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How to Teach Your Child Mandarin Chinese

Right now, students are having class online more than ever, while trying to #stayhome and #flattenthecurve of cases of COVID-19. For those not accustomed to online learning, that can be a big challenge to face, and takes time to adapt to.

What’s more, the earlier you start learning a language the better - kids’ minds are like sponges. In this way, now is the best time for your child to start learning a second (third, or more) language. 

With this in mind, we want to share some tips for you parents out there, as to how to teach your kids Chinese using online resources. Whether you’re a native Chinese speaker, or a non-native speaker, teaching a language in a clear, cohesive manner is no easy task. 

In this post, we’ll be giving you some general insight into how to use online resources to monitor and improve your child’s Chinese learning experience, regardless of whether you’re a native Chinese speaker or not.

Check out this post for some general self-study tips for learning Chinese on your own.

#1: Have a set study schedule/routine

This is a key part of helping your kids learn Chinese. 

Plan out WHEN your kids will study (for example, 7-7:30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays). 

Also, figure out HOW they will study: What learning resources will they use to study? In what order will they use each resource during each study session? 

Let’s take our Yoyo Chinese curriculum for example. 

First, you can click here to check out our free Study Schedule for our Beginner Conversational Chinese course.

Below is an example of a good, general study routine using different study tools for a given lesson from our Beginner course: 

  • 5 minutes: Review Your “Up for Review” Flashcards
  • 5 minutes: Watch the Lesson Video
  • 5 minutes: Listen to the Audio Review with Lecture Notes PDF
  • 5 minutes: Listen to the Audio Review without notes
  • 5 minutes: Review the Flashcards and/or Dialogue Replay
  • 5 minutes: Take the Quiz 

So, depending how your kids study and what resources they’re using, build out a game plan so it’s clear what tasks they should complete each time.

#2: Study in shorter, more frequent sessions, and try to make it fun

This is a really important part of learning a language like Chinese. 

First off, it is a LOT more beneficial to study a half hour, five days a week, than it is to cram that same material in a few hours once a week. Spacing it out really helps the retention of the language, and helps your child maintain those good study habits.

Also, studying a little every day, with short video lessons, will also help to avoid having your kids feel overwhelmed. Children often have short attention spans as well, so try to keep the sessions short and sweet, and use different tools to help them study.

In addition, if you use resources with interactive content, that can also make the lessons more fun! 

For example, our quizzes on our website are a bit ‘gamified’, so they’re super interactive and pretty fun to complete! 

#3: Find ways to quiz your child on the material

A key part of studying is to make sure your child is really learning and retaining the material. There are several ways to do this, which we’ve listed below.

*Note: It’s most helpful if you have basic knowledge of at least pinyin

You can take our ‘pinyin and tones crash course’ (Units 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 in Level 1 of the Beginner course), which is FREE for the month of April! Click here to check out the first introduction video of the course.

Here are some options for quizzing your child:

1. Use double-sided flashcards with your child. 

If you child uses flashcards in his or her study routine, help them by using physical flashcards to quiz them (show them the Chinese character and/or pinyin, or English for an extra challenge!), and ask for the English meaning, or how to say the word in Chinese! 

If you’re using digital flashcards, you can just sit next to them as they go through the flashcards, and mark down any that they had difficulty with. 

First side of card:

Second side of card (after clicking ‘Reveal’):

2. Quiz your children verbally.

This is also a great way to quiz them, since they have to think a bit more than with flashcards (particularly if you’re asking them to provide the English meanings based on you saying the Chinese pinyin aloud).

Mark down any questions that your child has difficulty with, so you can put it on the list to study those words further.

In the Yoyo Chinese curriculum, we do the work for you! This is especially helpful if you’re not confident in your pronunciation of the Chinese pinyin as well. We have a great feature, called the Audio Review, which is basically an MP3 file where we’re quizzing the student on the lesson material covered. 

What’s more, each audio prompt asks for the student to provide the Chinese, rather than the English, so they’re getting tested in the most thorough way, while also getting practice SPEAKING the Chinese out loud, which is really important for conversational Chinese.

When you use the Audio Review to quiz the student, you can have the lesson’s Lecture Notes PDF in front of you (either by printing it out, or looking at it on your phone or other device that your child cannot see), so as your child answers each question on their own, you can mark down which words, phrases or sentences he or she had trouble with.

3. Have your child complete a quiz for each lesson.

This can be done in a variety of ways, including written quizzes, digital quizzes, or you can just use a feature like the Audion Review as a quiz. We highly recommend having some sort of written/digital quiz though, so that your child can also be quizzed on seeing the Chinese pinyin and Chinese characters.

We offer a 10-question interactive quiz after EVERY single lesson within our courses, so you can have your child complete the quiz, and check out their score. Aiming for 90-100% is a good goal to ensure your child has a really good grasp on the material.

4. Have your child test his or her listening skills.

This is a great exercise to test their ability to understand spoken Chinese. You can do this by having your child turn away from the computer or device that you’re using to study. Then, click on the audio within some of the flashcards, and have your child try to write the Chinese pinyin, character, and/or English that corresponds with the Chinese audio.

This can be done using our interactive flashcard list - you can choose to click on either slow speed or normal speed audio.

You can also switch to ‘pinyin’ view if you need:

Modification: For an ADDED challenge, for lessons that include this, test your child on their understanding of Chinese spoken by different native speakers, with different accents, clarity, etc. 

This can be done for those lessons in the Yoyo Chinese curriculum that include a Dialogue Replay (in Beginner, that’s the Chinese on the Street lessons, and most lessons within the Intermediate and Upper Intermediate courses incorporate this feature). 

Just click on the ‘normal’ speed icon (x1.0), and then click on the Chinese line for the audio of the interviewee, to see if your child understands what is said. He or she can tell you what the translation is or write the Chinese down in pinyin and/or characters.

You can also switch to pinyin view if you need:

#4: Monitoring and incentivizing studying

This is another fun way to gamify studying. Keep in mind, this is more difficult to track on your own, but can be done by keeping track of how many times your child has studied, their quiz scores, and more. 

On our website, we help you track your child’s progress, with key stats like: 

  • Your study streak - which is determined by completing 1 quiz each day, for a consecutive period. For instance, if your student studies for three days in a row, each time completing one quiz, the streak will show as “3”. We love to have study streak challenges to motivate our students!
  • Your best study streak - the longest streak like above that you’ve had in your history of being our student.
  • Lessons completed - all the lessons that you’ve completed across our courses, which is determined by watching each lesson video in full.
  • Total flashcards - all of the flashcards that you’ve gone through across our courses, by using the “Practice” button on each lesson page.
  • Average quiz score - the average score that you have had, from all quizzes that you’ve taken across all courses.
  • Perfect quiz score - how many quizzes you’ve had a score of 100% on.

With these study stats being tracked, you can associate certain milestones with rewards, to encourage your son or daughter’s progress in the program.

If you’d like to learn more about our study streak tools, and the contests we sometimes run to encourage your study streak progress, click here.

#5: BONUS - Give your child a little ‘homework’

If you’re looking for more ways to have your children hammer the information home, assign them a little homework. There are a few ways to do this, and we’d advise to make the homework pretty quick and easy to do if your child is studying several times a week. If they study less frequently, a slightly longer assignment may be appropriate.

Here are a few ideas for assigning homework, with varying levels of difficulty. You can pick one that works best for you and your child:

1. Short assignment - Easy: Have them complete a short quiz on the material.

For a quick, easy way to refresh their memory and test them on the material they learned, have your child complete the quiz next to you, or show you their score after taking an online quiz for a lesson. 

If you’re giving homework, we highly suggest a quiz as the homework, so that the homework isn’t too much of a burden, and still keeps learning fun for your child.

 A short 5-10 question quiz with multiple choice questions, fill in the blank, and similar question types is a great way to see their retention of the material, and doesn’t take too long - maybe 5 minutes or so for 10 questions.

This is assuming that you’re not including the ‘quiz’ as a part of the study session above, of course.

2. Short assignment - Easy: If it isn’t already a part of their study routine, have them review some older flashcards that they haven’t seen in a while.

With a language like Chinese, retaining what you’ve learned can be a challenge. With this in mind, we HIGHLY recommend reviewing flashcards from time to time, that you haven’t seen in a while. 

With our Up For Review flashcard deck, we use the Spaced Repetition System (SRS) so that the flashcards that appear in your flashcard deck are the ones that you should review from time to time. You’re able to rate the difficulty of each card as well, so our system will better identify which ones to recirculate and how often. 

This is another quick and easy way for your child to do a little extra by reviewing the cards that appear in their flashcard deck during each study session.

3. Short assignment - Hard: Have them compose their own sentences in Chinese using what they’ve learned.

If you’re a native Chinese speaker, this will be something you can handle on your own. If you’re not a native Chinese speaker, this can be tough, but you can still have your child write a few sentences (besides the ones they learned), using the material. You can then ask a friend, or hire a tutor, to help correct it. You can also post on online forums, where native speakers can help correct the sentences. 

*Modifications: The easiest way is for your child to type the sentences up. For an added challenge, have your child write it out using Chinese characters.

Interested in learning how to read and write Chinese characters, stroke by stroke? 

Check out our Chinese Character I Course, which teaches the 300 MOST common Chinese characters used. With these 300 characters you can form 64% of all written Chinese. That's a lot!

Get started with the free lessons of this course here.

4. Long assignment - Hard: Have them write a paragraph using some of the material they’ve learned.

This is similar to the assignment above, but if you’d like to give them homework just once a week, have them write a lengthier passage, using what they’ve learned. Again, for added difficulty, you can have them write it out by hand.

5. Bonus Homework

For our Chinese character courses, we actually have a bonus homework sheet for each new lesson, within the Lecture Notes PDF document. You’ll be asked to handwrite the Chinese characters learned, as well as some phrases or sentences using those characters. An answer key is also provided.

Click here for a full sample of these homework sheets, from one of our Chinese Character I Course lessons.

Ready to Get Started?

That wraps up our list of different ways to help your child learn Chinese online - we hope you found some of these ideas helpful! 

If you’re ready to try out our courses, you can access the first level of our Beginner Conversational Course for FREE for the month of April! That’s over 40 lessons

Plus, this will equip you with the knowledge you’ll need on pinyin, to better assist your child with his or her studies!

Get started with the first lesson of the course here!

By the way, we strongly suggest learning Chinese pinyin and the basics before focusing on learning how to write Chinese characters. 

Our recommended study track is: 

Let us know in the comments below: What methods do YOU use to aid your child’s study of Mandarin Chinese? 

If you have other ideas or tips, feel free to share them below!