In Singapore, children learn Hanyu Pinyin in elementary school prior to Chinese characters. Hanyu Pinyin is often a major concern for parents with kids in K2 and P1. For kids and any other person wanting to learn Chinese, they must first know Hanyu Pinyin. In fact, learning Hanyu Pinyin in Mandarin classes in Singapore is standard among both native and non-native speakers. That alone speaks volumes about how valuable it can be.
Pinyin is basically the Romanised form of Chinese writing, which your child needs to know in their early stages if they are to properly pronounce Chinese characters. Chinese is a tonal language, which means how you pronounce things gives meaning to whatever you’re saying. The importance of tones cannot be disregarded. For new learners, it may be rather difficult to identify tonality in someone else’s speech
While the tonal differences can be minor, they actually make a great difference to the meaning. Therefore, it’s vital to pay close attention to tones and that’s why your child should learn Hanyu Pinyin.
Reasons to learn Pinyin
A strong foundation
There is often a greater emphasis on Pinyin in P1. In fact some schools assign up to 40 percent of the end of year assessment marks to Pinyin. Kids are tested on spelling blended words such as wà, wa, yǔ yī, wá. K2 children that lack a strong foundation in Pinyin often have a hard time transitioning to P1, resulting in low confidence and lack of interest in Chinese as they lag behind their peers.
Search words in the dictionary
As kids hear new Chinese words and expressions when they learn Mandarin in Singapore, they can look it up in the dictionary only if they know the pinyin equivalent. This promotes better understanding. Why would you deny yourself this shortcut?
Hanyu Pinyin is closely connected to pronunciation. Kids who are not able to specify the pinyin for a word often can’t pronounce it properly. If you think about it, it makes plenty of sense. It’s very difficult to actively remember something if you cannot passively identify it.
Challenges to learning Pinyin
When learning Hanyu Pinyin, many P1 students often find it challenging to distinguish vowel tones and blending consonants from vowels. Another common challenge faced by kids is how to correctly merge or combine consonants and vowels.
Help your child learn Pinyin
Many children find learning Pinyin to be rather boring. As a parent, therefore, you should assist your child to develop interest first through fun activities and games before resorting to practice worksheets.
Here’s a three-pronged process for learning Pinyin.
First, begin by making sure your child grasps and identifies the respective consonants and vowels as well as different tones. This is the first stage and should precede the other harder steps. To achieve this, you can compile a collection of Chinese songs and play them and have your kid sing along. Remember, learning is much effective if your kid is actively singing along instead of passively listening. Using flashcards or colourful Hanyu Pinyin charts, you can proceed to test your kid on particular consonants and vowels.
The next stage is merging or combining the consonants with vowels to create a word. Routine practice is needed if your child is to master blending consonants and vowels. Practice games are always recommended in order to incorporate fun into the learning process.
Once your kid has grasped how to blend, the ultimate step is to get him or her familiar with the common Hanyu Pinyin questions typically tested in P1 assessments through practice. Given that Pinyin questions in Singapore’s Mandarin course also assess students’ vocabulary (ability to recognise a word or picture before jotting down the equivalent Hanyu Pinyin), make sure that your kid is also familiar with the Primary 1 vocabulary lexicon.
Do you need extra help?
If your kid needs extra help when it comes to learning Mandarin language, consider enrolling him or her for Chinese lessons for kids. The tuition will serve to reinforce Pinyin fundaments, with particular focus on common difficulties like blending and vowel tones faced by students entering P1. The lessons also include vocabulary tests encompassing typical words and expressions from the P1 syllabus to help children get accustomed to it.