Kids and languages; let’s play!
It is never too early to learn a language. And this is true for langauges so different from our native langauge too, as for example when an Italian native speaker learns Chinese.
Some days ago I noticed that my daughter still keeps in her mind and remembers a lot of Chinese expressions and words, moreover she can recognise the menaning of 50/60 characters. And I was so impressed by this that I asked to myself how this could be possible.
In my experience, teaching a language is never easy, but to be honest teaching to kids is easier, children can absorb information in a very quick way, and if you find a way to entertain them while they learn you will catch their attention for the whole “lesson”. What I love most in teaching languages to children is that they never feel the competition with other people and they really “acquire” a language (which is very different to “learning” a language) in natural way.
What I’ve seen from my daughter, was very useful for my job; I have never sat down and told her “Ok, let’s start our Chinese class”; when she was around 1 year old, I made her listen to Chinese songs for kindergarten, and she wanted to listen to them almost everyday (you know kids like having their own routine, don’t you?) , I think at that time she saw this activity like a special game between me and her (and to be honest, I really miss those times together!). Then, some months later, we took a step ahead; I tried to make her associate images with the meaning of some words in those songs’lines. For example, I showed her tigers when there was the word “tiger” in Chinese in the song, and so on.
Some months ago, she started to be very interested in drawing with her own pencils, so I showed some basics Chinese characters, and told her their meaning; she related those characters with their meaning and she memorized how to read them in a very quick way, because she wanted to “draw/write” them in the best way she could.
My daughter has always seen all these activities as games, and my basic goal was always been entertaining her and find different ways to spend the time when we hadn’t much to do, but these “games” really helped her to take first steps toward Chinese language, who knows if she will want to keep on learning it in the future? Or maybe she will follow other paths, but I really hope she will remeber those moments together.