In my post: How to Raise a Bilingual Child, I shared some ideas about how to help your child develop interest in learning a second language.
In this post, I will talk specifically about how to have your child learn Mandarin Chinese if Mandarin Chinese is the language you wish your child to learn.
As we know, compared to other languages such as Spanish, French etc, Mandarin Chinese is a newcomer on the list of the most popular foreign languages.
If you read my post Why Learn Mandarin Chinese — Reason You Need Know, I mentioned various reasons why learn Mandarin Chinese.
The problem is: No matter how solid these reasons seem, some kids just don’t want to learn Mandarin Chinese.
Surprisingly, many Chinese heritage children born Abroad even mentioned they hated learning Chinese.
It is not a news that many parents, especially, Chinese immigrant parents send their children to weekend Chinese schools but find out their children just keep complaining how hard it is to learn Chinese and even refuse to learn.
As a parent, what can we do then?
As many language education experts point out, if you wish your child learn Mandarin Chinese, start to have them expose to Chinese language and culture early.
When a child is young, he is influenced greatly by his parents. If a child’s parents provide opportunities for the child to know more of Chinese language and culture at early age, this child is more likely to learn Chinese.
Besides Chinese books, videos, TV, Chinese songs, attending Chinese ethnic events, going to Chinese restaurants, traveling to Chinese speaking countries and areas, hanging out with other Chinese speaking people is really important.
In my post: Why I Set Up a Mandarin-Chinese Moms Club, I mentioned my motivation to set up a local Chinese moms club.
If you are a non-Chinese parent, you can still find ways to hang out with other Chinese people.
For example, have your child sign up a local weekend Chinese school. Set up a play date with other Chinese speaking families. Find local or online like-minded parents groups.
In case you want to know, I have a post about how to set up a playdate for learning Mandarin Chinese.
However, if you wish your child is committed to learning Mandarin Chinese, you need set up some rules.
1, Chinese only policy.
One of effective rules is speaking Chinese only at home. If your child doesn’t know how to say some specific words, teach him, ask him to repeat. Slowly, your child will speak Chinese more and more.
If you are a non-Chinese parent, you can have other creative ideas like giving your child credits or rewards if he could read Chinese only books or watch Chinese only videos for half an hour daily or whatever schedule you set up.
2, Make learning Chinese a priority.
Some parents sign up their kids for kinds of classes such as swimming, drawing, piano, tennis, ski, ballet, chess or many other classes that are available.
However, we have to be real. A kid’s time and energy is limited. If you child is busy with learning kinds of other skills, it is not surprising that he has no time and energy to learn Chinese.
Every skill takes time to master. If you wish your child to be fully bilingual in English and Chinese, you have to give up some other activities, so your child will have more time on learning Chinese.
In my personal opinion, being bilingual is more practical and beneficial. Not every one can be a great football player or musician, but almost every child can be bilingual.
3, Spend time on helping your child’s Chinese learning.
Unlike in China and other countries and areas where learning English is a must, almost every child is motivated to learn English.
In English speaking countries and areas, Mandarin Chinese has the fame of the hardest language. And learning Chinese seems not a popular topic among children.
In this situation, it is no wonder that a child is unwilling to learn Mandarin Chinese.
As a parent, we can’t just rely on the Chinese weekend school or the child himself to learn Chinese. We need spend time on helping our children.
In my post How to Homeschool Mandarin Chinese, I shared my ideas about how to teach a child Mandarin Chinese at home. Monitoring a child’s study is very necessary.
4, Don’t give up.
Learning a new language takes time. Sometimes it is confusing and frustrated. Sometimes it is not fun. However, giving up is always the worst idea.
When I was a Mandarin Chinese teacher at an American university, more than one students told me that they regretted of giving up learning Chinese when they were little.
When your child refuse to learn Chinese, try to find other ways to work out.
For example, if your child doesn’t want to go to a weekend Chinese school no matter what, then try to find a Chinese tutor or sign up a Chinese course online or request him to watch Chinese only TV.
When your child’s Chinese is getting better, he will have more interest in learning.
If he really hates learning Chinese for some reasons, give him some time. Try to show him the benefits and fun of learning Chinese.
As a parent, what you can do is planting a seed. One day, this seed will grow.
Maybe, in many years, your child will enjoy learning Chinese again. At least, he will be thankful for what you did.