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Mandarin Chinese is one of the most ‘learned’ languages in the world for adults studying for business, job prospects and even just for pleasure. Learning another language, especially Chinese has specific benefits such as better decision making and helping boost creativity. However, many people might argue that Chinese is a complicated and possibly stressful language for an adult, so should we have our kids learn Chinese as well?
In fact, studies say it’s even better for children to learn another language and as with adults, Chinese has EVEN more benefits for children.
1. Learning Chinese can be FUN!
Since it’s so easy to make Chinese learning ‘fun’ it’s more enjoyable for a kid to learn Chinese. Gamification has become a model to help learn anything, especially a language. There are many language learning platforms that have made learning ‘more fun’ by creating a game-element to the learning process. Well, kids LOVE games, so it seems natural that allowing them to play games to learn will make learning another language even more enjoyable and natural.
Whilst at Written Chinese we’re great advocates of online platforms and mobile apps to learn Chinese, even for kids, but it’s good to give your kids’ eyes a break and learn the old-fashioned way with paper, crafts and physical activities! If you’re teaching your kids Chinese, take a look at Chalk Academy for awesome hands-on games and crafts.
Skip counting with felt hands • Last year, we traced & cut 老大’s hand shapes, but she didn’t care for them after we made them! I tried to reintroduce it a few times over the past few months with no success. Then last week, 老大 rediscovered these in our activity storage bin & wanted to mix, sort, & skip count immediately. She even set up a little tray by herself on our shelf, & she’s had fun working on this throughout the week! That’s the beauty about the Montessori approach: observe, #followthechild, & she will learn when she’s ready (swipe to see easel math). . . DIY details here—> https://chalkacademy.com/counting-felt-hands-math-activity/ #CHALKAcademy
2. Language learning is really good for the brain
Not only are bilingual people more perceptive to different cultures and the world around them but are also better list makers and are faster at digging up important information, whilst discarding false facts. Furthermore, studies say that it’s much easier for children to learn than for adults, especially when learning a second language. Babies brains are able to absorb more information than adults.
Whilst some parents find that multilingual children begin speaking 3-6 months later than ‘usual’, most kids learning another language have superior reading and writing skills. In general, children who can speak more than one language have better analytical and social skills.
3. It helps develop other areas of study too!
Learning Chinese is said to improve other areas of study, especially music. Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese are ‘tonal’ languages, so people who speak these languages are more likely to identify musical pitch. Mandarin has 5 tones (or 4 and a neutral tone), a long flat tone, a rising tone, a dipped tone, a dropping tone and a neutral tone and these help indicate the meaning of a character when spoken. When romanised, the words for ‘hug’ and ‘precious’ have the same sound ‘bao’. however when spoken in Chinese they are divided by their own tones, ‘hug’ has the downward tone ‘bào’, whereas ‘precious’ has a dipping tone ‘bǎo’.
Many children who are multilingual usually test higher in subjects such as maths and English. Studies also suggest that the longer a kid has studied a language, the better they might score!
4. Patterns make it easier for kids to remember
There are lots of Chinese phrases and sentence patterns that make learning the language easier for a child to learn. For example, unlike other languages, learning to count is simple once you have learned 1-10. There is a very logical process to create another number with the existing ones. For example 12 is 10 + 2 十二 (shí èr) and 40 is 4 + 10 四十 (sì shí). It’s also easy to remember days of the week and months, and they are just a word of week or month with a number, for example, January is ‘one-month’ 一月 (yī yuè).
Plurals are literally non-existent in the Chinese language making it slightly easier than learning English! If you want to refer to more than one of something, you just add the number or determiner. For example ‘2 pencils’ would be 两支铅笔 (liǎng zhī qiān bǐ) ‘2 (classifier) pencil’ or ‘lots of paper’ 很多纸 (hěn duō zhǐ) ‘very much paper’.
Additionally, it’s easy to create new words from ones you already know. Although you can’t just make up new words and hope for the best, learning new words is way easier than with other languages. For example, an aeroplane is ‘飞机’ (fēi jī) ‘flying – machine’, a zebra is 斑马 (bān mǎ) ‘stripped-horse’ and balloon is 气球 (qì qiú) ‘air-ball’.
Finally, there are lots of sentence patterns that make it easier to construct sentences. For example, the subject + verb + object pattern is consistently used within Chinese and is the basis of a sentence:
我爱他 (wǒ ài tā) I love him
5. It’s really an art class
Images created by Kyle the Cool Iron Cart
Chinese characters are made up of multiple components that fit together to create meaning and pronunciation. As children will mostly be learning pictographs and characters that have clearer visual meaning, characters become mini pictures. For instance, animals such as 羊 (yáng), 牛 (niú) and 马 (mǎ) make it easy to image real animals. More complex characters, such as the one for cat 猫 (māo) shows an animal on the left side combined with a field 田 (tián) and the grass radical 艹 (cǎo). These two characters combined actually provide the pronunciation ‘miáo – māo’ to the character, but these components also allow the creation of a story.
This can make learning characters a lot more fun and easier for children to both remember the characters by creating stories and writing by constructing pictures for each one. Children are full of creative and imaginative games, and creating mnemonics will be a cinch for them!
6. More opportunities in the future
This may be an obvious one, but if kids start learning Chinese, it will undoubtedly open doors for the future, not just for their careers but also to communicate and socialise with their peers. Over 1.2 billion people speak Chinese worldwide and Chinese-learning classes have increased by 51% since 2002. It’s already coming clear that China is a massive presence in the business world speaking Chinese will probably make it easier to do business in the future.
Are your kids already studying Chinese? Share some of the ways they learn with us below!