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How to Teach a 2-Year-Old Chinese Child to Speak English

by Maggie McCormick

A 2-year-old's brain is ripe for learning languages because she's still working on learning her native language. If you've adopted a child from China or a new Chinese family has moved in down the street, you might find yourself in the unexpected position of English teacher. Though the blank stares you'll receive at times are frustrating, you'll be amazed at how quickly she can learn.

Immerse the child in the English language. That's the way that she learned Chinese and it will also be the way she learns English. Describe everything that you're doing to expose her to the maximum amount of language.

Break out the toy box. A 2-year-old is going to quickly get bored if you're trying to use flashcards to teach English. Toys excite children. Use dolls to teach English related to caring and everyday activities, describe the color and size of stuffed animals and build block towers to teach counting skills.

Capture attention with children's videos. Take a tip from the Disney Corp., which has started English language schools in China. Children take to the cute characters and often want to watch movies over and over again. All of this exposes them to the English language.

Use familiar stories to expose the child to whole language. Cultures around the world have similar fairy tales and other stories that teach lessons. For example, the story of Yeh-Shen is similar to Cinderella and the child will easily recognize this. Books with a lot of pictures and few words can be helpful.

Encourage participation at home. Environmental factors are one of the biggest indicators to success in learning a second language, according to the U.S. State Department. If you're working with a child who's not your own, encourage her Chinese family to learn English along with her.

Learn some basic Chinese yourself. Your job will be much easier if you can do some basic translation, especially when it comes to words that are not nouns or verbs. For example, if you say, "Thank you. Xie xie," the child will start to understand what you really mean.

Warning

  • Raising your voice will not make the child understand you more clearly. Instead, it might make her feel stupid or nervous.

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