Hanyu Pinyin is the foundation of a child’s journey into learning the Chinese language.
In Singapore, Hanyu Pinyin is a key concern for K2 and P1 parents because there is a large emphasis on Hanyu Pinyin in P1.
In this blog entry, we share common problems students face when learning Hanyu Pinyin and some secret tips to help kids master it.
Hanyu Pinyin is basically the Romanised form of Chinese words but due to the different pronunciation of English for the same letters, children, especially those from English-speaking families, can find it even more challenging to master Pinyin.
This can result in low confidence and lack of interest in the Chinese language. Many children find learning Hanyu Pinyin boring. Thus, it is important for students to build their confidence and interest in Hanyu Pinyin through fun activities such as:
1. Using Stories to provide meaningful context
Many students perceive Hanyu Pinyin to be just some meaningless sounds which are not associated with meaning. Therefore, having meaningful context can help students make sense of the Pinyin they learn.
BrainyPlay uses a series of stories to achieve this.
The stories impersonate each Hanyu Pinyin letter and give it a characteristic related to its sound. For example, “e” is a goose swimming in the lake.
By using stories to teach Pinyin, it is easier for your child to associate the Pinyin with the correct pronunciation. The funny storylines also make learning more interesting and engaging.
2. Using Songs to reinforce pronunciation
Hanyu Pinyin is closely connected to pronunciation. Students who are not able to specify the pinyin for a word often cannot pronounce it properly. If you think about it, it makes plenty of sense. It’s very difficult to actively remember something if you cannot passively identify it.
We can use interesting songs to reinforce the individual sounds and basic building blocks of Hanyu Pinyin.
Here's a compilation of Hanyu Pinyin songs on YouTube. Rhymes with visuals help children remember Hanyu Pinyin sounds better and practise pronunciation more accurately.
You can play them and have your child sing along - learning is far more effective if your child is actively singing along rather than passively listening.
3. Using TPR to teach the 4 tones
Chinese is a tonal language, which means differing the tones will give different meanings to the words. However, mastering different tones can be rather challenging for children.
Quite a number of children find it challenging to differentiate the four tones. They often mix up the second tone with the third tone.
Total Physical Response (TPR) is one of the most established and effective methods in language teaching, by using physical movement to react to verbal input.
At BrainyPlay, we use movements with a rhyme for students to understand the pronunciation of the four different tones. After which, students will get to physically put it into practice by using body movement.
4. Playing Task-based Games
Learning will be more engaging and effective when done in the form of games and children are given tasks or missions to complete.
At BrainyPlay, we do interactive games such as preparing sets of flashcards, with Chinese words and different alphabets, and asking students to help the consonants find their vowel friends.
We also use the set of flashcards for students to practise Pinyin reading.
To create excitement in the games, we compete. Whoever gets the right answer gets to keep the cards. The person with the most cards wins.
Need extra help?
If you would like some extra help, BrainyPlay is conducting a Hanyu Pinyin Mastery camp during the upcoming Dec holidays for K1-P2 children. The camp runs from 16 Dec to 20 Dec.
The camp will reinforce Hanyu Pinyin fundamentals, with particular focus on common difficulties like vowel tones and blending faced by children entering P1. The camp will also include vocabulary activities covering common words to help children get accustomed to the P1 syllabus.