Learning Chinese – the journey


Chinese? Difficult!

Chinese has always been a tough subject for C. When she was much younger, around 2 or 3, she used to ignore anyone who spoke to her in her mother tongue.

Who could blame her? To her, it was a totally foreign language.

Although we are ethnic Chinese, 99% of our conversations with her were held in English. We read English books, she watched cartoons and DVDs in English, even the punishments were meted out in English.

Our initial attempts at introducing Chinese were half-hearted at most. Truth be told, I had assumed (or maybe, hoped) that she would be able to pick up the language sooner or later. After all, she was Chinese, wasn’t she? Her grandmother watched Chinese shows, and she was exposed to the language at school. We had also enrolled her in a weekly 2-hour Chinese enrichment class. I never remembered any difficulty picking up the language myself, so I thought it would be the same for her.

How wrong (and deluded) I was. At 5 years old, she was barely able to conduct a conversation in Chinese. She could read some Chinese sentences, but understood little.

Alarm bells started ringing for us when we attended the Primary One Preparation Seminar conducted by the enrichment centre in May last year. In the seminar, the speaker covered the syllabus for primary school Chinese, in which the oral component played a major part (gasp!). We were shown sample test papers, and I found myself shaking my head… C had a loooong way to go, and it was all uphill.

We set to work trying to get her interested in Chinese. In a previous post, I posted about doing a lapbook on China. I had a reward chart marking each day that we managed a short conversation in Chinese. It was difficult to stay consistent, and I lapsed back to speaking in English from time to time. I started reading more Chinese books to her.

Fast forward one year later. I’m pleased to report that some progress has been made, and in her first term show and tell, she scored 19 out of 20 points. She is now able to conduct a fairly decent conversation, and picking up more vocabulary from reading Chinese books.

Although the push to start picking up Chinese was academic, I hope that in time, she will be able to appreciate the beauty of the language, and not treat it as another subject to study for.

The journey has just begun.

Do you face difficulties introducing a second language to your child?

p/s: I’ll be introducing some books and tools that helped C learn Chinese. Do stay tuned!


10 thoughts on “Learning Chinese – the journey

  1. Mummy Ed

    Wow! Thank you for that link back to the lapbook! We will be heading there this summer so it’s so timely and would be great to teach them more about China. This also reminded me to look for more books on China and Chinese history at the library before we go. Thanks!!

  2. Zee

    I have the exact same problem and I am also telling myself that she will somehow just get better, but I guess I had better do something about it soon. 😦 looking forward to your books and tools recommendations!

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      Hi Zee, sorry for the late updates on the blog. Hardly have time to post recently, with all the tests, projects ongoing now. Promise that the reviews will be coming soon!

  3. Linda

    I am also trying to teach my three children Chinese because it is their heritage. It’s hard since I’m the only one that speaks it with them. I wasn’t very good about speaking it with my older two when they were younger but having my third gave me renewed motivation to be better about teaching Chinese to them all. I’ve been doing better at speaking it with my youngest boy who is almost 2 and he’s soaking it up!

    It’s great to find other parents out there who are also trying to teach their children Chinese!

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      Hi Linda, nice to hear from you. Indeed, it’s their heritage and it would be a pity if they could not appreciate the language. Like you, I’m trying harder with the younger one, and thankfully he has shown a little more interest.

      I’ll be introducing some books that the kids like, hopefully it would work for you too 🙂 been really busy, hope to get that next post out soon.

  4. Homeschool Crafts

    Hey mummyshymz, it’s been a while! Yes, like you, I struggle teaching second language too. I tend to revert to speaking English all the time! Looking forward to the learning materials in your next post. 🙂

  5. Ing

    My kids are not really exposed to Chinese too while growing up. I was a very relaxed mom who didn’t send them to Chinese enrichment when they were younger. Somehow my eldest managed to do fairly well in Chinese during P1 and P2. But come P3, the words are getting really difficult and he’s struggling now. So, I’ve wised up and am now trying to speak to my younger ones in Chinese more! Hopefully they won’t struggle as much!

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