Unlocking the Fun of Learning Chinese for Kids

 Learning Chinese Part 1

Ni hao! That’s “hello” in Chinese, or as my kids would say, “Nee how are you, Mom?” They’re trying to learn Chinese, and let me tell you, it’s been quite the adventure.

First of all, the language is full of words that sound like something else entirely. For example, the word for “horse” sounds a lot like the word for “mother.” So when my son proudly announced, “Mom, I can say ‘I love horse!’” I was a little confused. But hey, I’ll take it.

Then there’s the issue of tones. In Chinese, the meaning of a word can change depending on the tone you use to say it. There’s the high tone, the rising tone, the falling-rising tone, the falling tone… you get the idea. My daughter was practicing saying “ma” with the rising tone, which means “mother,” but she accidentally used the falling tone, which means “horse.” You can imagine the confusion when she turned to me and said, “Hey, horse, can I have a snack?”

But despite the challenges, my kids are having a blast learning Chinese. They love practicing the different tones and trying to say words like “xièxie” (thank you) and “nǐ hǎo” (hello) without laughing.

And you know what? They’re actually getting pretty good at it. The other day, my son proudly declared, “Mom, I can count to ten in Chinese!” And then he proceeded to say, “Yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ, lìù, qī, bā, jiǔ, shí.”

I was impressed, until he turned to me and said, “And you know what comes after ten? Eleven-ese!”

I groaned, but secretly, I was proud of his creativity. Who knows, maybe he’ll come up with a new language one day. In the meantime, we’ll keep practicing our Chinese and trying not to mix up the words for “mother” and “horse.” Wish us luck!

Learning Chinese Part 2

My littlest one is determined to learn Chinese, and we've been trying all sorts of fun ways to make it easier for him. One of our latest discoveries is magic water Chinese writing cards.

Basically, you use a special pen to write Chinese characters on these cards, and then you use a magic water brush to reveal the hidden characters. It's like a magic trick, and my son and daughter love it.

One day, we were practicing writing the names of different animals. We started with the basics, like "man" and "mouth" But then his elder sister joined in. And being the same competitive self, she wanted to learn some more advanced words, like "cow" and "horse."

I wrote the characters for "cow" on the card, and she excitedly used the magic water brush to reveal the word. But instead of saying "niu" (the Chinese word for cow), she started giggling uncontrollably and shouting "moo!"

I couldn't help but join in on the fun. We continued with "horse," but instead of "ma" (the Chinese word for horse), they started neighing like horses and galloping around the room.

We were having so much fun that we didn't even realize we were learning. And who knows, maybe the next time we see a cow or a horse, we'll be able to show off our Chinese skills.

So, if you're looking for a fun way to teach your kids Chinese, give magic water writing cards a try. Just be prepared for some unexpected animal noises and lots of laughter.

In Singapore, most children are bilingual, and there are many advantages of being bilingual. Here are just some of them :-
  1. Enhanced cognitive development: Studies have shown that bilingual children have better cognitive skills than monolingual children. This is because learning two languages simultaneously strengthens the brain's executive function, which is responsible for problem-solving, attention, and multitasking. Bilingual kids are also better at switching between tasks and have more efficient working memories.

  2. Better communication skills: Knowing multiple languages opens up a world of communication, and small kids and toddlers who are bilingual have the opportunity to communicate with more people. This allows them to develop better communication skills, including better listening and comprehension skills, and the ability to express themselves in different ways.

  3. Increased cultural awareness: Bilingual kids have the ability to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds, which helps them develop an understanding and appreciation of different cultures. This can lead to increased empathy and tolerance, as well as an expanded worldview.

  4. Improved academic performance: Bilingual children often perform better academically, particularly in subjects like math, science, and language arts. Studies have shown that being bilingual can lead to improved problem-solving skills, higher test scores, and greater academic achievement overall.

  5. Improved social skills: Bilingual children often have more opportunities to socialize with a wider range of people, which can lead to better social skills. They may be more confident and outgoing in social situations, and more capable of navigating diverse social settings.

  6. Enhanced career opportunities: In today's globalized world, being bilingual can provide significant career advantages. Bilingual kids may be more desirable to employers who have international business dealings, and may have better opportunities to work or study abroad.

For more in-depth research on kids and bilingualism, here are some trustworthy sites that discuss the benefits of bilingualism for kids:

  1. Bilingual Kidspot: https://www.bilingualkidspot.com/2019/05/06/benefits-of-raising-bilingual-children/
  2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/The-Advantages-of-Being-Bilingual/
  3. Multilingual Children's Association: https://multilingualchildren.org/advantages-of-being-bilingual/
  4. NPR: https://www.npr.org/2016/04/04/472534684/the-benefits-of-bilingualism
  5. Parenting Science: https://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-bilingualism.html