Category: Mandarin

What Should I do for Chinese After Third Grade?

A few weeks ago, we visited my parents and siblings.  Watching the children interact with my parents and their friends completely in Chinese, I was reminded why I wanted the children to learn Chinese; foremost is the ability to converse comfortably with native speakers, second is ability to read, and lastly writing.

It also really hit me during our visit that Thumper is really ten.  That was the age that I immigrated to the U.S.  Though day to day, it feels like we’re doing the same thing on the CLE front, that I still obsess about how to teach Chinese and whether or not the kids are learning enough, I realized during this trip that in the back of my head I had always had age 10 as a crossover point.

At age 10, I had full on English immersion in school, though I continued reading Chinese books at home, writing letters in Chinese for 2 years (then subsequently forgot how to write Chinese completely), had a very Chinese environment at home, and served as translators for my parents.  My English was good enough because I read so much.  But in hindsight, it was not quite enough for the level of writing that my sister always seemed to have just by virtue of immigrating here at 7 instead of 10.  Only after college did I feel like I had a good command of the language.

Someone told me once that it takes about 10-15 years to master a language to a native level.  Apparently from some research somewhere.  (Don’t quote me on it.)  And looking at my experience, I have to agree.  It really did take me 15 years to finally understand the pattern of English speech and writing.

As Thumper gets to the teenage years, I find myself using English to explain concepts that, while I might be able to say in Chinese if I really really tried, they feel inherently an English (American culture) idea, and English seems a better fit to express them.

All this to say, during this trip I made peace with the fact that we’re switching over to English this year for Thumper.  In fact, because I’m also working on Astroboy‘s spoken English, I feel like I’m saying a sad little goodbye to Chinese while all these new parents sprout up on FB, sharing ideas on implementing CLE, wishing I were at the same place they are.

 

So what to do about Chinese after 3rd grade?  

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Video: 小主播看天下 Kids Newsroom

Age: 7 & 10 (Suitable for 1st grade and up)

As we shift our focus onto English this semester, I’m finding myself encountering some typical issues with learning Chinese as a second language: no time and inability to move up a level.  

The children spend a lot of their free time listening to English audio books.  I’m not stopping them because that’s my focus this semester: upping both kids’ English comprehension to the next level.  But as a result, it feels like the Chinese is just keeping pace.

Though both Thumper and Astroboy continue reading Chinese books as assignments and bedtime reading, I know better.  English aural input has a huge impact.  I can see it in the books they choose to read.  Thumper can’t quite make that jump to higher level, more difficult Chinese.  When I ask her what certain words mean in the mid to upper elementary books she’s reading, she often doesn’t know.   Astroboy is reading higher level Chinese books, but only because he’s already listened to the English audiobooks.

In any case, since we have no time with all that focus on English curriculum during the work period, a new plan of attack is needed.  To that end, I’m having the children watch newscast after dinner every night, for about 30 minutes.

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Non-Worksheet Way to Learning Chinese & English Handwriting

Age: 7

Wow.  That title is quite a mouthful.  But I am too lazy to write two posts that essentially say the same thing.

Once he turned 7 this school yearAstroboy finally started on formal handwriting work.  Prior to this, he wrote a little, mostly because of zhuyin lessons.  But if he got tired or didn’t want to write, I tended not to push him.   I didn’t want to push writing before the kids had their pincer grip down, and sadly, my kids never had their pincer grip down early because we did very few art activities.

 

Workbook Options

 

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Book Review: I Love Martine 我愛瑪婷

Age: 7

Good for: 6+ or 4+ (audiobooks)


After a year of feeling like Astroboy will never start reading, I have re-discovered books in my collection I can offer to Astroboy!.

A few months ago, I finally got tired of the endless 奇先生妙小姐 Mr. Men and Little Miss audiobooks and pestered Fleur for I Love Martine 我愛瑪婷 audiobooks she converted for me.  The kids, especially Astroboy, were hooked immediately.  He then wanted to read the books.   It was his go to series to read in the car before we moved to Zorori.

I Love Martine by Gilbert Delahaye is a series of 52 books with 26 audio CDs, translated from French.  It’s no surprise it’s got a very 50’s feel to it since it was written in the 50s.  The story is about Martine and her little brother (born sometime along the series) and all their adventures.

I say adventure because sometimes it is very mundane daily school and home life such as caring for a new bird, or learning how to swim, other times it’s exploring the forest/swamp close by their house, or taking a train by themselves to visit grandma.

Though these are picture books, they are very long stories with super large and lovely illustrations accompanying each story.  With its tiny font, it’s not really an early reader.  But once the kids are on track for Level 1 books (basically after all your Little Bear, Frog and Toads, etc), they can definitely read these for practice.

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Learn Chinese Profile: When Your Kid’s Chinese is Better than Yours

Dots read my first post on how another parent teaches Chinese and pointed out that most questions regarding teaching Chinese can be categorized into (and I quote):

  1. My kids don’t go to immersion
  2. My Chinese is crap
  3. I don’t have the money for a library

I guess it worked out that my first post was category #1!   And Fleur happened to fit into category #2!

Okay, technically Lavender’s spoken Mandarin Chinese isn’t that great either.  But for her, her struggle was whether she can teach Chinese at after school instead of an immersion school.  Similarly,  it’s not completely true that Fleur‘s Chinese is crap.  However, she faced the issue of providing the level of Chinese teaching she wanted for her kids when she didn’t have it herself.

Fleur is the complete opposite of Lavender when it comes to parenting style.  For those who read the first post and thought, “Too intense and not me”, I hope reading Fleur’s story illustrates, once again, it’s not the methodology as much as it is the consistency.

Yes, choosing the most efficient methodology that suits one’s family does matter, especially with English competing for the children’s attention.  But whatever method you choose, consistency puts you ahead. (more…)

Sagebook Supplemental Materials

A friend recently asked me to make a zhuyin companion cards to my flashcards.  I don’t know why I had not thought of that before!  At this point, I think I’ve made most of the materials I have ever wanted to make to help my kids learn their Chinese characters.  So it is time to actually list is out in one summary page for my easy reference.

Character Flashcards

I made both Traditional and Simplified versions of these cards color coded to the book colors, with radicals highlighted.  The Traditional version also comes with zhuyin cards.  They’re available from Etsy.

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State of Our Chinese Before 2017-2018 School Year

Once again, it’s time to take stock of our Chinese before we start our 4th year homeschooling.   I find myself repeating our learning to read Chinese journey to various people over the years and I always feel like I’m exaggerating a bit.  So it’s handy to have a reference as to just what the kids worked on each year and how their Chinese came along.

I imagine to most people, I come off as super hardcore when it comes to getting my kids to learn Chinese.  The reality is, I personally find the topic of learning a language (and education in general) interesting so I do a lot of reading and research.  But when it comes to the actual implementation, I have to say I can only really focus on one skill at a time.  Many of my homeschooling mommy friends implement the Chinese learning part so much better.

But thankfully, what the kids do well in, namely reading in Chinese, goes along with my idea of how to learn Chinese.  So I’ve been okay to let other things drop by the way side.

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Using Kindle Paperwhite to Read Traditional Chinese Books

Two summers ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite for Thumper‘s annual summer vacation at Grandma.  Originally I bought it for Thumper to read in English.  However, as we moved up to upper elementary Chinese books, I started using it for reading in Chinese as well.  The more we use it, the more I’ve fallen in love with it.    It is an indispensable tool in our quest to learn Chinese.

As they like to say in Chinese, it has a high CP value.

Why buy a Kindle?

Honestly, it probably doesn’t have to be a Kindle.  It can be a Nook.  But I don’t know anything about the Nook, so I don’t know if it can do the things that the Kindle can.

  • It’s great for traveling.  When we Worldschooled this past year for 4 months, I brought only the Kindle Paperwhite along.  We used it to read English books and eventually the Chinese books I managed to find online.
  • No need for an English library at home.   I’ve donated about 80% of my English books at home now that I have a Kindle.  We usually borrow ebooks that we download onto the Kindle.  For books that have no eBook format, we go to the local library.  We only buy non-fiction books we need for homeschooling when we need it.
  • It provides support for English learning.  Use the Word Wise setting to provide definitions over texts, which is super great for learning vocabulary.  There is also a dictionary to look up words you don’t understand.    There is also Kindle FreeTime, which allows you to track reading progress, though I have never figured out how it works.
  • It’s got Simplified Chinese support!  You can read in Traditional Chinese as well, but the menus can only be configured for Simplified.   You can highlight Chinese text and look up translations and definitions.  For simplified, you can configure it to display pinyin on top of words!
  • Entice children to read higher level books.  As I mentioned in my Harry Potter book review, kids can’t quite see how big a book is when it’s on the Kindle, so they are more willing to read a long book that they’re capable of reading, but resist because they’re not used to words without texts yet.
  • Not worry about the kids’ eyes.  I’m no optometrist so I don’t know if it’s actually better.  But I feel better that I can change the font size to something huge for the kids.  Fonts start getting so much smaller the higher the level and I always worry.  In fact, because of this, I actually prefer the kids reading on the Kindle and always try to find an ebook before looking for a physical copy now.  When I asked the kids’ optometrist the last time we went for a check up, she said that for screen devices they just need to make sure to rest their eyes every 30 minutes.

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How to Pack Books from Taiwan for Luggage and Shipping

Back in December last year, Fleur and I shipped about 50 small and big boxes of books for friends and brought back 14 boxes of books ourselves.  When I had to take a last minute 3 day trip back to Taipei in March this year, I brought back 2 boxes of books that I packed without Fleur’s help.  All of these books arrived in one piece and I think I finally had the packing down to a science.

In my few years of buying books through my book vendor and organizing my own group book buys, I heard a few horror stories and encountered a few issues with packing and shipping.  Let me list the horror stories I’ve heard and encountered myself:

  • Boxes of books shipped by sea, packed by relatives, lost forever.  Each box of 20kg books probably cost someone around $250-$350 total.  That’s a lot of money.
  • Boxes of books shipped by sea, with corners bent or moisture issues, unable to be sold.
  • Boxes of books purchased through a publisher, shipped by sea, arriving ripped open and books lost or books moldy.
  • Box of book getting forwarded to USPS Lost and Found because mailing label fell off, and even though we know exactly which processing plant it went to, lost forever.
  • People receiving shipment notice by USPS and USPS not finding the box when they go pick it up.
  • For my March 3-day trip, I didn’t buy enough books to put them all in Post Office boxes so I had 2 carryon suitcase of books.  A hardcover got gauged in the process by the tabs in the suitcase because I didn’t pad it well.  So so sad.   

Next time I go back to Taiwan, I will try to pack all my books in boxes rather than stuff them in my suitcase.  If you’re carrying books back on the plane, it is best if you just use a box instead of packing them in your suitcase.  Books are heavy.  Often just a few of them will push them over your suitcase weight allowance.  They like to come in square shapes.  You can’t bend them to pack them in a suitcase tightly.

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Book Review: Harry Potter 哈利波特

Ages: 6.75 & 9.75
Suitable for 4th grade and up.

I don’t think people need me to review such a well known series like Harry Potter.  This post is more about Chinese translation of Harry Potter and where they fit in the scheme of learning Chinese.

First a little backstory.  If you’re impatient, skip to my point.

Two weeks ago, I sent Astroboy to an English camp for a week and Thumper had a week “off”, where she can do whatever she likes and I generally don’t bother her about when to get up or go to sleep.  She spent that week re-listening to Harry Potter books 1 to 3 again, in English.

This was after we’d gone to the local library and borrowed Harry Potter 4 in Chinese for her to read, as I’d told her last year that she can read the fourth book after she turned 10.  She dropped that after a day and went back to listening to the English version instead.  She said while she could read the Chinese characters, she did not understand what it was saying.

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