There are so many different language learning programs for parents to choose from, so it’s no wonder that picking the right program for your child can be a challenge. That’s why we’re sharing a few questions that you can ask before signing your child up to learn Mandarin Chinese. Different approaches to the language work for different kids; even the most experienced educator may not be the right fit for your child. These questions will help you narrow down your choices!
What are your child’s primary language learning goals?
Are they hoping to fully understand and speak the language, or is reading and writing a more important goal for them? Are they getting a little extra help on the side while attending an immersion school? Do they want to brush up their character recognition or pronunciation? Are they trying to connect with their heritage? Hoping to communicate better with extended family? Taking the first step toward attending college or working in China? Want to make new friends who speak the language? There are so many different goals to focus on. If your child comprehends Mandarin fluently but can’t recognize characters, a language learning program based entirely around speech might not be the right fit. If they want to practice conversational Mandarin, a group class could be better than an individual one.
Where and how do you want the learning to take place?
Some kids learn best in afterschool programs held at their own school or at a dedicated learning center. Others prefer in-home programs or virtual classes they can participate in from the comfort of their own homes. Group classes may help some reluctant speakers feel less singled out, but they can also overwhelm kids who are afraid to make mistakes in front of other students. Before signing up for Mandarin Chinese lessons, check and see where classes will be held and whether the program offers 1:1 lessons, group classes, or a combination. If you know your child gets squirmy over Zoom, see if there are any in-person alternatives. If it’ll be hard to fit a 30-minute commute to the city into a day packed with school, sports, and other extracurriculars, check for virtual classes. There are more Mandarin learning programs out there than you might realize!
What are you looking for in a Mandarin teacher?
Remember to consider your child’s personality and needs when choosing a teacher. There might be more to finding the right fit than who looks the most experienced and qualified on paper. A teacher who usually works with very young children might make a teenage beginner feel like a baby without meaning to. A kid who’s more active and rambunctious might work best with a teacher who incorporates interactive learning and movement into lessons. Which qualities are most important to you in a teacher? Some qualities to consider: a friendly personality, level of experience, a native speaker, a degree or work experience in education, and, if they host in-person lessons, a comfortable set-up for learning!
Do you want instruction to be more traditional or progressive?
It can be tricky to define the difference between traditional and progressive education. In truth, most schools, classes, and tutoring programs these days combine elements of both. Whether you prefer a traditional or progressive approach to language learning might depend on your your answer to the first question on this list: what are your primary language learning goals?
Typically, traditional education involves more structure, formal learning, and measured outcomes. In traditional learning, teachers are authorities imparting information to students. Progressive learning is more about processes and experiences, not outcomes. Progressive education is less formal, student led and centered on student experiences and choices. How do your children learn? What are you hoping to get out of these lessons? If you’re looking into measurable goals (like test scores, college acceptance), traditional learning may be best for you. A more progressive approach might be more fun and engaging for many students. Only you know what’s right for your kids!
What else do you consider when choosing a language learning program for your kids? We’d love to hear from you!