Ask The Experts Workshop #1 : Building a Strong Foundation in Chinese for Pre-schoolers

On 9 September – Today Got Class held our first ever parent workshop, focusing on building a strong foundation in Chinese and bilingualism for pre-schoolers. The workshop was a sold-out success! #squeals

“super beneficial session”

“a great encouragement to everyone to boldly step forth to create a conducive Chinese environment”

“worth the time”

To our TGC parents who attended the workshop, our 5 Chinese language experts who took the time to share your perspectives, Kids’ Workshop partner Tickle Your Senses, fellow parent-preneurs PlayLeXue, ThePlayfair and Flip for Joy Bookstore, as well as the national Speak Mandarin Campaign, Tickikids Singapore and Little Day Out – Thank you. We are humbled and grateful for your support.

Here are the Top 10 Tips shared by our 5 Chinese language experts during the workshop. Of course, nothing beats being in session in person where we laughed, nodded our heads and shared our concerns. We hope to see everyone at our next workshop!

*Hugs*, Lydia & Jaclyn – Co-Founders | Today Got Class


Ask The Experts Workshop #1 : Building a Strong Foundation in Chinese & Bilingualism for Pre-Schoolers

L to R : Ms Huai Chew & Ms Tang Qianhui (Hua Language Centre) ; Dr Elaine Kim (Doctor, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Trehaus) ; Ms Dawn Wang (EduGrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre) ; Ms Jiang Meiru (Founder of Flip For Joy bookstore) ; Ms Li-Anne Sia (Director of Two By Two Schoolhouse) ; Ms Lydia Ang (Co-Founder of Today Got Class) ; Ms Daphne Low (Director of Apple Pie Language) ; Ms Jaclyn Yap (Co-Founder of Today Got Class)

Emcee & Moderator 

 Panel of Educators 

  • DAPHNE LOW – Founder of Apple Pie Language, mum of 2 and a former educator
  • LI-ANNE SIA – Director of Two by Two Schoolhouse, mum of 2 and a former MOE teacher
  • TANG QIANHUI – Head of Preschool Department of Hua Language Centre, over 10 years of teaching experience
  • DAWN WANG DONGYUE – Co-Founder and Head of Teaching and Curriculum of Edugrove Mandarin, mum of 2 and former Head of Mandarin EduDrama at Julia Gabriel

Full house for our very first workshop – Thank you!

Designed to be an informative and interactive session, our attendees pre-registered their concerns which we summarized into 6 key questions –

  1. How can we cultivate interest in the Chinese language in our children?
  2. How can we guide our children to be effectively bilingual and comfortable in using both languages?
  3. How can we encourage our children to communicate and converse in Mandarin?
  4. Which learning resources would you recommend to help our children learn Chinese and how effective are they?
  5. Are Chinese enrichment classes a must-have? When is the right age to start?
  6. When should our children start to learn Hanyu Pinyin and how should we guide them?

Rapt attention, smiles and heads nodding in agreement – #ForParentsByParents

Here are the top 10 tips as shared by our 5 Chinese language experts during the workshop.

Tip 1 : It starts with a positive mindset, a positive attitude to build the positive association

If you are ‘sian’ or stressed about Chinese, you can’t expect your little learner to be doing a hop, skip and jump on learning Chinese!

Tip 2 : You don’t need to be perfect, let’s learn together

Instead of berating ourselves for not paying more attention to Chinese lessons whilst we were in school, why not take this opportunity right now to learn with our little learners. Put aside our pride, admit that we aren’t perfect and let our little learners know that we will walk this learning journey together.

Tip 3 : Flattery works

How many times have we ‘announced’ our little learner’s Chinese name when we get angry? Do we feel good when we get praised? Build the interest in Chinese by using positive reinforcement e.g. “<name of child>, 好棒啊!”

Sharing by our Chinese language experts – From L to R – Ms Li-Anne Sia (Two by Two Schoolhouse) ; Ms Tang Qianhui (Hua Language Centre) ; Ms Dawn Wang (Edugrove Mandarin)

Tip 4 : Forcing does not work

Read because you enjoy the book and enjoy reading with our little learner, not read with expectations. To our little learners – Knowing that mum or dad is only reading this book so that I can ‘complete the sentence’ or rattle what’s that word when mum or dad points – it’s negative learning.  After all, who likes being ‘tested’ when reading should be a joy.

In addition – “What did you learn today” – is a common refrain that should be avoided. Because it is a question loaded with expectations which may discourage your child (so papa or mama sends me to class because they want me to learn something and they will be disappointed if I don’t learn anything ☹) Switch it around. How about,

* What word did your teacher say most today?

* What funny thing did you do in class today?

* Who do you like in class? 

Tip 5 : It’s all about everyday learning

The best way to learn Chinese characters – paste little cards with the Chinese words on everyday objects that your little learner is exposed to (such as table or chair). Talk about subjects they are interested in. Take time to speak to your parents or spouse in Mandarin. Little learners learn best with everyday nuances.

Use songs and experiences to build the interest. When it comes to National Day, sing the Chinese songs with gusto to reinforce what National Day means (in Chinese).

Tip 6 : Language is an interaction

For little learners – The best way to build a foundation in language, is when they see people around them using it. So go on – talk to your spouse, parents, family, friends in Mandarin. Build the understanding by conversing in Mandarin with your little learner as much as possible.

What about TV or YouTube? Not for little ones! As shared during the session, research has shown that TV is a medium for ‘hearing’ but it is not a medium for ‘interaction’, so babies don’t learn (See links below).

Why TV doesn’t work : Improving Early Childhood Development with Words | Creating Bilingual Minds 

But for older kids – yes, Chinese educational programs such as 星期二特写, would help to reinforce the interest.

Tip 7 : Read read read

But, read with interest not read with expectations (See Point 4). Get interesting books, dramatize the story, build the interest. Little readers make the best learners.

Tip 8 : Understanding is more important than recognizing

For kids below 4 years old – Don’t stress over the wrong pronunciation or learning of Chinese characters. On the former – even if the pronunciation is incorrect, take pride that your child knows aeroplane is飞机 (even whilst he may pronounce as 肥机). On the latter – given the motor skills are not fully developed, learning of Chinese characters need not start before 4 years old. Enjoy the learning process, don’t gun for the results.

Sharing by our Chinese language experts – From L to R – Ms Jiang Meiru (Flip For Joy Bookstore) ; Ms Daphne Low (Apple Pie Language)

Tip 9 : Don’t get too hung up over Hanyu PinYin

Whilst Hanyu Pinyin is a CA subject during primary school, our experts jointly agreed that it is best to teach Hanyu Pinyin later. Simply because, it is more important for the child to recognize Chinese characters than recognize alphabets (and research has proven that due to the insurgence of Hanyu Pinyin, recognition of Chinese characters is on the decline hence China is planning to introduce Hanyu Pinyin at a later age).

Find out more :  The Linguistic Genius of Babies

Also –  Hanyu Pinyin and Chinese characters are not complementary and NEVER use them together.  Hence, books with both Chinese characters and Hanyu Pinyin are not encouraged because this builds the reliance and dependence on Hanyu Pinyin to identify the Chinese characters.

What parents should do –

Step 1 : Flash the cards with Hanyu Pinyin

Step 2 : When your child correctly identifies the word, place different cards with Chinese characters on the floor and get the child to pick up the card that relates to the Hanyu Pinyin card.

In a nutshell, it is more important to build good listening and oral skills in the early years, and with that – there is no need to worry about reliance on Hanyu Pinyin.

Tip 10 :   Attend Chinese enrichment classes for the Mandarin immersive speaking environment

If parents and family are not able to provide a Mandarin environment or unable to speak Mandarin often – Chinese enrichment classes would be a good way to start building the foundation and the interest. But this does not mean that Chinese enrichment classes is a miracle pill, Chinese enrichment classes can help but parents need to reinforce the learning at home.

You Ask, Our Experts Answer – Only at #TGCAskTheExperts

We hope you found this useful!

If you have any questions, drop us a note at hello@todaygotclass.com


💡 For more articles on Chinese language learning for little learners – Check out :

Raising A Happy Mandarin Learner 

Demystifying Chinese for Primary School Kids – Your Questions Answered!

💡 Book the best deals in quality kids enrichment on todaygotclass.com

  • Hua Language Centre : 50% off trial class OR 10% off holiday camps! Click here
  • Apple Pie Language : 10% off + Free registration on term classes OR 10% off holiday camps! Click here
  • Edugrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre : Trial class from $20! Click here
  • Two by Two Schoolhouse : Trial class from $20 / Trial playgroup (5 days) from $100 [50% off] OR 20% off holiday camps! Click here
  • Yang Language Centre : TGC Exclusive Deal coming soon!

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About the Author

Lydia & Jaclyn
Author with 42 posts
More about Lydia & Jaclyn

Lydia and Jaclyn are the Chief Mums of Today Got Class. As mothers of 3 young sons aged 5, 8 and 10 years respectively, we believe that enrichment classes are necessary for our children to pick up complementary skills to help them hone their learning and development capabilities. "Learn to play, play to learn" is our parenting motto.

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