Ask MSL Master - How Chinese characters are introduced to Chinese children
Occasionally I receive some good questions about learning Chinese. I never thought about publishing any until today, as it suddenly occurred to me that other people might also be interested in these questions. Below is one I received from a 79 years old grandma from Australia, Pat.
Am wondering how Chinese children in first year of school, are introduced to putting their language to symbol?
It is interesting how many languages exist in our global community.
— My Reply —
Thank you for the email.
You asked an interesting question. After consulting with other Chinese teachers, I think it is fair to say that it takes more effort for Chinese kids to learn Chinese characters than for Australian kids to learn English.
When Australian kids start learning English, after they’ve learned 26 letters, they can more or less spell the words out.
When Chinese kids start learning Chinese, they start with simple Chinese characters, such as 一 (one), 二 (two), 三 (three), 大 (big), 小 (small). Some characters are related to physical objects. It’s one of the ways for kids to know more about characters, such as 山 (mountain) looks like ⛰.
Gradually as they know more and more characters, they’ll recognise some common components of the characters, and that’ll make it easier for them to learn new characters. They’ll also learn a phonetic system, such as pinyin or zhuyin, that also helps a lot. Most importantly, they do a lot of reading and writing practices.
Most Chinese parents pay great attention to their children’s education, and teach them some frequently used characters at home or in kindergarten. Usually a preschool kid can recognise quite a few characters before they go to primary school.
All Chinese kids speak fluent Chinese before they start learning Chinese characters. It will be a different story for any Australian kids who don’t speak Chinese to start learning Chinese characters.
Hope this answer helps.