When I was studying how foreign students learn Chinese, I read an article on a website about effective methods to learn Chinese used by overseas born Chinese children. This article inspired me, and significantly opened my mind about my research.
The author made several points in the article.
First, listening and speaking are the foundation for a language. She said that children were highly capable of learning a new language. The truth is that only adults’ abilities to focus and study are limited. Every child has certain talent for language learning. All they need is the opportunity to do it. They won’t feel lost in the process. We’re fool to think that children cannot study multiple languages at same time. And it is common to see children who are bilingual or even multilingual. In some past cases, we only saw children who cannot speak Chinese, but did not see those who cannot speak English.
It is important to preserve the purity of the language. Don’t mix Chinese and English together. Instead, parents should provide more Chinese only occasions. Repetition is always the best way to learn a language. Reading and reciting are of great importance. All great cultures give significant weight on the value of reading. The books can be stories, or some classics like Analects. Parents should try to use Chinese to communicate with their children and let them answer in Chinese. Some children feel more comfortable speaking in English, and always do so even if their parents are talking to them in Chinese. In such cases, parents can choose to not respond them unless they speak Chinese.
Second, the current situation of overseas born Chinese children studying Chinese. Many of them don’t like studying Chinese not just because the study itself is difficult and boring, but also due to their limited knowledge of Chinese character. They can’t conduct effective communication without enough Chinese character storage. Many schools teaching Chinese only teach six to seven Chinese characters every week. In addition, characters are easy to forget if they are not used frequently. Sometimes, a child who has studied Chinese for more than ten years only know about one thousand characters. They can’t read under this level, which means they can’t conduct self-study. Among all the reasons for the failure of Chinese studying, low character recognition is a major factor.
Third, how to make breakthrough on learning Chinese character and overall reading and writing abilities. To get enough storage of Chinese characters before school age is critical. Start early and help children develop the habit to read is crucial. Always remember to seize the right time to start, to utilize effective teaching method, and to use appropriate content. Because Chinese characters look like pictures, and children usually are sensitive to visual information. The right hemisphere of people’s brain is responsible for visual information, and this part of brain is especially active when people are young. So children are more receptive to language. Read will improve the ability to write. And it is important to always help children develop the habit to read and learn Chinese characters.