Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thinking Thursdays: Learning to read Chinese

I've mentioned previously that little boy started showing some interest in picking up Mandarin.  When his interest in learning Chinese continued, we decided to see if he also wanted to learn how to read Chinese.  Thanks to a recommendation (and help) by a fellow blogging mum, we ended up getting the "wo hui du" series from Growing Fun for the boy to try.  The first set of 12 books consist of Chinese words followed by the relevant picture on the next page (with subsequent series introducing phrases, then short sentences and stories):

Pages from two of the books, one teaching numbers, and the other, animals.

Initially, I was rather skeptical, since I (and the boy) have never been a fan of flashcards.  These books just seemed to be similar to flashcards, except that the pages were bound together to form a book.  However, since the words are separate from the pictures, we found that the boy was interested in reading them if we played guesing games, where we would guess what the word meant.  He seemed to catch on fast, which was probably because Chinese characters are easier to recognize than English words, due to their "picture-like" forms.  He started being able to recognize words like "mu gua" (papaya) and "xi gua" (watermelon), and seemed to get a sense of satisfaction every time he mastered a word.  Initially we were not sure if he had just memorized the order of the words, but he surprised us the other time when he pointed out the word "cai" (vegetable) on a menu when we were ordering food!

I also like the good quality paper that these books are printed on, as they handle well under toddler hands.  Having them in book form also means that the little boy can flip through the books in his own time (I've observed him doing this sometimes when I'm busy in the kitchen).  He can guess the words, and flip to the next page to check for the "answer", and I don't need to worry about messes (unlike flashcards, which he used to love to strew everywhere and shove them in all sorts of nooks and crannies!).  So all in all, though they may be a little costly, they're a pretty good investment (especially since I get to use them another round for number 2)!

How do you teach your little ones to read Chinese?

PS: I've realized I've been relying more and more on books and store-bought materials for our home-learning (which is one reason for the lack of updates for the "Little Learning" page).  I've been finding it hard to make my own materials/activities with all the preggie tiredness and other competing time demands.  But since some of these have been put aside, I hope there'll be more time to plan my own activities! ;)

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