Here’s a fact about young children: they LOVE language. It’s an absolute joy for them to learn and recite anything. And they do it effortlessly. They can learn Jack and Jill went up the hill just as easily as a Shakespearean sonnet.
Here are some videos of B and M reciting the Three Word Classic, Confucius’ Great Learning and several Tang poems. These classical Chinese poems and writings are critical to helping children understand and appreciate Chinese language, culture and history, especially as they get into elementary and middle school. Knowing this, I memorized a couple stanzas of the Great Learnings and brushed up on Tang poems I learned as a child, then recited them to B and M. We sang Itsy Bitsy Spider at the same time we recited Confucius – and they picked it all up. To a 12-year-old, memorization is tedious and painful. But to a 2-year-old, there’s almost no greater joy.
Children will imitate the language they hear in their environment. Therefore when it comes to language in general, I recommend speaking the most beautiful, difficult and sophisticated version of your language to them. Use hard vocabulary words. Enunciate. Be very specific in your word choices – instead of ‘look at that butterfly,” say, “look at that yellow and black Monarch butterfly.” And if you’re an English speaker, incorporate Shakespeare. It’s not too early. You’re doing them a favor by exposing them to it now!
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