How a 5-Year-Old Became Conversational in Mandarin: 4 Teaching Methods Revealed

While an increasing number of parents want their children to learn Chinese to better position themselves for future careers, for children between the ages of 2 and 5, learning Chinese can pose a challenge as young kids may easily find it challenging and sometimes boring to learn Chinese. As a teacher with over 10 years of experience teaching Mandarin to kids, I have had many young students, many of whom actually have enjoyed learning the language and made good progress.

One such student was Olivia, a 5-year-old girl from Boston, USA. Her parents were Spanish immigrants, and she spoke mostly Spanish with them at home. During a family vacation to San Francisco in early 2022, Olivia was captivated by how multicultural the city was, particularly the Chinese cultural elements in Chinatown, such as red lanterns, Chinese characters, lion dances, and Chinese dragons.

After returning to Boston, she continued to be fascinated by the Chinese culture she had encountered and even expressed a desire to learn Chinese and visit China someday. Her parents were initially hesitant to add yet another language as she already had two other languages to learn- English and Spanish.

Soon, Olivia’s father, Gary, made up his mind to have Olivia start learning Chinese, and he made this decision due to something that happened at work. Gary worked at a multinational company, and China was an important market for the company. In the spring of 2022, the company had a very attractive position open for its employees. The position was mainly responsible for the company’s business in the Asia-Pacific region.

Gary applied for the position, but he ended up losing to another candidate who could speak some Chinese and better understand Chinese culture. Soon Gary realized that being able to speak Chinese means more opportunities. Thus, he decided to have his daughter start learning the language.

After doing some research online and comparisons, Gary decided to have Olivia take Chinese lessons with me. Although starting from scratch, Olivia was able to make progress very fast, partly due to that she’s really interested in learning the language. The other contributing factor was that I, as Olivia’s Chinese teacher, designed classes specifically tailored to her as a young kid to make learning both easy and effective.

So how did I manage to help a 5-year-old child (she started learning with me when she was 4) learn Chinese with fun and ease? Here are 4 key methods I used:

1. Utilize interactive games:

Children enjoy playing games, so I designed interactive games to help Olivia learn Chinese with fun. For instance, I would prepare cards with Chinese words and corresponding pictures, and let her express the meaning of each word and match it to the correct picture. Such games are not only fun but also aid in memorizing Chinese words for young kids.

2. Incorporate engaging stories:

I shared interesting Chinese stories with Olivia to capture her attention in the classes. These stories often feature fascinating cultural elements, such as traditional Chinese festivals, stories, and legends. It worked quite well as Olivia was very interested in Chinese culture.

3. Foster speaking ability:

Developing speaking ability is crucial in the early stages of learning Chinese. Enabling young kids to speak Chinese in daily life will motivate them to learn Chinese in return. Thus, I practiced speaking a lot with Olivia, such as numbers, colors, hobbies as well as commonly used Chinese sentences including the ones she could use when ordering food. I encouraged her to speak as much Chinese as possible in classes to enhance her fluency in speaking Chinese.

4. Utilize multimedia courseware:

Children of Olivia’s age are visual learners, so I often used multimedia courseware designed by the school I work to aid her Chinese learning. This made learning Chinese even more interactive and enjoyable.

After a year of learning Chinese with me, Olivia can now carry on most daily conversations in Chinese. Gary told me, “Now Olivia often says ‘早上好 ( zǎoshàng hǎo) ‘ and ‘晚安’ (wǎnān) to me in Chinese. At Chinese restaurants, she often speaks Chinese to waiters or waitresses. ” Obviously, Gary was very happy and proud.

If your child, like Olivia, is interested in Chinese culture or learning Chinese, or if you plan to have your child start learning Chinese, sign up for a free online one-on-one trial lesson. I will make a personalized study plan for your kid after the lesson and show you how I can help your child learn Chinese happily and effectively.

You May Want to Learn More:

Good Habits to Help Children Succeed in Learning Chinese
From Down Under to China: A 12-Year-Old’s Journey to Mandarin Fluency
From Apps to Tutors: Exploring the Best Path for an 8-Year-Old’s Mandarin Journey

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