Children learn best through play, interactions and experiences relevant to their everyday lives. With language learning, linguists suggest the 30% rule: a child should spend at least 30% of their waking time to naturally learn a language, with Early, Constant, and Interactive (ECI) exposure in their learning environment.
Along with learning about the world and taking Mandarin activity classes at Mulberry House, we recommend fun, interactive and continuous support at home:
For families with Mandarin speakers at home:
- Implement OPOL in you can: one person, one language. In order for OPOL to be successful, there needs to be consistency. The earlier you start the better. If you are starting beyond when your child is 1.5 years old (or when his/her dominant language is well established), gradually ease Mandarin in, be patient and don't give up.
- If one parent is not possible to speak Mandarin 100% of the time, designate a particular Mandarin hour such as Mandarin story time, game time, or family time (the non-Mandarin speaking family members will all learn together). You can start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the duration, the KEY is to make it ENGAGING. Think long term your goal is to get your little one want to converse with you in Mandarin naturally, not by force.
- Create a Mandarin Immersion environment by promoting early literacy: children learn Chinese characters visually, especially if you make Chinese characters approachable and fun, i.e. try printing out Chinese character label 沙发 and put it on your couch.
For families with NO Mandarin speakers at home:
- Stay positive for your child's language acquisition journey. Encourage them to teach you, and show interest to learn with them. We encourage parents to cultivate children's growth mindset and keep their learning journey interesting. We have seen children thrive with NO Mandarin at home, coming to MH for 2-3 times a week. They now speak fluently after 8-12 months of learning. So definitely be encouraged and motivated that you and your child can be successful.
- Enrich your child's experience with lots of Mandarin exposure at home:
- You need lots of support alone the way. Aside from getting support at Mulberry House, join an online parent discussion group in raising bilingual/multilingual children such as “Raising bilingual children in Chinese & English” on Facebook.