Set your kids up for success with these top Putonghua picks.
One of the most useful gifts you can give a child is the ability to speak more than one language, and here in Hong Kong it’s so easy to expose your little linguist to two, three or even more foreign tongues. In this roundup, we’ll be exploring the different ways in which kids can learn Chinese here in the 852, with playgroups, classes and tutors to help them on their way to fluency. Your kids are sure to go from monoglots to Mandarin masterminds in no time! So yi, er, san – let’s go!
Editor’s Note: The situation in Hong Kong regarding closures and restrictions on opening hours due to the coronavirus is constantly evolving. Many businesses are taking extra precautions, but please make sure you follow the latest government advice and stay home if you have recently travelled overseas, have interacted with anyone who has been away, or display any symptoms. Alternatively, please contact the centres and tutors mentioned to enquire about online learning options.
Winners of last year’sGive your little ones a head start on their Mandarin classes and get those linguistic skills underway through interactive play, practice and other fun activities. From conversations to reading, writing and putting their learning into practice, all programmes here are run in small groups of four to six children, giving maximum attention from the experienced native Mandarin-speaking teachers.
ourses are set within a dynamic and immersive environment with real-world settings (think a mini supermarket, fire station and even an airport!) – your kids won’t be able to resist getting stuck in! The situational teaching method, which integrates learning, play and exercise, allows children to study with a relaxed and enjoyable setting, exactly what you want when learning a new skill. If you would like to enrol your child for an online programme, there is a first-time offer of a trial class for $100 (regular price $260).
Looking to perfect your child’s Putonghua? Start them young at Southside Mandarin which offers classes for babies right through to 12-year-olds. As the first fully licensed Putonghua centre in Wong Chuk Hang, it offers a progressive curriculum with an in-house developed programme that suits the needs of all levels of Chinese students. Your little learners can try their hand at Putonghua language, art, playgroups, homework tutoring and also take level up classes. Take your pick from the playgroup (birth to 2.5-year-olds), kindergarten (2 to 6-year-olds) and primary (6 to 12-year-olds) classes.
Teachers are all native speakers who promote full immersion into the Chinese language – ideal for local and international students alike. If this sounds like what you are looking for, enrol now for one of its many courses.
Located in Wan Chai, Beijing Mandarin offers a plethora of classes from 2 to 3.5-year-olds, as well as test prep for teenagers facing big exams. There are four pipeline programmes to choose from – Baby First Chinese, My Fun Chinese, My Fun Chinese-Higher and My Smart Chinese (for teens). These are available in-person and online. It offers exam prep, private tuition and advanced Chinese as well, so you can bet your kid’s Mandarin needs will be taken care of here.
Kumon centres offer Chinese lessons which are sometimes challenging but you’ll certainly see results. Kumon Chinese works on Chinese characters, vocabulary, grammar, writing and reading with worksheets and also audio CDs – you’ll have a little polyglot in no time. Do your research and see if Kumon is right for you and your kids. For convenience, it has numerous locations around the city.
Yifan’s Mandarin For Munchkins programme offers classes for toddlers from 12 months up. The classes are small, capped at nine students. Its Mandarin playgroup uses simple songs, rhymes, stories, and games to start 1 to 3-year-old tots on the road to Mandarin learning. Mandarin Builder classes give older children from 4 to 5 years old the chance to have fun and learn Chinese without mum cramping their style! For older kids and teenagers, try Yifan’s Mandarin Focus and Focus for Teens classes to support their school needs and individualise their learning with one-on-one private classes if needed! Classes are held in Central and Discovery Bay, but playgroups are currently available only in Central. Online classes are currently available till Friday, 26 June, 2020.
Yifan Mandarin, Unit A, 14/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 75-77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Institute of Language’s HK Kidz Mandarin programme is another great option with classes including First Step for kids ages 3 to 4, Getting Ahead classes for 5 and 6-year-olds, and Arts and Drama classes for kids of all ages held in Mandarin. It also offers Christmas, Easter and Summer Holiday immersion camps, so plan ahead!
HK Kidz, 6/F, Wellington Plaza, 56-58 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Offering courses for kids (3 to 18-years-old) and adults alike, Mandarin House is an excellent option for any aspiring polyglot. Its main schools are in Beijing and Shanghai, but it offers after-school classes, private tutoring, camps and group PRC China textbooks here in Hong Kong, giving a fully immersive environment for your kids. Classes are available online, at home or at the centre in Central.
Other Mandarin classes
Playgroups With Mandarin Programmes
Eton House has a unique bilingual programme that starts at the age of one and progresses from playgroup to pre-nursery, to nursery and kindergarten. The bilingual playgroup for tots aged one to two runs for two hours each session, and is taught by two teachers (one native English and one native Mandarin speaker). Both teachers will always be in the classroom so children can constantly engage with both languages and learn to organically switch between them!
Offering Mandarin programmes for children from 8 months to 12 years old, Mulberry House follows a natural immersion approach. It prioritises experiential language learning in small group settings to allow children’s confidence and fluency to grow in a fun and caring environment. The playgroups are for tots aged 8 months to 3 years and are led by two teachers in groups of eight. The little ones will enjoy hour-long sessions of music, drama, storytime and active play – all in Mandarin! You’ve also got a choice of preschool Mandarin and primary school Mandarin foundation, Mandarin enrichment and the homework club covering all ages. It’s also currently offering 1:1 online classes.
Arts Plus offers a bilingual playgroup programme that will ensure your child will have fun while honing their Mandarin skills. With three different age groups, Infant, Toddler, and Tot, the playgroup caters to your baby’s needs and developmental stage. Your child will be exposed to various types of play – music, art, and movement – in a cosy facility designed to encourage your baby to explore, touch and learn. Playgroups run in two consecutive sessions, one in English and one in Mandarin, so equal attention is given to each language. Students are monitored across five main areas: intellectual, social-emotional, communication, gross motor and fine motor skills. With its carefully devised curriculum, it definitely has your little ones best interests at heart.
With its location slap bang in Central, Kids Land is the place to go if you’re based on HK Island and your toddler loves music. Using nursery rhymes and songs as the basis for all classes, the Mandarin Playgroup provides a fun and stimulating musical environment for toddlers from 18 months to 3 years old. For older, bolder toddlers, Learn-n-Play is an unaccompanied session for 2.5 to 5-year-olds.
Woodland Pre-School’s Aberdeen and Mid-Levels branches offer Saturday Mandarin Clubs for children aged 3 to 7 years. Hosted by a native Mandarin teacher, the club blends music and movement, songs and rhymes, craft, storytime and role-play to offer an exciting and inviting place to learn. Little ones can also try Mandarin Made Easy (also on Saturdays), which focuses on developing a solid base for listening and speaking skills. Look at the Mandarin learning schedule across its many centres and pick the one that suits you best.
Sunshine House offers bilingual playgroups, workshops and preschool programmes for tots as young as 12 months. With Putonghua and English storytime in playgroup, Mandarin enrichment workshops and daily Putonghua classes for preschoolers, your toddler is bound to turn into a native Mandarin speaker! Putonghua Enrichment Workshops take place on the Tung Chung campus and they supplement the preschool’s bilingual programme.
Safari Kid offers bilingual (and even trilingual!) programmes for children in K1 upwards to K3. For even younger tots, there’s the Early Explorers programme. While all three campuses use both English and Mandarin, the Pok Fu Lam centre offers a Mandarin immersion and a trilingual (English, Mandarin, Cantonese) programme for K1 toddlers!
Highgate House has a range of classes – from nursery programmes to child classes (the child has to be accompanied by an adult). Classes are conducted in Mandarin, English or if you want your child to have a truly bilingual upbringing – both! It caters to children from three months old and has been touted as an excellent preschool by Hong Kong mothers.
Other Mandarin Playgroups
Mandarin Tutors And Childcare Services
Want your child to speak and learn Mandarin but aren’t sure how to start? An option you may not have considered before is using a professional nanny service. DreamCare is one of Hong Kong’s leading childcare solutions specialising in native Mandarin-speaking nannies and early childhood educators. Tackle two problems at once; finding easy and reliable childcare, and fun and effective Mandarin immersion at home. Plus, you can opt for a full or part-time service, depending on your needs. Each nanny or early childhood educator (there are around 600 in employment!) is fully qualified in either early childhood education or holds a professional teaching qualification and follows a play-based approach to learning.
ITS Hong Kong is a registered tutorial school offering courses and tuition in more or less every subject you can imagine, including, of course, Mandarin. Better for older children and teens, small group and one-on-one tuition is available, including special programmes for SAT II Chinese and AP Chinese preparation. Tutors here are all highly qualified and follow a tried and tested method for getting those exam scores. Conveniently based in Central and TST, it’s perfect for your newly independent teen. Currently, all new students or students returning from overseas will receive live online classes for the first 14 days of tuition. All online classes maintain the same level of teacher-student interaction.
ITS Tutorial School Central, 4/F, BOC Group Life Assurance Tower, 134-136 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong
The Secondary School Mandarin course at Hong Kong Mandarin School helps teens prep for Chinese exams such as GCSE and A-levels. If your child needs personalised attention, Hong Kong Mandarin School offers private classes. But if they want to practice speaking Chinese with peers, there are group classes as well! The whole family can improve their Chinese here as it has adult classes aplenty (including Business Mandarin classes). Classes for children are specifically aimed at international school students, intending to support language learning alongside the school curriculum.
If you’re looking for flexibility for your teen, then this is a great option. Each course is customisable to your child’s schedule, needs and requirements. Focusing on IB and IGCSE Chinese exam preparation, New Concept Mandarin encourages regular testing and uses past paper mock exams to ensure that students are thoroughly prepared for the real thing. Its super-flexible approach to tuition means that sessions can take place at its Connaught Road Central centre, at home or even via Skype with online private classes, if necessary.
Specialising in teenage educational support, especially with the IB, MYP, SAT, ACT, AP and GCSE programmes, NTK offers a range of classes for native and non-native speakers. Teachers follow curricula designed to supplement test prep and what your teen is learning at school. To get further individualised support, book a private class! For those who live further away from the main campus in Causeway Bay, try NTK’s new online tutoring for small groups and private lectures (both campuses have been closed since Monday, 6 April, 2020 and all classes have been moved online). If your teen is aiming for those high scores, NTK has proven time and time again that it helps students achieve the best results.
NTK Academic Group (main campus), 3/F – 5/F & 7/F, Lee Garden Five, 18 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 2577 7844
Mandarin Teacher provides at-home tutoring, class at its Sheung Wan centre, as well as online. All its tutors are native speakers with teaching experience. There are three programmes for different age groups. For 2 to 5-year-olds, there is a Fun & Conversational Class (phonics and conversation), for 5 to 7-year-olds, Fun & Pre-school Class (conversation, writing & reading) and for 8 to 17-year-olds, Tutoring Class (listening, speaking, reading & writing).
Other Mandarin Tutors
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 25, September 2012, updated by Alex Purcell Garcia and Jessica Wai in August 2019, and most recently updated by Lydia Ching in April 2020.