Chinese prep class for preschoolers: When to start

Your child starts P1 next year, but his Mandarin skills are weak. Is it worth it to enroll him in an intensive Chinese prep class before then?


Young Parents Team

Should I enroll my kid in an intensive Chinese prep class before Primary 1?

We ask Patricia Koh, Chief executive of Maple Bear Singapore

What is your child’s mother tongue? Should it not be a language you would speak to her in naturally every day? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Parents expect their children to speak their mother tongue when they themselves do not speak it at all, or have no desire to learn the language.

So, by the time your child is six, it will be an uphill task for her to master her mother tongue just as she embarks on formal schooling.

Sending her to an intensive prep class to speed up her learning will only give you short-term results. Instead, consider giving her greater confidence and creating an interest in her mother tongue by following these steps:

Step 1: Speak your mother tongue language daily
Find opportunities for your young one to listen to your mother tongue in natural settings by singing together, listening to a story, expressing needs and wants, playing outdoors, moving to music or going on an adventure. Starting now is better late than never!

Related: How to improve child's Chinese? This mum started speak Mandarin campaign at home

Step 2: Read together
Look for books with attractive illustrations and simple sentence structures to encourage your child to read. Reading and turning the pages together has many advantages. She will soon hear the rhyme and rhythm of each word, and understand that they make sense when read together. The interesting storyline will help her stay focused and be curious about the ending of the story.

As you spend more time reading, you will experience a greater bond with your little one that will make the learning journey more meaningful.

Related: Reading in mother tongue: why your child must do it and 8 tips to start

Step 3: Create a rich literacy environment at home 
Children who are exposed to an environment where there are books placed on the shelves, next to their bed or even where they eat or play, will be more likely to pick up the love for books and languages naturally. Parents who love to read will have kids who will drop everything to read. Children are good copycats and they will imitate what their parents do best. So set up a happy routine to start your child on a lifelong love of reading.

Related: 2 new Chinese preschools help kids master Mandarin

(Photo: Hongqi Zhang/


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