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The following is a post from our group member in our Facebook Group. She’s ONE AMAZING MOM but as all Chinese mothers are, she fails to ADMIT THAT. I will try to translate the best that I can her journey. Down below she’ll say she’s lazy and used easy methods but I have to say… it never is an easy journey and no mother with this type of success is ever lazy!
Here’s her post translated by me. If it has typos, etc. please forgive me! This is as long as a book so I did the best I could to translate!!! Blue = my thoughts, Red = translation, Black = original text by J. Lin.
When Julie first asked me to share my experience, I hesitated as my son’s journey isn’t the most triumphant in my view. I am very grateful for all the parents in this facebook group that gave me a plethora of ideas for me in teaching my son Chinese. I really admire all the love and care as well as the methods that were shared in the group and could help but feel a little self doubt. I’m not as caring of a mother, do not work as hard and so I tried to use the most simplest methods possible in teaching my son.
I believe the key to my son’s success in such a short time is due to his accumulation of the understanding of the language in the last six and a half years of his life! Before recognizing characters, he was listening to CD’s and we’ve had frequent trips back to Taiwan. Therefore, when we actually started to recognize characters, it was very familiar to him where it belonged in his everyday speech.
Another reason for his quick results may be due to the 30 minutes of reading he did everyday (now down to 20 minutes a day) which enabled him to be perfectly comfortable with the characters. This also allowed him to be very cognizant and more accurate with the tones in the Chinese language. He was always able to repeat after the teacher in the recording and his tones and pronunciation were always quite accurate. There were even people in the states that asked if my child came from China (LOL). Then due to the fact that his pronunciation was fine, zhuyin (phonetic system in Taiwan) came as a breeze except for this one sound.
As for my son’s personality, he’s not the type to sit still and have a great temper but through reading the bible and having a consistent reading time each day, he’s gotten so much better with temper and reading habits. Although he would still squirm around in his seats and sometimes fall from his chair, as long as he finds the materials interesting and is willing to read, I am content.
Background: Before August 2018, my son has only read Chinese literary pieces (poems, etc.) and listened to many stories. We went back to Taiwan twice and each time for three months (2015 and 2016). Each time, I would send him to a full day camp where they taught about ancient poems, etc., so I think that’s why his pronunciation is quite good. His dad is american and only I speak Mandarin at home.
我沒有跟他一起共讀，他有點ADHD 加上情緒困擾(已帶去檢查，兒童心理醫生說是personality issue，加上occupational therapist說他有borderline ADHD)，所以前幾年的日子我並沒有跟他一起共讀，說真的那些日子很難熬，我也沒有心情大量買書或共讀，所以他想玩我就讓他玩，沒事我就讓他聽聽國語故事當背景音樂，(我買的都是很老古板的故事CD，如李艷秋姊姊和孫越叔叔說故事)，看看佩佩豬、湯瑪士小火車、巴布工程師、迪士尼的Finding Nemo, Cars….等卡通。為了轉化他的個性，我唯一堅持的就是讓他讀經：一天半個小時。(上學後改成20分鐘)
Environment in the states before learning Chinese: I didn’t read with him before in Chinese. He has borderline ADHD and the psychologist said he had some personality issues. Therefore, I never really read with him because it was hard enough getting through the day as it was. Therefore, when he wanted to play, I just let him. If there’s time, then I put on Chinese CD’s in the background. The CD stories that we listened to were all the old school type of stories. Then when we have I would let him watch some Peppa Pig, Thomas the Train, and other cartoons. However, due to his personality, the only thing I persisted with is letting him read the bible everyday for 30 minutes (which turned into 20 minutes after school started).
2018年暑假，我帶他回台灣上一般幼稚園 ，幼稚園老師跟我說我兒子形容他爸爸做事都” 半途而廢” 。 我懷疑我兒子瞎掰成語，就問我兒子為什麼這樣說。他竟然回答：你不是都說爸爸half-ass嗎？還有一次，我們在聽CD時聽到議論紛紛，我問他這是甚麼意思，他就說很多人在亂說話。我後來才發現原來聽CD還是挺有用的，他的中文程度也算到半路上了。但孩子這時候要升一年級了，我現在才下定決心讓他認字，於是我開始上網找資料，在台灣買齊了基礎漢字五百，還有天才認字王。也就是這時2018/8候才發現了Motherly Notes這個社團，開始我買書燒錢的人生。XD
Summer of 2018, I took him back to Taiwan to attend a normal Kindergarten class. The teacher told me he used an idiom about his dad (one that meant to give up halfway through something). I was wondering if he knew the meaning to the idiom so I asked him for his explanation. He said, “You’re the one that said dad was half-assed.” He’s also used many other idioms that he’s heard on CD. This is when I realized CD playing really did have an impact on his comprehension and vocabulary. Now that he’s going to be in first grade, I made the decision to set him on his official Chinese journey. We bought a couple sets of books such as Sage 500, Chinese Genius set, etc. This is when I found Motherly Notes (facebook group) and started buying books like crazy.
I’m all about learning character recognition and didn’t really want to teach zhuyin. However, my son is a bit different. He seeks out phonetic systems! I found him reading pinyin on the Sage 500 sets so I used a Sharpie marker and marked out all the pinyin on top of the words. Then he learned zhuyin in Taiwan the summer we went back with the Chinese teacher. Therefore, he kind of knows zhuyin.
Because I think reading is more important than writing in the beginning, we didn’t start writing until recently. I didn’t teach him any writing until he was six and a half. He was curious when I wrote so asked me to give him some worksheets that had stroke order. He only wrote when he felt like it. The only thing I asked for is the correct stroke order. He sometimes would rewrite stories he’s read. The only other thing I did was download an app for stroke order for him to reference.
我們認基礎漢字500的進度為一週一本，加上天才認字王一天一篇(8個字)。天才認字王有點讀筆，複習時還有遊戲。Julie 在Motherly Notes上介紹過，我是看了她的介紹決定敗這一套的。因我們家從沒讓他玩手機或平板，電腦他也沒碰過，所以那套天才認字王剛開始就變成了他的”電動玩具”，所以他也跟著一起認字。其實圖像認字我覺得對我兒子還滿有幫助的，圖像可以算是memory hook。我自己土法煉鋼買index cards自己寫上當週學的中文字，然後每天閃。500字以內每個周末都閃卡”當週”學過的字再加上之前學過的字。當學到750字以上時，就要在學過的字裡自己選一疊字卡複習。2018/11時我們已經完成了基礎漢字五百。上週2019/1，我們終於完成了整套天才認字王。目前他的識字量約在1500-1800字之間。
When we used sage, we did a book a week. Then we used the genius set, a page a day (8 words a day). Genius set has a reading pen. Julie has reviewed it on Motherly Notes before and that’s the main reason why I bought this set. Because we don’t use ipad or computers for him at home, that genius set with the reading pen became his electronic toy and was willing to learn with the pen. I think it was helpful to look at the pictures while learning the words. The pictures become a “memory hook.” I also bought some index cards myself and wrote down words to flash him everyday. We did flashcard reviews for weekly reviews and those that are learned before. By November 2018, we were done with Sage 500. In Jan 2019, we finished the genius set. Right now, he probably knows around 1500-1800 characters.
The next step I took was for him to start learning words that look alike and radicals and their meanings. He would also take words and guess their meanings like a game. For a book that’s great for this, I recommend 文字雙胞胎 for the beginner but because the words in there were already stuff he recognized, we sold it without using it.
I have the workbooks from Kangxuan but I haven’t used them. My goal is to LIKE reading Chinese so I decided to use story books. I was afraid his English would surpass Chinese very fast and find Chinese stories boring for the characters that he does know how to recognize so I wanted to up his Chinese fast through reading stories. I bought the sets 亮亮的成長, 幼兒創意讀本, but because he was already more mature in the stories he’d like to read, he found these boring for little kids. Therefore, I sold these along with the picture books that he already knew the words to.
Besides recognizing characters, I ask my son to read a book a day aloud. I would correct his pronunciation when I read with him. (The sets they read are listed in paragraph above).
When we read, I would take efforts to cover the Zhuyin on the side, I would tell him the words he hasn’t learned yet. I think covering zhuyin forces him to rehash the characters he’s learned. Plus, we’d jot down the words he recognized through reading and put them in flashcards. Then we would review those and that made him acquire more and more character recognition naturally.
另外，我買了一些配CD看的套書，例如上人的西洋經典故事、魔法科學苑、新小小牛頓高幼版，因為我已經花了那麼多時間陪他認字，其他時間我就放牛吃草。我覺得他也會在聽CD的過程中” 撿” 一些字來認識。如果被我發現他認識了，我就想當然爾寫在index cards，放在他認識的字卡中。(這一切都是阿母的陰謀啊!) 目前共讀一週大概兩三次，唸他最喜歡的西遊記，一套十本，用字較難，所以需要解釋。
I also bought some books with CDs (names listed above in text). Because we already spend so much time recognizing characters, I wanted to relax a bit. I was thinking he could pick up vocab from CDs by himself. The characters he started acquiring I would also write them down and put it in the “recognized” box in our house so I know what characters he knows. Right now we read together about two to three times a week. He loves 西遊記, but it has harder vocabulary so it requires me to explain.
2018 Winter Break Jump in Level: Winter vacation is here so we tried to make good use of it. However, we have to go to grandma and grandpa’s house and with his cousins, they play many hours of video games. Personally, it’s impossible to use flashcards in that environment so I just brought about 20 books for him to read including fun books like butt superman in the Reading 123 collection. He read that during winter break and finished that set. Sometimes in that 20 included books that were higher level (over 10k characters) but he didn’t seem to struggle with it. I encouraged him to read more. When we came home from grandma’s , we read Zorori, Butt Detective, and more 西遊記 as more leisurely reading. For coursework, I used the book from 國語日報故事i知識. So now he can read about 12k to 16k characters a day!
After school started, we went back to some easier sets and I found he’s already improved so much. Before when it took him fourty minutes to an hour to read something, it now only takes him 30 min and with me covering the Zhuyin. Speed and fluidity increased. Now we’re tackling the tree series 不偷懶小學系列. Though I think the series is a bit hard, he showed interest, so I decided to let him read on his own. I would only tell him to ask me questions when he gets stuck.
Comments/Thoughts By Julie:I wanted to touch on something very important. Her son progressed very very very very FAST in six months. Though the materials used are not anything magical or extraordinary (we all use these and know how they work), the speed as to which her son acquired character recognition was like lightening. My question is WHY?
Ok, sure, he’s definitely a bright child. What else?
COMPREHENSION!!! I wanted to take you back to how important COMPREHENSION is. He started off not knowing any characters and just sitting in classes listening all day long in Taiwan to very hard (ancient poems) material! Listen and listen and listen and listen. Then character recognition will come way more easily. As for writing, at 6.5, motor skills are fully ready for writing more complex things. It’s first grade and that’s when children are doing full blown writing as well. Due to the fact that he’s already recognized so many characters, writing will come more easily.