Class-Home Resources, FAQs, News

9 Factors that Influence Language Learning for Kids

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This is a great blog post by a Montessori preschool / International Baccalaureate school in USA that summarises important factors that influence language learning. There’s no miracle working in language learning!

It’s common to believe that a child’s skill with learning an additional language comes naturally. We don’t agree. Yes, some children do pick up language skills faster than others—but that doesn’t mean that the ability to learn a language is an attribute possessed by only a lucky few.

When students start learning an additional language at Whitby, some do soak up the knowledge faster than others. Yet it’s not just natural ability at work. We’ve actually found that there are many internal and external factors that influence how fast students pick up a new language.

  1. Motivation? Are they being forced? Is there a lot of negative pressure on them at home?
  2. Is another language spoken at home?
  3. Is this their first foreign language?
  4. How does the student feel in the classroom? Is it a safe, relaxed space for them?
  5. How is the language taught? Immersion?
  6. How attainable does it feel to the student? Do they feel like what they’re learning is out of reach?
  7. Is the student introverted or extroverted? Is speaking in front of groups challenging?
  8. How old is the student?
  9. How comfortable do they feel learning the language in their current country? If their social group, school influence or society around them influence them a certain way, it may be a hindrance to learning. If a student comes along with the belief that it is “better” to learn a European language than an Asian language, there is an immediate barrier to engagement and mental block right there and it will be difficult to learn any Asian language…

Read the full post here: https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/9-factors-that-influence-language-learning

We’d also like to add a very important #10 – How comfortable is the student with making lots of mistakes and not being perfect? Do they have a fixed or growth mindset? Learning a language, especially to speak a language, is all about trying, making mistakes, and learning along the way. A useful article on this: The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart, by Sal Khan, of Khan Academy.

FAQs, News, Notices

New 2018-onwards School Kids Years 1-8 class structure: what is it?

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Last updated on 28 January 2018

Families have indicated that the writing element has been missing from our fun classes, so we have decided to add this component in a way that’s connected to the conversational language learning. Children are also more likely to respond well to writing in class with their classmates, than want to do it at home, and when things are relevant to what they are doing.

The children have also enjoyed the social language times in 2017 (and rarely want to stop class!), so all School Kids classes will be including some time for this as well. It will be a well-rounded mix of active learning!

This means that the 70-minute classes will be a carefully planned combination of

  • Conversational language class lessons
  • Short writing elements, related to the conversational material taught in class, as well as revising older lessons to keep the language alive!
    • Writing sheets will be provided each week, and children will need a manilla folder (foolscap size) and metal fastener to store the sheets for the year. The folders will stay with the teacher until end of term, when they can be brought home over the holidays, and then brought back to continue with the next term.
  • Social language activities in the same style as our Language Sports and Mandarin Kids Club.

Note: If you are looking for a general, lighter session of Mandarin Chinese learning for your child, we are also offering a short 30 minute session at After School Care venues. Please contact your After School Care provider and let them know you’re interested in the service and refer them to Ni Hao Children’s Community. You can also provide them with this flyer: Services for afterschool care and holiday programme providers

NiHaoCC Programmes Summary 2018 v3NiHaoCC Programmes Summary 2018 v3

Class-Home Resources, FAQs, News, Weekly Handout

Learning Mandarin, not “Chinese”?

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Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, based on the Chinese variation that is spoken in Beijing as that has been where the Government is. However, the Chinese language includes:

  • Mandarin
  • Jin
  • Wu, including Shanghainese variety
  • Huizhou
  • Gan
  • Xiang
  • Min, including Taiwanese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hainanese varieties
  • Hakka
  • Yue, including Cantonese variety
  • Pinghua

The above subgroups of the Chinese language can also be mutually unintelligible! Two people could be speaking “Chinese” to each other and not have a clue what the other was saying as it sounded different and/or was structured differently.

So, if someone asks you what language your family is learning at Ni Hao Children’s Community, you can say you’re learning Mandarin, not Chinese 🙂

Mandarin is referred to in different ways depending on your point of view too:

  • Pǔtōnghuà (普通话/普通話, literally “common speech”) in Mainland China
  • Guóyǔ (國語, literally “national language”) in Taiwan
  • Huáyǔ (华语/華語) in South East Asia, where Singapore is the only country to have it as one (of four) of their official languages.
  • Zhōng wén (中文) is used elsewhere in the world. Zhōng 中 refers to the same zhōng 中 of zhōngguó (中国), which is a common name for China. The  Wén文 refers to language.

Mandarin language can also be different due to geographical and cultural differences. For example, having the same meaning but different words may be used: “Bus”

Taiwan: 公車/巴士 gōng chē / bā shì

Singapore: 巴士 bā shì

China: 公交车 gōng jiāo chē


FAQs, News, Notices

How we are doing things differently with Mandarin :)

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A page has just been put up on our site explaining why we’re different, how we teach and how your child learns Mandarin with us! It is a good read for interested families and also for anyone wanting to work for us 😉

Mandarin has traditionally been taught in a serious or rote style due to cultural and societal expectations and norms. We are not aware of anyone teaching Mandarin the way we do in around here – we’re fun, we’re different, and we learn by doing! There are no art & craft activities to fill in time, or colouring-in pages – unless we are specifically teaching art and craft vocabulary 🙂 Class time is precious and the time is better spent on active learning vs. a child quietly concentrate on colouring the sun shape in yellow.

Click here to read more, including our key guidelines in planning and evaluating our lessons.

FAQs, News

I have no idea what they’re singing on about…

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Learning any new language can be a daunting experience, especially in Ni Hao Children’s Community’s immersion environment. It’s may be more so for the parent learners than the children, as the children pick language up so much faster at their age.

I don’t understand what they’re saying!

Tip: watch the teacher’s gestures & body language as much as possible, and let us know if we can improve on this.

How do I sing that? It’s going to sound all wrong!

Tip: mimic the teacher! I’m not learning songs by reading lyrics, but listening and copying the teacher’s singing. Just don’t ask me to sing a new song by myself in front of class…

Relax, and give it a go. It’s a learning community, so it’s fine to not be singing perfectly, or to just be humming along when you have no idea what the teacher is saying! We’re in a group setting too so it’s easily camouflaged 🙂

This quote puts it quite nicely…

Don't worry about the bits you can't understand