Learning Chinese in the Greater Toronto Area
Learning Chinese can be a challenge, so here is a list I’ve compiled on where to learn Chinese in the Greater Toronto Area. The list below is not all-inclusive, and will grow as I find more.
The earliest you can start language learning is at home, whether it be with everyday interactions from family members such as your parents or grandparents. If Chinese is not your first language, don’t sweat it. There are a surprising number of new parents who have grown up as second generation Canadians with little to no knowledge of Chinese, but would like their children to learn. In this case, you can hire a live-in nanny or au pair who can speak Chinese with your infant. One famous example of non-Chinese speaking parents with a Chinese nanny is Ivanka Trump. There have been rumors online that Mark Zuckerberg was hiring a Chinese nanny for his children.
Experienced nannies can be expensive, so an affordable alternative is to hire an au pair instead. Although there are no official au pair visas in Canada, most au pairs would have to apply for the International Experience Canada program to get a work permit. To start your au pair search, register online as a host family. Personally, I’ve had a good experience with Au Pair World finding the perfect match. The best part is, you can claim the registration fees as part of childcare expenses.
Toddler, Preschool, Kindergarten (Ages 1.5 to 6)
You may want to have a nanny or an au pair live with you to continue learning the language, but as your infant grows into a toddler, consider sending them to a Chinese daycare. Instead of interacting with much older people, spending time around similar aged children may help with the language learning process at a Chinese daycare. Here are three daycares I’ve taken tours of that emphasized Cantonese:
These three daycares all have about 30 minutes to an hour lesson of Cantonese everyday. Mostly Cantonese is taught, but they do have Mandarin as an option depending on enrollment. Starting at Age 3, these three schools also offer Saturday Chinese programs.
Victoria Education Centre Montessori and Child Care (Leslie Campus)
Located on the south-east corner of Leslie St. and Major Mackenzie Dr., Victoria Education Centre Montessori and Child Care was established since 1999. The Leslie campus, in particular, was opened October 2004 as their second campus after the Yonge campus, also in Richmond Hill. This facilities islocated in an isolated area away from busy commercial buildings. The facility is quite spacious and have durable furniture for children. Not only does it have an outdoor playground, there is also an indoor gym, and library as well. For toddlers, uniforms are required on Mondays only. Preschoolers and above wear formal uniforms on Mondays, and casual uniforms for the remainder of the week. After school enrichment programs can include Mandarin, Dance, Drawing, Piano, Martial Arts, Mathematics, and Abacus, just to name a few. The earliest drop-off time is 7:00 AM and the latest pick-up time is 6:30 PM. The Leslie campus also has weekend programs for extra-curricular activities. As of the time of writing, the cost of sending a child to Victoria Education Centre Montessori and Child Care is around the city’s average cost of daycare. As well, this is a Town of Richmond Hill Subsidized Licensed Child Care Center.
Yip’s Canada Music Montessori School (Thornhill Campus)
Located on the south-west corner of Young St. and Thornhill Ave. in a commercial plaza. Yip’s Children’s Choral & Performing Arts Centre was founded by Dr. Wai Hong Yip, and subsequently Yip’s Canada in 1990. There are campuses worldwide in Hong Kong, USA, and Canada. The Thornhill campus was established in 1996. This cozy campus has a piano is practically every room and has plenty of musical performances throughout the year. Uniforms are required for all students, and also has after-school and weekend programs. Enrichment programs include Piano, Strings, Choir, Mandarin, Cantonese, Music Drama, Art, Dance, and Mathematics. This location is open from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM. They also offer a discount for lump sum payments. As of the time of writing, Yip’s Canada is the most affordable and cost-effective out of the daycares reviewed here. As well, this is a City of Vaughan Non-Subsidized Licensed Child Care Center.
Safari Kid Canada (West Markham Campus)
Located on the south-west corner of Kennedy Rd. and Bur Oak Ave., Safari Kid West Markham campus is a Chinese Immersion daycare established in 2015. The Safari Kid franchise is known world-wide and has campuses in the United States, Hong Kong, Dubai, India, and Malaysia. The curriculum has been developed in the heart of Silicon Valley and focuses on STEM education. Uniforms are not required, and the school also offers after school and Saturday extra-curricular activities. These programs include English, Chinese, French, Mathematics, and Private Tutoring. This location opens from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. With consideration to later open hours and earlier closing hours, the cost of sending a child to Safari Kid Canada West Markham campus is around the city’s average cost of daycare. As well, this is a Town of Markham Subsidized Licensed Child Care Center.
Academia Concept Education Centre
Located on the north-west corner of Woodbine Ave. and Apple Creek Blvd. near Buttonville Airport. This location offers after-school and weekend extra-curricular actives as well. This is Town of Markham Non-Subsidized Licensed Child Care Center.
There are other daycares out there that emphasize Mandarin as well, but I have yet to tour the facilities:
Apparently, Toronto Mandarin School has collaborated with Wishing Well Schools to offer Mandarin classes after school since 2017. I’ll be taking a tour of Wishing Well Schools to get more information later.
Preschool to Grade 8
The most affordable option is with a District School Board, and is either offered on the weekend or after school for 2 hours a week.
York Region District School Board offers both Cantonese and Mandarin as either after school programs or saturday classes.
Toronto District School Board has a similar setup.
However, there are more intensive Saturday Chinese programs as well:
Mon Sheong Foundation Chinese School
Established in 1968, the Mon Sheong Foundation Chinese school offers Cantonese, Mandarin, and Mathematics, usually Friday after school, or on Saturday mornings. Not only do they have multiple campuses to choose from, they also have morning and afternoon sessions available.
Agape-Charis Learning Centre
Intensive weekend program, Chinese curriculum based on Education Department in Hong Kong. Mathematics also offered, as well as other extra-curricular activities.
Bayview Saturday Chinese School
Although some of the schools mentioned above continue to teach Chinese at the high school level, enrollment numbers are usually low. This may be due to students opting for Saturday High School Credit Courses at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
The high school credits have three levels, so you can start in grade 9 or 10. The best part is, these credit courses are offered at the “University Prep” level that can be counted towards a student’s top six courses when applying to colleges and universities.
B – Level 1
C – Level 2
D – Level 3
LKC BD1, LKC CU1, LKC DU1
LKM BD1, LKM CU1, LKM DU1
Toronto District School Board – Learn 4 Life
Offerings are updated every Fall, Winter, and Spring. They usually have Cantonese and Mandarin offered in the Fall, not so much in the Winter and Spring.
Mon Sheong Foundation Chinese School
Currently, Mon Sheong Foundation Chinese School offers Adult Conversation Putonghua (Mandarin). Good opportunity to learn mandarin while your child is also in class learning on the weekend.
Confucius Institute @ Seneca College (Markham)
Plenty of courses to choose from. Basic Chinese courses are usually a month long, twice a week in the evenings. They also have conversational Mandarin courses. The courses should be able to prep you for the HSK Level 1 exam, which can also be taken at this location.
|LGB071||Conversational Chinese – Basic I||$240|
|LGB072||Conversational Chinese – Basic II||–|
|LGB073||Conversational Chinese – Intermediate I||$240|
|LGB074||Conversational Chinese – Intermediate II||–|
|LGB075||Conversational Chinese – Advanced I||–|
|LGB076||Conversational Chinese – Advanced II||–|
|LGB081||Chinese – Basic 1||$140|
|LGB082||Chinese – Basic 2||$140|
|LGB085||Chinese – Basic 3||$140|
|LGB086||Chinese – Basic 4||$150|
|LGB087||Chinese – Basic 5||$150|
|LGB088||Chinese – Basic 6||$150|
|LGB083||Intensive Basic Chinese 1||–|
If all else fails, try downloading HelloTalk on your mobile device and chat with people from all over the world!