Category: Mandarin

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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Learn Chinese Profile: Chinese When Your Kid Goes to Public School

Recently, I’ve been having random conversations with Dots about possible books to buy and offering unsolicited opinions on how she ought to teach her kids Chinese.  Then I realized I often start my sentences with, “xx does this with her kids”, “yy does that with her kids”, hoping to give her some inspiration.

What I realized is I need to write all of this down as I often use one friend as an example when talking to another friend.

Because to me, many of my friends are way more successful in teaching Chinese than me.   But that’s why I homeschool. I wouldn’t be able to do it if my kids went to school.

So I want to write down the stories of friends whose kids have finished Reading 123 閱讀123 by the end of second grade.  I think that’s a good marker for Chinese reading success.   Why?  Because by third grade, English gets harder. If you can develop that habit of reading a longish book by second grade, you have a fighting chance of continually increase your Chinese level through reading without a lot of parental effort.  By 2nd grade, that’s 7-8 years of pushing making an effort for Chinese.  It starts getting tiring.

Of course, there are other things one would still need to work on, like idioms, writing, non-fiction Chinese, literary Chinese, etc.   But the creation of a reading habit is of the utmost importance for those kids who are learning Chinese almost as a second language.

So the first person I want to profile is Lavender.  Her story is truly inspiring and I hope others who read it realize it is never too late to teach your kids Chinese. (more…)

Case Study:  Organizing an Unfamiliar Chinese Book Collection

I can’t resist the call of a book collection.  So I talked Dots into letting me reorganize her Chinese books.

She thinks I’m helping her.  But really, I get to check out books I would otherwise not know about.  As I learned during our session, she buys a lot of books through books.com.tw 博客來, many I’ve never heard off and several I’ve been wanting to check out but can’t bear to buy because my kids are mostly out of the picture book stage.

Organizing Dots’ books comes with two unique challenges.  One, I can’t wait till she buys more bookshelves since I am just visiting.  This means that I couldn’t really do a complete reorganization of her books.  Two, I was unfamiliar with her collection.

But, I’m pleased with what we managed to do in a few hours.

We started by gathering most of the books together.  Her English and Chinese books were mixed together over 7 shelves, 5 in the living room and 2 in the bedroom.

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Video: 生活裡的科學 Science Around Us

Age: 6.5 & 9.5 (Suitable for Kindergarten+)

For recommendations on other books/videos/audios, I’ve indexed them all under the Chinese Books Page.

We’re making our own sourdough starter and tonight the kids watched an episode from Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 to give them some of the vocabulary they are encountering.   Though it turned out that’s not what the episode is about, I was reminded just how great this series is for elementary kids.  I need to let them watch this after we’re done with 甜心格格 Sweetheart Princess.

Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 is a series put out by Daai TV, owned by Tzuchi Foundation, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan.  But the series is secular.  This is the description on their website:

Science around Us is a children’s program that solves the mysteries behind all sorts of phenomena in people’s everyday life.

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Using Line to Help Learn Zhuyin and Reading

We’ve been doing a remedial zhuyin class for Astroboy for the last few weeks.  He really needed a review because he just doesn’t know his tones and tends to pronounce things wrong.   I know the problem is that I did not spend a very long time teaching him zhuyin well before I left him to read on his own.

But before I go on, let me vent a little on how people traditionally teach zhuyin.  They spell to children,  馬 ㄇㄚ 馬, when it really should be   馬 ㄇ ㄚˇ 馬.  I’m not immune to this.  It’s how I learned zhuyin and how I unconsciously said it to my kids.    It drives me nuts because you’re not teaching kids, right off the bat, to hear the ending tones.

What happened after the initial teaching is, I drop the ball on finishing teaching zhuyin, Astroboy went to reading and he semi succeeded since he can sometimes guess words from context and the characters he already can read, until he can’t when the book is too high a level.

So maybe I have no one to blame but myself.   Except I think this is a very common problem amongst people I know who learn Sagebooks first, then zhuyin, then move on to reading very quickly due to the desire to learn to read ASAP.

In any case, now that Thumper can read, the next step for us is composition.  However, since she doesn’t know how to write many characters, I thought I should let her review her zhuyin a bit first.

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Video: 甜心格格 Sweetheart Princess

Ages: 6.5 & 9.5
Suitable for: 6 and up

Reading 西遊記 to the kids this semester is our foray into more advanced Chinese, including vocabulary used in court.  Chinese is kind of like Japanese and Korean.  There is a more formal and polite way of speaking, with specific vocabulary used to denote relationship hierarchy.  But thankfully, unlike those two languages, there are no verb tense changes.    I’m hoping that knowing these terms will help with reading more advanced Chinese literature.

Since a very good way to introduce new vocabulary is through listening, namely audiobooks or TV, first, off I went to finally look into 甜心格格, translated as Sweetheart Princess (though the official images I’ve seen says Ori-Princess, which makes no sense).  We first watched the anime series when we were in Taiwan 3 years ago on Momo TV and the kids really liked it.   But I hadn’t been able to find a Taiwan dubbed version.

This time around, I gave up on the Taiwanese version and just used the Mainland version available on Youtube.  The series is from China anyway.  I knew some of the pronunciation and terms used in China are different from Taiwan, so I’d wanted to keep the exposure consistent.  But at this point, with the kids Chinese fairly good enough, it doesn’t matter.

The series is set in the Qing dynasty and about a princess who was raised amongst the commoners and “rediscovered” by her father the emperor.  He brings her back home and attempts to convert her to a princess and the antics that ensue.  Sophia the First she’s not.  Don’t let the title Princess turn you off.  It’s more just about her adventures with the background set in the imperial palace.

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Audiobook Review: Mr. Men and Little Miss 奇先生妙小姐

Age: 6.5 & 9.5
Grade Level: 4+ (listening), lower elementary (reading)

This semester, I’ve introduced a new routine.  The children can listen to an audiobook while they fold their laundry during work hours.  I offered Astroboy Mr. Men and Little Miss 奇先生妙小姐 one day and finally, there is something that is at Astroboy‘s comprehension level and actually engaging.

Astroboy has been listening to the series for the last month.  Mr. Men and Little Miss is just like Thomas the Train.  After a few repeats, the kids can tell me exactly what each Mr. Men and Little Miss’ story is about, and knows to request a specific one that they find especially funny.  Then, when they’re not listening, they will discuss the stories and laugh their heads off.  Even better, because Fleur and Mandarin Mama‘s kids are also listening to the series, sometimes they would discuss the stories on the playground.

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Mandarin Reading Club

About a month ago, I finally started that book club I’d been wanting to start for over a year.  This is our fifth week and I think I kind of have the format down now.

There are 4 kids in our club, ranging from 5 to 9.  Because of the range of children, my goal wasn’t to have a the children read one book at home and then discuss and analyze in the club, but rather just to foster reading and have the children discuss books with each other.  The idea came to me when I saw how happy Thumper was, discussing, drawing, and giggling with Bebe about Harry Potter.  I realized then just how powerful it is having peers to learn Chinese with.

Here’s what our most recent reading club meeting looked like (more…)

Book Review: 跨世紀小說 Cross Century Set

Age:  9
Grade: 3rd-JH (中高年級到國中), most are 5th-6th
Pages: 200+.

For other book reviews, please see my Books page.

It’s kind of strange to be writing a book “review” for a series when Thumper’s only read 2 of them.  But I love what we have read so far and am singing the series’ praises left and right.  Since I plan to collect the rest of the series that are out of print, I thought I will create a reference doc for myself for this book review.

The Cross Century Set, otherwise known as 跨世紀小說 from Eastern Publishing (東方出版社), is a set of 54 books.   Eastern Publishing translated a bunch of award winning or nominated novels (Newberry medals, Carnegie Medals, etc) and also acquired the rights to several out of print books from another publisher, and published them under the Cross Century name.  Their website describes the set as (and I very roughly translate into English):

From countries such as the U.S., England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Ireland, Germany, and Spain, these award winning children’s literature explore topics on friendships, family, adventure, life, and growing up…..

來自美國、英國、法國、澳洲、紐西蘭、荷蘭、愛爾蘭、德國、西班牙等國的現代兒童文學獎傑作,為孩子述說生命真諦、親情友情、成長探索、想像冒險等主題,除了可滿足閱讀樂趣,更可啟發孩子的想像力,幫助建立正確、積極的人生觀。

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