Tina Verma, head of languages at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, explains the many benefits learning Mandarin has for children.
Despite China’s many regions and dialects, Mandarin has been the ‘lingua franca’, or bridge language, of China and Taiwan for more than 500 years. It is also spoken in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, The Philippines, and Mongolia. The rich history of the language spans centuries as Ancient China was one of the oldest and longest lasting civilizations in the history of the world. The history of Ancient China can be traced back over 4,000 years including the use of chopsticks! This rich culture interests the curious minds of our young people as they ponder over questions such as, did the Chinese really build a wall that is over 5,000 metres long?
In recent years, China has become the world’s second economic power and the Mandarin language has increased in importance for international business and foreign relations. Since so many Western companies have transferred their production to China, adults are finding the ability to speak Mandarin an increasingly useful skill to have. So, why would we not equip our children with this vital skill? By listening, speaking, reading and writing Mandarin, students are able to broaden their awareness and understanding of the language and the culture. A culture full of exciting stories. A top favourite for children learning Mandarin is The Chinese Zodiac story – an animal story based on an interesting race created by The Jade Emperor, a very important god in Chinese religion.
As China has been developing its global role, at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School we are proud to offer Mandarin alongside other languages on our school curriculum. With so much support as well as networking opportunities with The London Confucius Institute ( an organisation that aims to promote Chinese language learning & teaching in the UK and bridge cultural and educational exchanges between Britain and China), we are lucky to be well equipped to teach pupils about the Chinese language and culture. Aside from the practical gains of knowing Mandarin as an adult, studies show that children benefit in many ways from learning Mandarin while they are young. The language even has the royal approval! Prince George is learning Mandarin and, a few years ago, was even able to wish China a Happy New Year in a message recorded by his dad.
With increasing globalisation and the importance of China in the world’s economy, there is a greater interest than ever in the UK in learning Chinese to meet the needs of the British business community. With this impressive linguistic skill under their belt, your child will be sure to stand out from the crowd.
Learning a language also makes a child’s experience in that country richer. They will discover so much more once they have unlocked the language and broken down the barriers. The majestic Beijing and mysterious Forbidden City await your children.
Did you know that studying a second language has even been proven to have health 0benefits? It improves brain development and can protect against dementia and assist with attention span. Studies into the Mandarin language suggest that learning it uses more parts of the brain than are required for other languages. Where English speakers only use the left temporal lobe, speakers of Mandarin use both.
You may be wondering if the learning of Mandarin is too challenging for children, as the language is often thought of as being particularly complex. Young children are still developing their primary language skills, and their brains are highly receptive to learning and adaptation. The ideal time for children to learn Mandarin and achieve fluency is at a young age. They will get lost in the magical world of Chinese language and culture with their festivals, philosophers and wide range of performing arts. As the popular Chinese saying goes, ‘it’s better to walk thousands of miles than to read thousands of books’. Let’s get our children inspired by learning about this fascinating language and culture.
Want to support your child’s language learning at home? Below are my three top tips on how to do so –
- Utilise technology by allowing your children to use language learning apps. Some of my favourites are: Duolingo, Memrise and Miaomiao’s Chinese for Kids.
- Start by reading them stories they are already familiar with such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears but with the Mandarin text in parallel to the English. Then, make story time more exciting by reading them tales that are sure to get them interested in the culture such as ‘Dim Sum for Everyone!’ by Grace Lin. The Little Linguist supplies wonderful foreign books including audio books to build a strong foundation for Mandarin.
- Have a cultural day out in the next best place after China…China Town in London! Try some irresistible Chinese food at the Golden Dragon and pop into the Seewoo supermarket to check out the cool packaging and fun snacks. Creating memorable experiences is a wonderful way to ensure a child remains interested in their learning.
Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, a new independent school in Kensington for boys and girls aged 3-11 is opening in September 2020.
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