you go to a Chinese weekend school, you will find something interesting – the higher the grade, the fewer the students. There is a reason behind this phenomenon.
When kids are growing older, they start to develop their own opinions. Since learning Mandarin Chinese is not easy, it takes a lot of work, an older child, especially a teen kid, usually has a lot of going on activities, he will feel less motivated to learn Chinese. No wonder, a lot of older children refuse to go to Chinese weekend schools. Many of them give up learning Chinese too.
In this post, I am going to share some of my tips to help older children learn Mandarin Chinese at home based on my own experience.
In my post “Updates about My Children’s Mandarin Chinese Learning Progress“, I mentioned my older kid, Big Wen, stopped going to Chinese weekend school after studying at the school for 4 years and started to self-study Chinese at home again.
So how do I help Big Wen learn Chinese at home?
As I mentioned in the post “The Best Way to Learn Mandarin Chinese“, the best way is reading a lot. So I decide to have Big Wen read Mandarin Chinese every weekday.
At the beginning, I have Big Wen read Chinese newspapers I picked up at Asian supermarkets, however, most articles on Chinese newspapers are written in traditional Chinese, Big Wen had difficulty reading the articles.
By the way, if you have no idea if your child should choose to learn simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese, here is a post talking about this topic – Traditional Chinese Characters or Simplified Ones.
Later, I decided to have Big Wen read Chinese articles online. However, Big Wen can’t make notes for some words he doesn’t know. I try to write Chinese stories for him to read, but I can’t write them every day. So I decided to have him read a Chinese book.
In the beginning, Big Wen read a Chinese classic book – Pilgrimage to the West. After he finished this book, I decided to give him the challenge to read a more difficult book – My Life by Isadora Duncan.
To be honest, I am not sure if this book is the right choice. This book is not easy. There are a lot of characters Big Wen never read before. But there are three reasons why I picked up this book.
First, this book talked about a lot of things covering different subjects. By reading this book, Big Wen gets a chance to read more characters he might never meet before.
Second, this book is somehow repetitive. You will read the same word time and time. I believe in the rule of seven. If the same character appears 7 or more times, there is a big chance that this character will be remembered. If this character appears ten or more times, probably, you will memorize this character forever.
Third, in her book, Duncan sent a positive message about her life and art. I hope Big Wen will get the spirit to keep fighting for the dream no matter what.
As I expected, Big Wen had difficulty reading this book at first. He had to keep making notes on the book. To have him keep reading this book, I agreed that he only read one page every weekday. After three months, when Big Wen makes progress slowly, he started to read two pages.
In the beginning, when Big Wen doesn’t know how to read the character, I will tell him the pinyin. Later, I start to have him guess the pinyin. However, I have to keep reminding him about the tones. For more information about tones, please read this post “How to Pronounce Mandarin-Chinese Tones“.
According to my plan, after Big Wen finishes this book, I will give him an easy book to read, so he will feel achieved. For that book, I will have Big Wen type some paragraphs on a computer using a Chinese Pinyin typing tool.
Big Wen doesn’t need to know how to handwrite every character, but he needs to know how to type the character on the computer. Once he knows how to read the character and knows the Pinyin, it will not be that difficult.
My final goal will be to have Big Wen write some decent articles in Chinese one day. I keep telling Big Wen: If your parents can be bilingual in such a difficult time, you can be bilingual too. You just need to work hard and never give up.
So what is my tip? Based on what I talked about above, just have your older kid read a little bit of Chinese every weekday or better, every day. Have him read an easy Chinese book first, later give him the challenge for a bit difficult book. At the same time, have him pay attention to Pinyin and tones.
What if your older child doesn’t want to read? Reward him first for what he does. At the same time, punish him for not doing what he is supposed to do. You can take away the computer time or something he likes unless he finishes the reading task.
At the same time, try to keep motivating your child to keep learning. You can encourage your child to use Chinese to communicate with family and friends. Have your child search for something online in Chinese or watch Chinese cartoons like Boonie Bears. Keep telling him being bilingual is awesome. Keep praising and rewarding him for his efforts.
Once your child’s Chinese is good enough, once he understands the meaning of what he read and watched, once he knows Chinese becomes a useful tool to him instead of a boring tough duty, he will start to enjoy learning it.
As a parent, we just need keep reminding our child when he wants to give up, keep praising him when he works hard. Don’t give up easily. Believe in your child. He can do it. He just needs do it now and every day.
No one is regret of being bilingual. One day, when your child is fluent in Chinese, he will be very thankful for your insistence. After all, Mandarin Chinese is not only a useful tool, it is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, another window that will open a bigger world for your child.
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