Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #3.1: We are already doing a great thing by sending our child to Chinese language school. I just don’t understand why he is so unhappy going there…

January 30, 2015

Learning Chinese the Child’s Way

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Every child is different! Each remembers things via different cues. Some are kinesthetic and some are visual. There was once a character presented raw many a time to a child, but she never memorized it. The character was 實. Even when we pointed out that the middle was like a fruit (e.g. an acorn, as in 果實); but because we were not using this vocabulary as much in casual Cantonese conversation, that was not particularly helpful.

It frustrated the teacher as much as the child. Finally, a light bulb came up. Using what was available at hand, the teacher tied a used sock with two metallic twist ties that came with those clear plastic bags, and made the sock very tight. In conversational Cantonese, the word 實 also means solid and pulling tight. Ever since then, the child has never forgotten what the character is, just because she sees that sock in the middle of the character!

The principles learned:

  • Know how the child learns (e.g. kinesthetic, visual, audio). Even if you know it is visual, is it pictures, patterns, or colors that click with the child?
  • Make use of what the child already knows in his own daily conversational Chinese and objects he is familiar with. Draw from existing and prior knowledge.
  • Make it fun and memorable. Who would forget the look and smell of your papa’s old sock! Have fun touching it (visual and kinesthetic) and making it “tight”!
  • That is why you who know your child can best supplement what he is learning from others. Because your lesson can tailor to his individual needs.

*Notice that at times, the simplified version of a character (e.g. 实 for 實) may miss the visual cues that can be useful in drawing literal meanings. Hence, it is a decision you should make when you are deciding which version to teach. Please refer to Situation #4.4: I am not sure whether my child should study simplified characters or traditional characters.

 

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  1. That is so true. I am so glad someone else brought this up.

    Comment by David Li-Wei Chen — October 18, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

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