One of the most common questions we get from parents is “How can I teach my child Mandarin if I don’t speak it myself?” Our Mandarin Stars founder, Dawna Leung, is a parent to three children who are learning Mandarin for the first time as a foreign language. She and her husband are both non-native Mandarin speakers and have learnt a few fantastic tips to help develop learning at home. Tried and tested, these methods really do work!


  • Spending a few minutes each/every other day going over the weekly vocabulary/flashcards and phrases.

  • Make sure you spend some time supervising your child with their weekly activity sheet. Even if you aren’t sure how to pronounce the new words, being able to show that you are interested in what your child is learning is a wonderful form of support for learning Mandarin.

  • Download music and sound files from the online Activity Centre and play files in the car.

  • Play Mandarin songs (relevant to your child’s age group) as much as possible. (In the morning on the way to pre-school/ day care etc is a good time as children tend to be more fresh and receptive to absorbing the Mandarin language at this time).

  • If you allow your child to watch TV- play some Mandarin VCDs/DVDs. 

  • Learn some basic phrases so that you can role play with your child or even practice at meal times/when going to the shops. The core phrases we like to practice in Mandarin are (refer back to the Phrases Sheet for parents in the online Activity Centre):

    • A: Parent to ask
      B: Child to answer
      A: What’s this? (pointing to a flashcard/ object)…
      B: This is…
      A: What’s your name?
      B: My name is…
      A: Do you like…
      B: I like… / I don’t like…
      A: Do you want…
      B: I want/ don’t want


  • Attend a Parent-Child workshop with Mandarin Stars to help coach you through learning some productive phrases and vocabulary to aid practice at home with your child.

  • Attend a free parent class with Mandarin Stars! Contact us at for a list of available classes.

  • Check out some of the free language games (some offer free trials) online such as: /

  • If you have an iPhone or iPad, check out these Apps:

    • – Chinese 4 Kids

    • – Panda Radicals Chinese Flashcards

    • – Kid Lingo Pre School Mandarin

    • – Feed Me!

    • – Mandarin Study Buddy

  • Create as much purpose as you can to learning Mandarin for your child. We are very lucky here in the Netherlands, with access to a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity and languages. Use every moment possible to embrace this and encourage your child to practice speaking Mandarin with others or in daily life (at the local shops/ restaurants) with new people who speak Mandarin natively.

  • If you are able to read Pin Yin/ Chinese characters- then try to source as many books as possible in Mandarin and read them to your child.

  • Make up games that help your child remember the words they are learning. You can play “Eye Spy” and insert Mandarin words (I spy a ping guo – apple) or see how many objects you can name at the dinner table, in the fruit bowl or in the bedroom. Post-it notes around the house are also a fun activity for kids. Make them together as an activity.

  • Search YouTube for short videos in Mandarin together- there are so many translated cartoons (like Dora) and also counting and colours songs.

  • Below are a list of books and films to look at for learning about China, Chinese culture and language. The list is across all ages so hopefully there is something for everyone (parents included!)

Books/DVD List
  • China Shakes The World: The Rise of a Hungry Nation

  • The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century

  • Modern China: A Very Short Introduction

  • A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (Making of the Modern World)

  • Chinese Cinderella; Falling Leaves; The land of dragons and emperors by Adeline Mah

  • Wild Swans: introduces the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of the author and her family. It is very engaging and personal account of Chinese history.

  • Watching the tree

  • Sky burial

  • China Witness

  • What the Chinese don’t eat

  • The Good Women of China

  • The Joy Luck Club

  • The kitchen God’s wife

  • The hundred secret senses

  • The bonesetter’s daughter

  • Mr. China

  • Challenging China education, by Sharon Hom & Stacy Mosher

  • The Heavenly Man – the remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, a positive, encouraging and deeply spiritual account

Films in Mandarin
  • 上海假期 My American Grandson (1991)

  • 食神 God of Cookery (1996)

  • 刮痧 Gua Sha Treatment (2001)

  • 长江七号 CJ7 (2008)

  • “Shower”

  • 一个都不能少 Not one less

  • 和你在一起 Together with you

  • 十面埋伏 House of Flying Daggers

  • 卧虎藏龙 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

  • 霍元甲 Fearless

  • 我的父亲母亲 The Road Home

  • 青红 Shanghai Dreams