I recall the lamentable moments when my students cringed at the sight of the Chinese textbook.
“Huh! Not this again!” They pouted.
Among other subjects, it seems that young students are prejudiced against this particular language. Almost none of the students I taught took a real interest in it. And that annoys me.
Not just annoyance. Having taught Chinese for years, I was puzzled by a large amount of disdain, which leads to poor grades, for this beautiful language.
Our relationship with the language has become ineluctable, appearing in nearly every moment of our days. Given the exposure they have to the language, their proficiency should be progressing. But why do they still face so many challenges when they’re learning it?
So, we did actually talk about why kids in Singapore actually struggle to learn Chinese, and how they can do better at learning it.
#1 Read more. Repeatedly.
Have you seen a movie twice (or thrice) and felt like you’ve watched an entirely new film? That’s how the magic of repeating works.
When you’re rewatching a film or rereading a book, you get something new out of it because you’d either be understanding the context even deeper or you’re interpreting it from a different perspective.
Interestingly, Warren Buffett has his very own elaborated technique on how to read more and remember it all (which isn’t recommended for kids due to its complexity).
If that’s not convincing enough, here’s another example. Famous Chinese cartoonist, Mr. Feng Zikai, habitually reads an article (one that he concludes is well-written) 22 times. After the idea sinks in, your mind mechanically restores bits and pieces of the information, which makes recalling it easy-peasy.
#2 Learn by heart. Deliberately.
Alright, we’re finally breaking the bad news.
Your child needs to intentionally memorize some aspects of the language. Mostly technical knowledge such as phonetic meanings.
By learning these by heart and going through them in their minds often, it’ll re-consolidate their memory about it when they come across it in examinations, or if they have to use it in their writings.
Here’s an additional tip. Memorizing requires determination and concentration. Your kid’s study or bedroom should be a dedicated palace of study. Too much noise, toys or distractions can make study (in particular memorizing) harder. Especially more so for your child’s profoundly chaotic mind.
So, remove distractions from your kid’s study or bedroom, and make it only about studying.
#3 Write. Diligently.
More often than not, a professional writer always begins writing with a summary. He’ll then start churning out a rough draft before proceeding to the final piece.
However, a writer seldom refers back to the rough draft when they’re in the process of writing. Because before working on the final piece, everything should have been etched in their minds.
Out of the 3 tips that we’re sharing with you, writing is astoundingly the best way to memorize. It involves various senses, and that constitutes the best way (a.k.a. highest level) of memorization. A diary, lesson notes or passage summary are great ways to start.
Ten habits to learn Chinese well
- Reading and reciting
- Reading good materials other than textbooks
- Deciphering the language and its writing
- Accumulating reading materials
- Keeping a diary
- Writing in a standardized way
- Listening to people’s speech habits
- Speak proper Chinese
- Asking questions
- Referring to textbooks
Here are more Chinese learning habits that every student should master. The more the merrier, right?
BONUS: The two-step pre-reading method
For your child to learn a language well, they need to gear up mentally and tangibly. It’s how they can fortify their self-learning ability.
The first step: scan through reading to remove ‘obstacles’.
By ‘obstacles’, we mean unrecognized words.
Have your kid skim through the entire article and check up definitions using the dictionary when they happen upon words that they can’t define. This process is what we call removing obstacles.
Only by doing these preparatory work can your kid read the text smoothly, understand the meaning of the text, and deepen their understanding of the text.
The second step: read in detail to distinguish the problem.
Read the article again, this time meticulously. Try to identify the segments and outline its central idea. Read sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and encourage your kids to ask questions if they’re doubtful about any part of the writing.
If you want your child to be good in Chinese, they’d need to put in a lot more effort than what we mentioned. A daunting task, you might think. But not undoable. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’d know more about the ways to tackle this scary character your kid comes across every day.
If learning Chinese is a challenge for your kid, we’re here to help! By using fun videos and cartoons, our online lessons can eventually trigger children’s interest in the language! Not sure if the lessons are right for your kid? Sign them up for a free trial lesson now!