To learn Chinese, the easier to way is to learn hanyu pinyin. In our previous post, I have mentioned how to teach hanyu pinyin with the basics. You can read about it at How to teach Hanyu Pinyin.
This time around, we are getting deeper into it. We are going to learn how to apply the “alphabets” and tone for each Chinese character. Personally, I find it fun to teach hanyu pinyin to preschoolers and primary school-going kids.
As they are learning new words, we can teach them to distinguish and produce the correct tones for each word.
But do bear in mind that while they are learning phonics at this time, they may get a little confused between phonics and pinyin as both involved in blending and consonants. Another note to take is that as pinyin also use alphabets, the sound used in Mandarin Chinese of some of the letters is different from English.
So what must we know before we teach?
For many kids nowadays, they dislike learning Chinese and pinyin. In order to get them to learn, we have to get them interested by making the learning process fun and engaging. There are pinyin songs available on YouTube to let your child watch and/or listen in order to get them started.
I love flash cards (nothing fanciful but simple enough to make, keep and reuse when needed) and we learn by themes. For example, insects, colours, body parts and etc. As shown in the picture below, while we were learning about colours, we learned to recognise the Chinese characters and distinguishing the tones of those words. From there, we proceeded on to the hanyu pinyin.
Just like an ABC alphabet chart, there is a pinyin chart easily available on the Internet. What a pinyin chart provides is the complete list of the syllabus used in the Mandarin language. From the chart, you will notice that not all syllables exist and not all 4 tones exist for each of the syllables.
Below is an example of a chart taken from the website Dig Mandarin. You may find other charts that you are more comfortable to refer to. This is for your reference.
Now, let’s learn!
1. Learn the Chinese word
2. Listen to the word
3. Identify the initial of the pinyin
4. Identify the final of the pinyin
5. Listen again to the tone of the word
6. Try to match the correct tone
Mei mei loves practising the 4 tones as she feels like she is exercising her vocal like a singer. Well, the next thing you may ask is where to place the tone. The tone is always being placed over the vowels.
Here are the rules of the tone:
1. Vowel A and E always precede other vowels. Fortunately, there are no syllables in pinyin that contains both letters.
2. If 2 vowels exist, e.g. ou, the o takes the tone
3. Any other cases, the final vowel takes the tone
I hope you find this useful and provide you with more confidence in teaching your child to learn hanyu pinyin.
If you have any questions or more ideas on how to make learning fun, do comment below!