Friday, 12 February 2016

Learn Chinese together!

Js don't do any academic enrichment. I take this part of enrichment and progress in my own hands. Moreover, with music enrichment in schedule, I do think we are already quite handful. Any free time, they should explore more parts of playing and hobbying around the things they love.

So then, Jazz stepped into the milestone of primary school. While schoolwork is still well paced, we do put in some consistent effort on daily work. I find it essential this year, for the routine and habit to kick in as part of her body momentum and for the studious years ahead. It was also during this period of coaching that I found out, I do have some weakness in Chinese!

That being confessed, I will still take this subject into my own hands. I'm usually one humble being, but I need to disclaim, I love the language and soared beautifully well during my 'O' level. It's my comfortable language, but perhaps not an anchoring one. It's my root, and I need to teach my kids the language.

While we do lots of Chinese flashcards at home, we lightly practice writing the characters. Only the very simple ones. I realised there were so much basic about Chinese that I've forgotten or missed out. How did I only remember 横, 竖,撇, 捺?!! Here are some I find helpful in my re-learning.

1. 笔画
For me to read and show the proper term of strokes when we write. For example, when writing 女, we can go 先写撇,然后撇,最后横。Total 3 strokes.

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Knowing the stokes aids me in teaching when I write out to the kids, and they'll know how to count the number of strokes in a character. Which is essential in P1.


2. 偏旁 (部首)
Knowing the sides of a character, 部首 or 偏旁 is useful when Js ask me how to write a character. I can drop hint with 部首, and they should be able to decipher from there. Moreover, Chinese is amazingly meaningful with how each side complement the meaning of a word.

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Some terms may differ from the local assessment books I bought, but similar enough.

3. 笔顺
I find the following sites good for practice and knowing the strokes order.
i)  http://bishun.shufaji.com/default.asp
ii) http://www.yes-chinese.com/tzg/

Just enter the character that you wish to know of its strokes, click on '即刻生成' and it will show the strokes order on a practice sheet. You may print it out if your child needs practice on that character. Good for practicing names too.

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Some say, it really doesn't matter how you get to that word, as long the end result is legible. In a way, yes, no one will be able to spot the order of strokes without looking at its process. We should however, input some conscious effort to not degrade the beauty of writing the language. I always tell Jazz, get the strokes order right, and your characters will look naturally beautiful.

In fact, you can really tell when an amateur gets the order wrong.

4. 汉语拼音
Honestly, we do need some basic understanding on Hanyu Pinyin. What comes slightly more challenging would probably knowing the exact pronunciation of each character since our Mandarin is often mutated with other languages. For example, our pioneers would go '吃' chi(4) instead of chi(1) when speaking. See why we love native teachers.

Then comes the accent (调号) and where do we put it? I did have to revisit after losing touch of it for long. Here's one Jazz taught me from her preschool. Which did ring a bell in me.

  有ɑ不放过,没ɑ找o, e
无 a,o,e i, u, ü
  a, o, e, i, u, ü
 (Accent on 'a', and if you can't find 'a', go for 'o' or 'e')
 For example: 
hǎo(好)、kǒu(口)、hēi(黑)
 i、u若是连在一起,
 谁在后面就标谁
xiū(休)
tuì(退)
(If 'i' and 'u' are next to each other, accent on the later letter)

Notice too, that the dot above 'i' drops off, if an accent goes above it.

Words that goes on 轻声 (read with light and short tone), do not need an accent above. For example: mèi mei (妹妹) , xīnɡ xinɡ (星 星), wá wɑ (娃 娃), shén me (什么) or single characters like de (的).

Some informational read on Hanyu Pinyin here and 轻声 here. (Both in Chinese language)


So yeap, these were quite some learning and re-learning for me. It's some essential foundation for helping our little preschoolers and primary going  kids on the revision of Chinese. As much as we try to inculcate speaking Mandarin at home, we also realized it's not as easy and fluent without throwing in some English to complete a sentence. We did try, but I thought, perhaps we should keep conversational Mandarin to our daily Chinese reading session. Read as many Chinese books as possible! And yes, Chinese educational TV programmes (channel 8 乐乐窝)or channel 8 news, and more of FM93.3 and FM 95.8 during car journeys.

Jazz confessed last month that her Chinese was not good. I was taken aback as I thought she really loved and excelled the language well in preschool. This butted me to do something. I encouraged her that we're all learning together.  

I stacked up our library collection with more Chinese books! Which I realized too, that I should buy and borrow more books with Hanyu Pinyin. It seems better for Jazz's independent reading, as it helps gain some confidence when encountering new words. As she moves on with more words in her word bank, books without hanyu pinyin is good. For now, I'll try to cover the books without hanyu pinyin with Js. Ok, sometimes with the help of a dictionary.

Stash from taobao!

We do need to act fast on cultivating that love for a language. I hope I'm in time!

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