Demystifying Chinese for Primary School Kids – Your Questions Answered!

Worried if your pre-schooler will cope well with Chinese language in Primary 1, or stressed out by your primary schooler’s Chinese homework and tests? Read what our experts and parents say to your burning questions on learning Chinese language in primary school!

Q: How can I help my child make a smooth transition in learning Chinese language from K2 to Primary 1?

Aim to create a conducive environment at home right from the beginning. When Chinese language is part and parcel of your family’s daily conversation and activities, it will be easier for your child to understand and practise what he has learnt in school.

Primary schools will pitch the teaching pace accordingly, and do not expect Primary 1 students to enter knowing the syllabus, even though many pre-school centres may begin teaching the Primary 1 syllabus in K2. For more information on what K2 children are expected to know and do by the end of pre-school, please refer to MOE’s Nurturing Early Learners Framework for Mother Tongue Languages.

A spokesperson at Yang Language School shares further.

“The MOE in Singapore is fully aware of the reluctance of the current young generation to learn Mandarin and has over the years revised its curriculum to make it more fun and encompassing so that children will enjoy learning Chinese. The transition should not be seen as difficult. The key to success is to encourage the love for Mandarin among your children.”

Q: How should I help my child learn Hanyu Pinyin? What if my child becomes over-reliant on Hanyu Pinyin?

It is not advisable to introduce hanyu pinyin to toddlers and pre-schoolers who are just beginning to grasp English phonetic sounds, as it may be confusing to learn hanyu pinyin at the same time.

“Children typically struggle with hanyu pinyin if their phonetic skills are not sound. This is because some letters are sounded out differently in English and in pinyin.”  

Ms Li-Anne Sia, Director at Two by Two Schoolhouse, shares.

Even for older children, it is important they learn to recognize Chinese characters without having to depend on Hanyu Pinyin. To prevent your child from becoming over-reliant on hanyu pinin, make sure they get to read Chinese books without the Hanyu Pinyin. Look out for fun videos and books that teach the origin and evolution of Chinese characters, as these may interest your child to learn more about the characters.

As Hanyu Pinyin is part of the school syllabus, your child will need to be able to match Hanyu Pinyin to Chinese characters. With a firm foundation in listening, speaking and reading skills, it will be easier for them to grasp Hanyu Pinyin without compromising their ability to recognize Chinese characters. You may wish to use flash cards or play games that require them to match Chinese characters to the Hanyu Pinyin.

Ms Dawn Wang, Co-Founder at Edugrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre shares how they make learning Hanyu Pinyin fun.

“Our teachers encourage the use of body language to help them understand the difference in tones, making up a small rhyme or jingle could get them to remember easier as well.” 

Picture courtesy of EduGrove Mandarin Enrichment Centre

Q: What resources can I use to coach my child?

Besides school textbooks, you can use Chinese storybooks, songs, shows, newspapers and online resources to interest your child in the language. The Ministry of Education has a range of online platforms for parents to support their children’s learning, including recommended books, word games and even a forum for students to share their journals and exchange views.

Primary schools also distribute the Thumbs Up Junior (小拇指 for Primary 1 and 2) and Thumbs Up newspapers (大拇指 for Primary 3 to 6) to students. Published by Lianhe Zaobao, these student publications have attractive illustrations and contain stories relevant to students’ daily lives. Make use of them to increase your child’s general knowledge and strengthen their Chinese language skills!

It’s important to choose something appropriate for your child’s ability, so that he is not discouraged by overly difficult material, or uninterested if the resources are too easy for his level. Children learn best when they are interested, so try to select content associated with his interests and hobbies.

Q: Is is it a good idea to use Chinese television programmes, videos and educational online games for learning?

A: When it comes to language, face-to-face two-way conversation is hands-down still the best for learning and practising.

Ms Pan Yunli, a Chinese language teacher and mother of two, shares why she is reluctant to use IT for learning.

“I’m hesitant about the use of IT in the early years, regardless of whether it is for Chinese language or otherwise. This is especially so when it comes to learning to read and write as I think that e-readers do not allow for deep reading and understanding. I think that it’s more ideal for children to learn reading and writing via hard copy mediums and manually writing the Chinese strokes for each character. If IT is used for audio purposes like listening to rhymes, songs and stories, then it can be quite useful.”

Ms Tang Qianghui, Head of Pre-school Curriculum at Hua Language Centre shares that while digital resources cannot compare to the richness of human interaction, they can provide a friendly introduction to the language.

“Let your children listen to Mandarin songs and watch suitable Mandarin cartoons and animation videos. Although this is not as ideal as human interaction, it can still get your children acquainted with the language and slowly learn how Chinese sentences are structured.”

For parents who still wish to use television programmes, online videos and games, be sure to accompany your child so that you can deepen your child’s learning and understanding. If left alone, it can be tempting for your child to zone out or click around without fully understanding what they are learning!

Picture courtesy of Hua Language Centre

Q: Should I send my child for Chinese enrichment classes?

This depends very much on parents’ own comfort level with the language and ability to be hands-on with their children’s learning. For parents who are able to converse, read and incorporate activities in Chinese language, enrichment classes may not be a necessity. Other parents may feel enrichment classes offer better learning opportunities for their children than they are able to provide on their own. At enrichment centres, there are qualified teachers to teach and guide children, and most also have small class sizes for better engagement with each child.

Ms Felina Lee, whose oldest child is in Primary 1 this year, sends her children for Chinese enrichment classes.

“I send them for enrichment to prepare them adequately for Primary 1, so that they won’t be lost or unable to catch up in school later on.”

Q: How should I manage the stress of ting xie (spelling quizzes) and Chinese assessments?

Spelling quizzes and assessments may make children lose interest in the language if they spend their time memorizing instead of understanding what they are learning. You can help by going through the words with your child and using them in your daily conversation. Guide your child to set aside enough time to prepare for the quizzes so that he is not stressed up trying to cram everything at the last minute. It’s also crucial to manage your own expectations so you don’t put unnecessary pressure on your child! Remember to notice and praise your child whenever he tries his best even if his grades are not fantastic, because this will motivate him to work even harder next time!

Ms Joey Ng is a former primary school Chinese Language teacher who shares actively about fun ways to learn Mandarin through her website and Instagram. She shares further tips to support children in coping with quizzes and assessments.

“For ting xie, try turning it into a game, or making it more manageable by learning one word a day. Help the child to develop a habit of writing by giving the child a purpose for writing – have him/her write notes, festive wishes, thank-you cards to family and friends, then buy stamps and bring the child to mail these out, so that there’s some grounding of what they learn in real life.”

Picture courtesy of Two By Two Schoolhouse

What other questions do you have about learning Chinese language in primary school? Share them with us at

From Today Got Class : We would like to thank our Chinese educators and services, as well as our parents for taking the time to contribute to this article.

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

Raising A Happy Mandarin Learner 

Ask The Experts Workshop #1 : Top 10 Tips by 5 Chinese Language Experts

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  • Two by Two Schoolhouse : Trial class from $20 / Trial playgroup (5 days) from $100 [50% off] Click here
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About the Author

Lydia & Jaclyn
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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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