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You are here: Home > Teaching Tips for Books You've Purchased > Learning Chinese Resources > Learning Chinese Advice for Children

Learning Chinese for Young Children including Preschoolers and Toddlers

General Advice for Children Learning Chinese

For this age a great way to expose them to the Chinese Language is through the use of special DVD/Video for teaching Chinese and CDs Teaching Chinese.  CDs can be played in the car and children will sing along with them exposing them to Chinese Songs.  Stories in Mandarin Chinese are a great way to expose older children to more Chinese vocabulary. 

A good technique if someone in your house is a native speaker is have one parent speak to the Child in Chinese, while the other parent speaks in English.

Children have an amazing ability to keep track of languages as this exposes them to both English and Chinese. The Let's Sing Mandarin Series uses both familiar as well as specially written songs and was produced in Singapore.

Simplified vs. Traditional Chinese Characters - Which to Learn

This is a touchy subject and there are good arguments on which to learn. Yesterday I was speaking with someone and he referred to Traditional as the correct ones. I commented that someone from China would refer to simplified as the correct ones. I sell products for both and a 10 Level System for Learning Chinese I just got has books for both.

Here are the arguments on which is better, Traditional Chinese Characters or Simplified Chinese Characters:

Traditional Chinese Characters are better because they have a logical order of strokes, have a huge history behind the stroke order, and are easier to learn since less memorization is needed. Traditional Chinese Characters are used in Taiwan, HK, and most newspapers in the US. If you can read simplified, you can read traditional.Simplified Chinese Characters just removed some strokes and it was not done logically/systematically, so more memorization is needed for simplified. Traditional Chinese Characters are also called complicated. Traditional Chinese Characters are also prettier. And with computers, the stroke issue has become less important ( I had not heard this one before).

2. Simplified Chinese Characters is easier to learn since their are less strokes which increased literacy in China. Simplified was implemented after the 49 Revolution by Mao in the 60's. Here is a wikipedia article about the debate on Simplified vs Traditional Characters, it's interesting.

The best comment I read a while ago on the debate was China did not go far enough in the simplification and there is still too much memorization required.

You can usually tell if a person is from China or Taiwan by which system they prefer.

A great book that shows the beauty and history of Chinese Characters is Long is a Dragon. Highly recommended book.

Native Speakers for Teaching Chinese

One method for those households that don't have a native speaker is hiring of a nanny who speaks Chinese.  The NY Times had an article noting the increase in au pairs from China.  It is also possible to arrange play dates with other children who are learning Chinese as well as finding a Chinese speaking babysitter.  Local universities will often have spouses of Chinese working on Masters and PhD's who are looking for extra income.  Another option is finding a local nanny, and there are a number around.  If you are in public service, please remember Zoe Baird on the requirements for legally hiring a nanny. Truth to be told, there is a large population of people in the US from China who don't have papers who work as nannies, so be careful.  Nannies are also taking care of your children, so picking the right person is extremely important, especially if they live with you.  Friends of ours have gone through multiple nannies and it was not a good experience.

Online Programs for Teaching Chinese

There are online programs for adults learning Chinese as well as native speakers.

Watch out for ChildBook's offering on Online Chinese Tutorials with tutors from Beijing.  Coming Soon!

Private Chinese Schools

Traditionally non-public Chinese Schools in the US start teaching children when they are old to sit still and copy characters.  Most schools are still using traditional teaching rote teaching methods still used in Taiwan and China.  For the most part with children in the US, it does not work due to culture classes.  There is a huge amount of independence in children in the US and using boring teaching methods that do not capture the interest of the child so they want to go to school without a lot of parental pushing will end up in failure.  With the child being forced to go to school and often treating it as just babysitting, and not learning Chinese.

An alternative is finding a school that uses more of a Montessori Method or what is used in ESL where there is a lot of conversation.  I was pleasantly surprised by my daughter's public school language teacher who spoke of using this method in the classroom, instead of the traditional focus on grammar in learning many foreign languages.  At a young age, I would suggest programs that teach using a lot of singing and other fun activities.

Summer Camps

Going to a summer camp in a full immersion environment is a great way to learn Chinese!  Each year ChildBook publishes the largest list I have found of Summer Chinese Programs.  These range from weekend programs in the US to programs that include a boarding school to programs in China and Taiwan.  I favor the full immersion process as a great way to Learn Chinese.

Chinese Learning Products

CDs for Learning Chinese

CDs come in two different types.  One is products that are 100% Chinese of Chinese Children Songs or stories only in Chinese.  Some products include a book of lyrics in Chinese, and other's don't.  Other products are designed to teach Chinese and have a booklet with lyrics in English, Pinyin, and Chinese Characters. The teaching Chinese products are both from from the US (the majority) and a series from Singapore. The products for Teaching Chinese are bilingual, so the songs are sung in both Chinese and English.  What I like about the CD's is they give a parent a chance to be part of the process where they can Sing Happy Birthday in the Teach Me Chinese CD and Book in both English and Chinese (this series focuses on popular songs in Chinese and English).  The other series have specially written songs for Teaching Chinese.  The Teach Me Chinese Series has Teacher Guides available.  The Sing & Learn Chinese CD & Book includes a track of the songs without words (like Karoke).  Let's Sing Chinese is a 3 product series from Singapore that has both familiar songs and new ones.  3 is the most I have seen of any series of Cd's for Teaching Chinese to Children.

Videos for Learning Chinese

Videos such as the Follow Jade Series use more of a hands on approach teaching basic Chinese vocabulary.  Early Start Mandarin has 6 videos in their series that is very multicultural. Jade in Follow Jade - Let's Visit Chinese Kindergarten DVD visits an actual Chinese Kindergarten.  What is great about this video is it gives your Child the chance to compare their experience and see the differences between their school and the one in the video.  A new addition is a series of Animated Chinese Books, they are A+!  What is great about them is they have audio in English and Chinese (you select), and sub-titles in English, Pinyin, Traditional Characters, and Simplified!  To select the right video for your child, I recommend reading the reviews (both good and bad).

Books for Learning Chinese

A great book for those just beginning to Learn Chinese is I Won't Bite.  It's a touch and feel book that has Pinyin, Chinese Characters, and English.  The challenge of using a book is often you need to know how to read Chinese, in order to teach from it.  A fun book for exposing Children to Chinese Characters is Long Is A Dragon by Peggy Goldstein Also, here is a  selection of books for Learning Chinese Characters.


Software for Learning Chinese

Any day some software should arrive that has been highly recommended by customers.

Free Resources

ChildBook's Free area is very popular with parents.  It includes coloring pictures, instructions for games, and projects that are free to print out and use to help making learning Chinese fun.  There is even a free template for practicing Chinese Characters. 

Which Chinese?

Mandarin is the majority dialect of Chinese spoken.  It's the official language of China and Taiwan. Cantonese since the transition from British to China has become less important and in my opinion will become a dialect spoken at home and among friends.  From a sales prospective, I did stock after being asked to some Cantonese products at one time and they took forever to sell.

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Fun with Chinese Characters Book, Volume 1
Fun with Chinese Characters Book, Volume 1
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Customers love this book - Fun cartoons illustrate the origins of today's Chines characters. Each page humorously elaborates on origin, development of one character from a pictograph

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