Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thinking Thursdays: Learning Chinese

I had a really nice chat with another blogging mummy when she popped over to our place this morning.  Junior J decided to join us at the table while we talked, and spent his time digging through his basket of animals.  He proceeded to name them all in English, and then tried naming them in Chinese too, and our conversation was frequently interrupted, with his little voice cutting in with "What's iguana in Chinese?" or "I dunno what this is in Chinese", while showing me the animal in question.  In the end, I had to let him put aside all the animals whose Chinese names I didn't know, since I didn't have time to check up their names in the Chinese-English dictionary.  

And checking the dictionary has started to develop into a necessary habit with us.  It has suddenly become the norm for the boy to ask for the Chinese equivalent of English words that he knows, which was rather surprising, since he was rather resistant to picking up any Chinese words a few months back.  We've started reading Chinese books to him, prior to that, little Mandarin has been spoken in our home, since both the hubby and I are weak in the language.  My mother was rather reluctant to converse with the little boy in Mandarin, saying that kids will get confused if they were exposed to 2 languages simulataneously.  Any attempts to speak to him in Mandarin were usually greeted with a blank look, and Chinese flashcards were promptly scattered and shoved under the sofa (I guess we were never the type to teach/learn using flashcards/worksheets).   

It was slow-going at first, with us stumbling through Chinese library books with hanyu pinyin.  But as the little boy's interest picked up, we started introducing Chinese words while we read English books to him, usually by naming animals in Chinese since the boy is fascinated with animals.  And I'm glad our effort has paid off, and he is now actively trying to pick up Chinese words.  He is still unable to string together sentences/phrases in Mandarin yet, but at least he is interested in learning!     

So while we continue this dictionary-checking phase, we are intending to continue reading and conversing to the boy in Mandarin, and are planning on getting him the "wo hui du" series of books to read as well.  And I have to admit, this mama is learning too, since I never knew what were kangaroos, rhinos and ostriches called in Chinese, until now... and I've really gotta run, since I have to figure out what iguanadons and pteranodons are called in Chinese!

How do you encourage your toddler to learn Chinese?


  1. You should get the WinktoLearn Bilingual set then. For Zoo/Birdpark.

    And the other way to check is to use . Much easier than dictionary, I think?

  2. Bring him to me! I can help with some Chinese. Or you can use google translation app from apple store

  3. But google translator not that good, leh.

  4. Karmeleon: Ok, will check out WinktoLearn then... And I went to Nciku to check out the translations for the various dinosaurs, and wow... I'm impressed! Gonna chuck my dictionaries! :) Thanks for the tips! You really are the go-to person for Chinese resources! :)
    (And I think its great Nciku has hanyu pinyin, really better than google translator!)

    Patrick: Can we leave him with you at the zoo, then you teach him about animals in Chinese? We have the English version covered... :)

  5. They sell winktolearn encyclopedic series (of zoo & birdpark) at the zoo/birdpark too. But maybe if you check the website, there might be promotions. has the handwriting enabled wordcheck, too, which I love. But I discovered I could do the same with an ipod, which is cheaper than buying an electronic chinese dictionary and has more usage. ;D If you have an iPhone, you can download the apps for that too - KT-DICT.

  6. Wow, I'm learning a lot from this post and comments! I think it is such a great idea to introduce the Dictionary to J! I agree that it is great he has the interest to learn. That to me is the most important.

  7. Karmeleon: Sorry for taking awhile to reply! Will try to check it out... oh, they have an app! I'm going to download it then, since we have to keep checking words! Thanks again!

    Corsage: I actually learnt alot too! :) Yup, the interest is important, otherwise it'll end up like we're drilling the kid. Am glad he's picking up words now, it used to be so difficult previously!



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