Although learning Mandarin Chinese is increasing in popularity, majority of the resources is business focused. There isn’t much available to help parents improve their Chinese.
Yet, this topic of how to improve in Chinese as a parent keeps coming up in the bilingual parenting FaceBook group. This area of Chinese is also something I’m trying to better myself in.
When I switched from speaking predominantly English to our daughter to Mandarin Chinese when we moved back to America after living in Taiwan for three years, it was quite an adjustment.
Not only did I feel unsure about the terms I was using during our interactions, the once easy normal everyday conversations with our daughter felt challenging and awkward in Chinese.
On top of it all, I was having a hard disciplining our daughter in Chinese without slipping into the harsh phrases I heard growing up. I knew I needed to be intentional in learning more empathetic and positive Chinese phrases.
Another challenge was that most of my Mandarin Chinese I was accustomed to using was intended for conversations with peers not children.
At first I simply tried my best with the Mandarin I knew, but slowly I found resources and techniques to bolster my Chinese parenting vocabulary that aligned with our parenting style.
Below are four doable techniques to build your Chinese parenting vocabulary. I mostly take around 15-30 minutes each time, one to two times a week listening or watching to the following resources while I’m doing chores around the house or while I’m getting ready. So these steps are pretty doable I would think for other busy parents. Some of the shows may even be fun to watch with your children as well!
I hope these resources help you in your Chinese bilingual parenting journey!
1. Watch Chinese Shows with Parent Child Interaction
In my mind, watching a show is the easiest way to improve one’s parenting Chinese vocabulary. I mean I can sit back relax after a long day, enjoy a show and improve my Chinese at the same time. What more can a mom ask for?
(*spoiler alert) In the second half of the show, there’s quite a bit of interaction between the mom and her son.
I did have to fast forward through a lot of the drama since I felt like there was lots of unnecessary scenes that didn’t help build the story at all.
Other Chinese Shows with Parent-Child Interaction
妈妈是超人/Mommy is Superwoman
This is a fun reality show that follows Chinese/Taiwanese celebrity moms interacting with their children. I was able to pick up a lot of very useful phrases through this one.
爸爸去哪儿/Where Did Daddy Go?
Another reality show following celebrity dads as they go on adventures with their children. This would be perfect for dads!
2. Buy Chinese Reference Books Teaching English Parenting Terms
When my husband was learning Chinese, he bought English learning reference books written in Chinese. Since we were living in Taiwan at the time, there was way more English learning reference books available.
When faced with the dilemma of picking up more Chinese parenting terms I was unfamiliar with, I did the same.
There are a TON of books to help Chinese native speakers learn English parenting terms. These are perfect because they’re intended to help Chinese native speakers teach their kids English or adjust to living overseas in an western environment.
There are a wide variety to choose from. I ordered two from books.com.tw. One is more simple (on the right) and the other more complex.
I like how both books are organized into different social contexts and western holidays as well.
Both books come with a CD-Rom of MP3s but sadly it’s all in English. The downside of these books is that they don’t include pinyin or zhuyin since they’re intended for native speakers.
Click here to find all that’s available on books.com.tw/博客來. There are LOTS to choose from.
Below are sample pages from the more simple book. Please excuse my paint stained fingers. I’ve been painting our trim :P.
3. Buy Chinese Translation of Parenting Books You Like
If you’re comfortable with reading Chinese, then another thing you can do to pick up Chinese parenting vocab is to purchase Chinese translation of English parenting books that you like.
These books will include lots of helpful parenting terms such as what to say when you’re correcting or redirecting your child.
You can find them by simply typing in the name of the author or title in English then add the characters, 中文 in google search.
You can also do the same on books.com.tw. I was able to find two books I plan on purchasing and reading through this method:
- Loving our Kids on Purpose/定意愛我們的孩子 by Danny Silk/丹尼•席克 (traditional)
- Shepherding A Child’s Heart/子女心,父母情–牧养孩子的心 by Ted Tripp (simplified) (click here for traditional version) This is also available on Amazon
Some other popular parenting titles available in Chinese:
- No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind 教養，從跟孩子的情緒做朋友開始：孩子鬧脾氣，正是開發全腦的好時機 by: Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson
- The 7 habits of happy kids 與成功有約：培養7個好習慣 (children’s book) by Sean Covey
- Donner confiance à son enfant grace à la methode Montessori 教出未來力！50個居家親子蒙特梭利遊戲，玩出孩子的好品格x競爭力
4. Watch Videos Talking about Parenting in Chinese
Another easy way to pick up Chinese parenting vocab is through watching shows that teach on parenting in Chinese.
Below are a few I’ve found helpful.
This new Taiwanese show that launched this past May stars 黑人/Blackie Chen celebrity dad with twin boys. He’s married to Fan Fan, a famous Taiwanese singer.
In the show, parents discuss various (often entertaining) topics. It’s a fun show to watch.
Another similar Taiwanese show to check out is 媽媽好神, that one is with a pediatrician.
A Taiwanese parenting channel with experts and pediatricians giving helpful advice.
I like their five minute quick parenting tips series. They’re nice and concise.
Even though your parenting style may differ, this would be a great way to pick up some Chinese parenting terms.
Danny Silk: Loving Our Kids on Purpose Conference at Bread of Life Taipei
Danny Silk is an author and teacher who focuses on teaching Christian parenting techniques rooted in love and logic.
He’s my go to for parenting my daughter right now. I love how he focuses on teaching parenting to train children how to use the freedom they have while they’re in your home to prepare them for their future.
He also focuses on helping parents cultivate a loving relationship with their children.
I can’t say enough good things about him.
老师请回答/Teacher Please Answer
A show from China where parents ask a panel of experienced teachers questions regarding parenting. It’s very interesting, especially seeing how parents in China differ from parents in the West. This is another great way to pick up Chinese parenting vocab.
親子天下 Parenting World
There are many great videos to choose from 親子天下’s YouTube channel. They’re a Taiwanese Parenting magazine that shares lots of great content created for parents.
5. Watch Chinese Dramas
Watching dramas is a fun and practical way to improve your Chinese.
Here are some my husband and I enjoyed. All are available on Netflix.
Recent updated version of the 90s classic that took Asia by storm.
Featuring the same main actress as the new Meteor Garden, “A Love So Beautiful” is a sweet coming of age love story.
Funny and laid back romantic comedy
Some other fun Chinese dramas:
- Love 020 (The movie. The drama was just ok): gamers fall in love with each other in real life
- Find Yourself: older woman falls in love with a younger man entertaining romantic comedy
- Somewhere Only We Know: smart college girl falls in love with her TA
- Perfect Match: two very different chefs fall in love. The ending was disappointing but the story up to the ending was good
- Single Ladies Senior: love life of older single ladies. Great story with a terribly disappointing ending.
6. Listen to Chinese Podcasts/Albums
Here are some fun podcasts to either learn Chinese or to help beef it up while entertaining you.
This is what my husband has been listening to lately to help beef up his Chinese. It’s available on Spotify.
Moms of Silicon Valley share their stories and interview Chinese speakers of various backgrounds. They have a fun episode on raising their kids bilingual and other episodes focused on parenting that would be useful.
听故事学中文/Learning Chinese through Stories
This podcasts teaches you Chinese through stories organized by three different levels: 1 (novice) – 3 (advanced). Highly recommended by other parents improving their Chinese.
I hope these four ways of improving your Chinese parenting vocabulary help you! If you have other great resources, please share them here!
- The Secret to Learning Chinese: How My Husband Did it in 2.5 Years
- How a Mom whose Chinese wasn’t that good was able to get her kid’s Chinese to be better than her own from Guavarama
- Another Mom’s Journey on how She successfully Learned Chinese with her Kids from Motherly Notes
- How monolingual parents can raise a bilingual child from Fluent in 3 Months
- A monolingual mom raising a trilingual child from Bilingual Kidspot
More Chinese Learning Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Learning Apps for Kids
- 7 Secrets to Chinese Retention: How I’m Still Fluent Despite Immigrating at 8
- 25+ Netflix Chinese Shows for Kids
- Best Chinese Songs for Kids: Fun & Easy Way to Learn Mandarin
- TOP 6 RESOURCES FOR DOING FAMILY DEVOTIONS IN CHINESE 家庭靈修資源
- Learn Numbers in Chinese