When it comes to children learning Mandarin, one of the challenges they may encounter is listening. Many kids learning Chinese can read or even write much better than they can compenhend people speaking Mandarin. So what is the best way to tackcle this challenge? Let’s read the story of Anna and find out how what she did to improve her Chinese listening skills successfully.
Anna is a 9-year-old non-Chinese girl from Ohio, United States. She started learning Chinese with me earlier this year. Before studying with me, Anna had learned Chinese for three years and had a basic understanding of Chinese knowledge, including pinyin and characters. However, her listening skills were still lacking. She couldn’t understand people speaking Mandarin even at a normal speed.This inability to comprehend spoken Chinese hindered her speaking abilities as well, and she found herself in a frustrating learning cycle.
When she began studying Chinese with me, we did a lot of practice in listening in our classes. In addition, I also recommended several methods for improving her Chinese listening skills which she could use after class. She embraced these methods and has achieved very positive results thus far.
I would like to share in this article these effective methods for practicing listening, which are can be beneficial for all kids learning Mandarin.
If you hear a Chinese word you never heard or learned before, it’s impossible for you to understand it. Therefore, expanding vocabulary is a very important step to improving listening skills.
Besides learning new words during our lessons, Anna also downloaded a dictionary app and used it to look up and memorize unfamiliar words. She maintained a vocabulary notebook with a range of difficulty levels. Every day, she challenged herself to learn a few new words. She has experienced a significant improvement in her vocabulary so far. Now, when listening to Chinese, she finds that what was once challenging is now understandable.
I encouraged Anna to visit local places where she can hear people speaking Chinese, such as Chinatown and Chinese restaurants, to expose herself to spoken Chinese.
Anna and her parents started visiting these places more often. In Chinese restaurants, she paid attention when others placed orders in Chinese. She would subconsciously take note of the items and understand the content of the conversations.
Additionally, she practiced speaking Chinese to Chinese-speaking staff in the restaurants. Although there were initial difficulties in understanding, she gradually became familiar with the language through repetition, sometimes with translation assistance. As she exposed herself to these situations more frequently, her listening skills improved noticeably.
Active listening is very important so I recommended to Anna various Chinese listening materials, including songs such as “Invisible Wings,” “The Lone Hero” , and story audios like “Journey to the West.”
I encouraged her to dedicate time each day for immersive audio listening. Initially, she might have looked at the lyrics or the words while listening to the songs and stories, struggling to comprehend the meaning of the words. However, with increased exposure, her mind became filled with these melodies and Chinese sounds. Now, she can understand the lyrics of songs and follow the storyline of “Journey to the West” without looking at the written words.
Learning needs to and can be enjoyable. I recommended to Anna some Chinese movies and cartoons with subtitles that she might enjoy, such as “Super Wings,” “Boonie Bears,” “Big Head Son and Small Head Father,” and “GG Bond.”
I encouraged her to watch these for both entertainment and listening practice. Whenever she had spare time, she watched these videos. As they were her favorites, she found pleasure in not only watching but also practicing her listening skills. I advised her to watch once with subtitles, and then watch them again without subtitles. Over time, she not only developed a fondness for Chinese culture but also enhanced her listening abilities.
Over time, Anna’s listening skills improved significantly, and her speaking abilities also saw great progress. Her journey towards improved Chinese listening skills not only contributed to her linguistic success but also broadened her perspective. Through exposure to Chinese movies and cartoons, she gained insight into Chinese culture and customs.
If your child, like Anna, struggles with Chinese listening, feel free to sign up for a free 1 to 1 online chinese lesson and I will be delighted to help.