“Why learn Chinese?” I asked one of the students I tutor.
“Because of the economy!” he replied.
This might not be your motivation, but it is one of the top reasons why many people are choosing to learn Mandarin Chinese in recent years. While Huntsville may not be a very large city, it certainly has a presence in the global economy due to Redstone Arsenal and the NASA Space Flight Center. As such, a global awareness of the importance of US-Chinese relationships is growing within the community. With well over a billion native speakers of Chinese, and the importance it has on the global economy, it is a wonder why French and Spanish are the only foreign languages in many schools. Perhaps in the next 3-5 years we’ll see a Chinese language immersion program in the public school system much like those in California, New York, and Washington.
The best time to learn a foreign language is at young age. We are often amazed by how quickly a child learns to speak and memorize foreign words and sentences with far more ease than we (adults) do. Here are some tips on how to better learn Mandarin Chinese (or any other language for that matter) for you and/or your child:
- Treat the language like music. Think about how you learn to sing a newly-released song. You listen to it several times, understand its meaning, and you recite the tune and phrases until it matches the original song. You will truly master the song when you can stand on the stage and perform the song without anyone guiding you, and you can even add some new words to it as you sing.
- Identify and understand your learning styles. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are kinesthetic learners. Once you know which learning style best suits you, you save time in learning by participating in activities and using materials appropriate for your style. For visual learners, use lots of posters/flashcards/storybooks. For auditory learners, listen to CDs, MP3s, or podcasts, or have an engaging conversation with a native speaker. For kinesthetic learners, participate more with craft making, drawings, handwriting, and dance.
- Get involved in the cultural community. There are many culturally-related events where you will find many native speakers of the target language. Attend those events and meet some people, learn more about the culture, country, and language. There are a couple of Chinese organizations in Huntsville that host several annual celebrations associated with major Chinese holidays and festivals. Attend the events to experience authentic food, culture and to meet with Chinese speaking friends.
I hope these tips provide a good direction in your Chinese learning journey. I wish you much luck and fun in learning Mandarin Chinese.