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4 Ways To Learn and Improve Your Chinese (At Home or Just Anywhere!)

As the academic year comes to an end, it’s almost time for you to take a good break. Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to acquire useful Chinese skills during the school holidays? Well, if you have, I have a piece of good news for you — it is absolutely possible! In fact, learning can take place anytime and anywhere. In this blog entry, I am excited to share with you 4 fun ways to learn Chinese beyond the four walls of a classroom!

1. Listen to the radio

Since the radio is readily available online, you can immerse your child in interesting Chinese broadcasts everywhere you go. Whether you are at home doing household chores or commuting to the shopping mall, take the opportunity to enhance your Chinese listening skills by tuning in to the radio! There are many Chinese radio stations that play Chinese songs and share interesting talks on different topics such as sports,  entertainment and current affairs. Hence, by listening to these talks and songs, you gain exposure to a wider range of vocabulary and sentence structures.

Furthermore, when you listen to accurate Chinese conversations consistently, you will also be able to hone your Chinese pronunciation by learning the right intonation and enunciation. Last but not least, the talks and news shared by the radio stations shed light on what is happening around us, which aids your child in gaining useful general knowledge for components like Oral and Comprehension.

Some of the most relevant Chinese radio stations you can check out would be LOVE 972 and YES 933. You can also refer to this website for radio stations available in Singapore.

2. Watch Chinese programmes

Is your child a Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig fan? Let your child watch these favourite cartoons in Chinese! You don’t have to limit them to just dubbed shows; shows with Chinese subtitles are helpful as well as they strengthen your child’s listening and comprehension skills. For post-show activities, engage your child in a Q&A session to recap what your child has watched. This also acts as a platform for you to gauge your child’s understanding of the programme. Getting your child to sing along to theme songs can also boost vocabulary retention. These activities not only enhance family time, but also help your child gain more confidence in speaking Chinese in the long run.

Qiao Hu (Smart Tiger) 巧虎 Chinese language series includes Hanyu Pinyin, radicals, the origin of Chinese characters and even idiom stories. Junction Tree, Singapore’s first-ever bilingual show for preschool children, can also be accessed easily. Its English-Chinese version is a lot less intimidating than the Chinese version of Sesame Street, while using the same kid-friendly mix of fun songs and friendly puppets.

3. Learn Chinese through comics

Comics are fun. However, other than being a form of entertainment, they serve as a great resource for learning Chinese too. Here are some benefits of learning Chinese through comic books.

  • Shorter chunks of text that are easy to understand

    • For children who dislike reading lengthy texts, comics are a great alternative. The language used in comics is generally easier to comprehend, which makes it easier for children to understand the story and learn useful sentence structures at the same time.

  • Vocabulary expansion

    • Even though the language used is simpler, there is still impressive vocabulary, including idioms, that you can master.

  • Pictures to provide context

    • The greatest part about reading comics is being able to appreciate the drawings at the same time. With pictures drawn to serve as the context, it helps you to better understand the story events and sentences, even if you may not know all of the words used.

    • The presence of images also assists you in visualising written expressions. For instance, you will get to see the facial expressions of the characters, which correspond to their feelings during a particular event (e.g. “Le Le was furious” -> the drawing shows Le Le gritting his teeth in anger).

  • Different writing techniques

      • Comics present an array of writing techniques that you can learn. Some techniques include dialogue, personal voice and show-not-tell description.

Take note that not all comics are equally beneficial and applicable to you as a student. Hence, do be very discerning when it comes to choosing books that are suitable for your learning. Some comics that you may consider getting your hands on include Nao Nao Comics Street 闹闹漫画街, Old Master Q Happy Idioms 老夫子 快乐成语 and Le Le Brainwave Comics 乐乐计转弯.

4. Introduce hands-on activities

Hands-on activities are key to building a child's enthusiasm for learning Chinese!

A good educational experience engages many senses and provides context for the materials at hand. New words will be deemed interesting and remembered in a positive way.
And the best part is...anyone can take part - preschoolers, primary school-aged children, and adults!  There is no upper age limit.

In general, the ideal activity is:

  1. Quick and easy to set up
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Reusable
  4. Sparking discussion in Chinese
  5. Promoting literacy
  6. Fun

Check out our hands-on activities for ideas on how to use play, games, art & crafts to encourage Chinese dialogue and teach Chinese reading.  The activities are categorized by theme.

In summary, we have looked at some easy ways to sharpen your Chinese listening, writing and reading skills while you are enjoying your school holidays. Remember, learning goes beyond the traditional classroom setting - never restrain yourself within a tiny box! Have fun learning!