讓閱讀更上一層樓

For English version please click here

及早教孩子閱讀可以說是為他們舖一條平坦的學習之路最重要的一環。而在孩子的敏感期內培養孩子對閱讀產生情趣亦十分重要,因為很多研究證明:如果在這個關鍵階段落後了,要後來居上就既困難亦罕有。認讀,固然是基立閱讀的第一步。但是掌握了這基本能力之後,你又該如何幫助他們的閱讀能力扶搖直上呢?

本文將為你提供一些實用的方法。

 加深閱讀理解 

閱讀理解是指能對文章有深一層的認識,並且能將其內容與生活聯上關係。因此,當你和孩子閱讀的時候,盡量將書中的人、物、地方與現實生活相比。當你們讀到關於海洋生物時,讓孩子聯想一下他到海邊、或去海洋公園時所見到的各種魚類動物、所聞到的海水的氣味。

在閱讀的過程中,盡量讓孩子成為一個主導者,主動去猜測接下來會怎樣。教孩子就故事的發展提問,養成一個對情節的發展產生主導性好奇的習慣。這樣,在孩子的內心會形成一種自我對話,建立他自己的閱讀風格。你可以用不經意、自言自語的形式來評價故事的角色或情節,孩子自然也會學着你的做法。

 跳出思想框框 

閱讀就是要跳出現實的局限,投入另一個世界。閱讀更是日後寫作的基礎。和孩子探討一下「假如」和「可能」吧,這樣,孩子的想像力就不會被一個故事所局限了。從另外一個角度來看,設想了「要是...」,孩子對故事的情節就更掌握得透徹了。

試問一下孩子:要是某個角色失明了,那會怎樣呢?要是下雨了呢?鼓勵他從合理的因果連鎖關係去設想,令故事變得更活生生而且現實。孩子很可能會給你一個意想不到的想法呢。

要做這種練習,最好從一本孩子很熟悉的圖書或一個很熟悉的故事開始,從孩子有把握的事物去逐步提升想像力。

 語文發展 

語文發展當然離不開增進詞彙、改善閱讀發音、徹底明白詞彙的意義等基礎學習。有些圖書專門集中使用象聲詞 (例如:嘩啦嘩啦-下雨聲、呼呼-風聲、淙淙-流水聲、啾啾-蟲鳴、喳喳-鳥叫、撲刺刺-翅膀拍動聲等),十分有趣。

你也可以進一步參閱有關漢語疊詞的討論

在多鼓勵孩子高聲朗讀之餘,也練習不同角色的語調 (開心、發怒、神神秘秘等)、不同的朗讀速度、重點發音等... 這些都有助另一個層次的語文發展。

 掌握閱讀要點 

到底這個故事在說甚麼?孩子在剛開始閱讀故事時,往往會只關注到一些他特別感興趣的地方,而忘卻了整個故事的發展。例如,可能有一本書中有些樹 (或某個角色的頭髮) 是藍色的,孩子發現了還指給你看。你可以告訴他你也留意到了,也可以聽他說他的看法和想法,但重要的是他必須明白:那本書的中心點並不是那些樹 (或那個人的頭髮) 的顏色。

當你們看完了一頁,讓孩子想想為甚麼故事中會提到某一個細節呢?慢慢教導孩子去掌握哪些是重要的、會影響故事發展的細節。看完了一個故事,回想一下哪些是重要的細節,為甚麼重要?要是孩子已有一定的成熟度和閱讀理解力,更可以請他指出有哪些細節是可以改變但不會影響整個故事的發展。

 書種 

既然學習了掌握閱讀的重點,那就自然要讓孩子多涉獵各種類的圖書。有一點對年幼的孩子來說很重要的是:必須讓他清楚明白哪些是故事類,哪些是非故事類。這個年紀的孩子必須要確切地認識甚麼是事實、是真實的;哪些是虛構的、是作者想像出來的。

要是孩子比較年長了,你也可以教導他們進一步的分類,例如小說類中還有推理偵探、科幻等。

 利用閱讀日誌 

我們都有過交閱讀報告的經驗呢。閱讀日誌是自己的閱讀記錄,非常有助提升閱讀水平。做記錄可以讓孩子寫下他自己的閱讀感受和體驗。

坊間可以買到不同的閱讀日誌本,你也可以自己簡單的做一本,寫下一些簡單的問題讓孩子填寫:

這個故事中,最讓你喜歡的是甚麼? ____________________
為甚麼 (某個角色) 要 (怎麼樣)? ____________________
如果要讓故事有一個更好的結局,你會怎樣改? ____________________

利用日誌還有一個升級的方法:就是由你和孩子之間用日誌來就同一本書展開對話

 方法是 :你看了一本書,然後在日誌中寫下一些問題;然後孩子看那本書,再讀你寫的問題,然後把他的回答寫在日誌上。

這樣,簡單地就把閱讀、思考、書寫從另一個層次聯繫到圖書,讓你和孩子和圖書產生了新的關係,同時將孩子的閱讀水平提升到更高的層次。

 

善用《寶貝盒》讓閱讀更上層樓
寶貝盒以有系統的方法逐步提升孩子的閱讀能力,是一個有效的練習工具。

有了寶貝盒,你和孩子就有了許多探討各種課題的機會。這個階段的孩子接觸的內容應該包括寓言與神話、人際關係、生命與自然、智惠與急才、歷史人物、地理、道德價值、幽默諷刺等等。

25冊的故事書,分成5個級別,寶貝盒從語文運用、篇幅、情節的複雜度等方面伴着孩子一起循序成長。

誠意邀請你參閱關於寶貝盒的詳盡介紹。

參閱寶貝盒詳情介紹

Bringing Reading to the Next Level

閱讀中文版請按此 Chinese version

Teaching your child to read is one of the best things you can do to ensure their academic success. Instilling a joy of reading is a time-sensitive thing, and studies show that children who fall behind in reading at a young age unfortunately rarely catch up. You can begin by reading to your child and build up to teaching them to recognize words. But how can you bring reading to the next level, once they can identify words? In this post we discuss a few avenues to expand your child’s reading skills.

 ENCOURAGE COMPREHENSION 

Reading comprehension is having a deeper understanding of the text and being able to relate it to other parts of life. One great way to encourage reading comprehension is to connect places, people and things in books to real life. When you read a book about a farm, remind them of the field trip you took to a farm and all the animals that you saw and smells you experienced.

Help them to read actively and try to guess what will happen next. Teach them to ask questions about the story. Make a regular habit of asking them what they are wondering about the story. Remember that you are creating their internal dialogue that they will build their own reading style on. It is also helpful to wonder aloud and make inferences about characters or events in the story to encourage your child to do the same.

 THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX 

Creativity and imagination are a big part of reading, and they open the gate to later being able to write their own stories. Stretch your child’s imagination by talking about what could have happened in the story instead of what really happened. Talking about how the story could have gone differently helps your child grasp exactly what is going on in the story.

Ask your child how the story would change if all the characters couldn’t see or if it started raining. Make the story come to life by making them think about logical cause and effect. Your child may surprise you by the ideas they come up with. It may be helpful to start with a very familiar book so your child can build on top of what they know well.

 LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT 

Expanding vocabulary, improving pronunciation and understanding words are all part of language development. Find books that use onomatopoeia for a fun way to improve your child’s pronunciation skills. You should also work with your child on reading tone (happy, sad, mysterious etc.), speed and emphasis on words. All of these skills come together to make your child a skilled reader.

 HONE THEIR FOCUS 

One idea to reiterate to your child is to identify the point of the story. Sometimes it is easy for a child to get caught up on an extraneous detail in a book. While it is OK to take a detour and talk about why the trees are blue instead of green in a particular book, make sure that they grasp that the point of the book is not the trees.

After reading a page, ask aloud why they think a certain detail was mentioned. Point out what details are important to the story. When you get to the end of the book, think back on what was important and why. For a more advanced reader, you can even ask them to point out details that could change and not really affect the story.

 GENRES 

Building on the idea of grasping the focus of the story, it’s important to expose your child to different genres. Helping them to understand the difference between non-fiction and fiction is obviously very important but not many parents think to point it out. Children need to know what type of books to trust for facts and which ones are imaginative. Depending on their understanding, you could also introduce the idea of sub-genres like mystery.

 KEEPING A READING JOURNAL 

Keeping a reading journal is a great way to take reading to the next level. Journalling provides a way for kids to record how they feel about what they read. You can buy reading journals that have questions and places for writing and drawing pictures. You can also create your own by writing out a few simple questions for your child to answer.

What’s your favorite thing about this story? ____________________
Why did (character A) do X? ____________________
What would make the ending better? ____________________

Another great way to keep a reading journal is for you and your child to make entries for each other to read about the same book. You read the book and then write in the journal something for your child to read. Then, they read the same book and read what you wrote and write a response. This creates a whole new level of thinking about the book and connecting that is great for your child’s reading skills.

 

BUILD READING COMPREHENSION WITH TREASURE BOX
Treasure Box is a great tool in helping children move up the reading comprehension ladder in a systematic way.

It offers you and your child the opportunities to explore fables and fairy tales, personal relations, life and nature, wisdom and wit, history and science, and much more.

With 5 different levels, a total of 25 books, the stories grow with your child in language, length and complexity of the plots.

We invite you to explore more on TREASURE BOX.

Learn more about Treasure Box

 

Tackling Chinese Grammar

This post discusses the bane of many Chinese language learners, children or otherwise, grammar!

Being a humble blog post, we will be focusing mainly on how to help our children who are raised in non-Chinese dominant societies with their Chinese grammar, rather than the actual grammar itself.

 Why is grammar important  

You might wonder:

  • isn’t grammar just an archaic form of study?
  • isn’t oral fluency more important than learning about subjects, objects, adverbials, modifiers, and who knows what else?
  • if you’re in an Anglophone society, of what use is Chinese grammar?

Proper grammar is essential for clarity in communication. Although people will still understand the gist of the message, proper Chinese grammar will make it easier for people to comprehend and converse with your children and avoid miscommunication.

Furthermore, though it may not be fair or reasonable, many people judge others based on the correct usage of grammar (regardless of what language) and will make assumptions about a person’s intelligence, competence, and diligence.

Below are a few tips on how to help your children learn Chinese grammar.

 Surround your children with native speakers 

Whether in real life or via technology, expose your children to as many types of Chinese speech as possible. The more your children hear Chinese from you, a caregiver, different kinds of songs, stories, lessons, shows, the news, and movies, the more they will unconsciously absorb Chinese grammar and speech patterns.

It’s important that you intentionally introduce your children to as many types of Chinese as possible so that they can hear how Chinese grammar may change depending on the situation, formality, or topic. The more consistent and familiar spoken Chinese language becomes for your children, the more natural their spoken and written grammar will be.

 Read, read, read, and read some more 

As with listening, read to and/or have your children read as many varieties of writing as possible (eg: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, business, educational, texts, etc.). The very act of reading aloud or silently to themselves ingrains the rhythm and syntax of Chinese into their hearts and minds.

There is a reason why the number one advice given to writers is for them to read a lot (and quality writing, at that). There is no better way to engrave a language into a person than constant and consistent exposure. It will allow your children to have the sound of Chinese at the forefront of their brains so that they will automatically choose “natural” sounding phrasing.

 Provide adequate correct example for your child 

It’s natural to simply tell our children they’re incorrect. However, many of our children are perfectionists and may thus clam up and not speak Chinese altogether. Instead, offer several choices for your child to memorize or say in lieu of what they originally said. If you’re so inclined, explain the reasoning or grammar rule behind it so your child can apply it in the future. It may take several times before the fixes stick so be patient. It’s difficult to rewire the way our brains process language.

 Formally teach Chinese grammar 

Few people enjoy grammar. Teaching Chinese grammar can range from having your child memorizing all the different Chinese classifiers (量詞) (there are so many that even native children have trouble!) to taking a class or going through a Chinese grammar textbook.

You may choose to do this yourself, outsource to a tutor, or find Chinese grammar videos online. Start with the grammar rules that provide the biggest return for the amount of time you invest.

For example, though it may be tedious, learning the most commonly used classifiers will make a huge difference and immediately elevate your children’s Chinese to a more native level. If only because most non-native speakers default to the measure word 個/gè/ for everything and use 雙/shuāng/pair/ instead of 條/tiáo/(classifier for long, thin, narrow objects) for pants.

Another trick (especially for older children who have studied some English grammar) is to teach basic Chinese word order so your kids can sound more native. This may be something you are not consciously aware of and do instinctively, in the same way most native English speakers aren’t ever taught but still naturally know the general order of adjectives.

Take English as an example, the general order of adjectives is marked by this hierarchy:

  1. Quantity or number
  2. Quality or opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Proper adjective (eg: nationality, origin, or material)
  8. Purpose or qualifier

Thus: Three delicious, large, 2 day old, triangular, pink, American breakfast biscuits.

Try re-arranging any of the adjectives and it will sound wrong for some reason.

For Chinese, an easy word order to teach is that modifiers (adjectives, adverbs) generally precede what they’re modifying (nouns, verbs). There are more complete sentence structures, but that is outside the scope of this article.

 Practice 

This sounds obvious but we often forget that just because you learn the rules or passively acquire knowledge of how a language works, this information doesn’t lock in until we actively practice using what we know.

Inherent in practicing is making lots of mistakes. Give space and grace to your children as they navigate the tricky task of learning the nuances of multiple languages.

學習比較和對比的重要性

6歲前的兒童不但大腦發育是人生中最快速的時期,很多基礎的技能亦必須在這個時期學習和掌握。
其中一種基本能力是對事物的比較和對比:找出事物之間的相同和差異之處固然是科學思維的重要基礎,而語文和數理這兩種能力的發展又相互有着瓜藤相連的密切關係。

 培育觀察能力 

當你教導孩子怎樣辨認身邊事物的相同和差異時,你其實是在幫助他對事物歸納出一種規律性和邏輯。慢慢地他就會自己建立起這種能力,從而加強他們的觀察力。無論是學習新知識或發展數理思維,都必須先擁有這種觀察力。

舉個例子:請孩子對眼前的動物或物件留心觀察一下,首先描述它的形態或特徵,然後再將它和另一種動物或物件比較一下,說說有甚麼一樣、有甚麼不同。

這樣的對話很自然地能加強孩子的觀察力,也能在你和他的對話之中加深他們對事物的知識。

 增加詞彙和理解能力 

兩、三歲的孩子的詞彙庫可以有爆發性的發展。透過學習比較和對比,孩子不但會吸收新詞彙,同時更能準確地理解這些詞彙的意思。

例如:當你給他一杯冰淇淋,同時也給他一杯暖水的時候,他很直接就能分辨出冷暖。所以,不妨在日常生活中指出各種玩具、用品的同異之處。

鞋子是很好的例子,因為它們既一樣,又相反。

教孩子用長短、輕重、快慢、冷暖、光暗、粗細、尖鈍等去形容和比較事物。這樣對他的理解力、領悟力、語文溝通能力等都很有幫助。

 鼓勵孩子做「問題兒童」 

當我們發現事物之間的差異,很自然就會想「為什麼」?

在你教導孩子習慣將事物作比較,找出種種規律性之後,就可以為他解釋背後的原因和道理。

以鞋子為例:也許孩子發現有一雙鞋子比另外一雙骯髒,那你可以為他解釋因為一雙經常穿,另一雙比較少穿。又或者兩隻貓一大一小,那是因為一隻年紀比較大,或者吃得比較多。

當觀察和比較之後能夠作出提問,這是非常重要的批判性思考技能,也是科學頭腦的基本。

 比較和對比的遊戲 

透過遊戲作比較和對比可以加強孩子的感官判辨能力。味覺上可以嚐試甜、酸、苦、辣、冷、暖;觸覺方面可以觸摸各種素材:絲、毛、塑膠、沙紙。

網上還有很多這方面的遊戲資源,不妨多加利用。

 重要的漢字語文學習 

以上種種對比和比較,在中文學習方面就更佔了重要的席位。

傳統的「聲律啟蒙」就完全建立在這個基礎上,將語文、自然科學、歷史等認知的學習融為一體。這裏舉兩個例子:

這是同類比較:四個都是名詞,同時亦是自然天氣現象
這是對比: / 是反義的動詞;、是大型鳥,、是小型鳥。這兩個同屬鳥煩,同是名詞

另一種語文表現體系:對聯,更是我們的文化和語文特色。每一副對聯都以簡潔的文字,完全地以排比、遞進、對比的手法,工整地排列,無論是譏諷、賀喜、敍事、或作為文字遊戲,都言簡意賅,表達出豐富又有深度的含義。

下面就是一副對得工整高深的對聯例子。

時人譏諷袁世凱的一副對聯:上聯是基本的數字,下聯是基本的人格。上下聯各欠了第八個字,真正的含意隱藏在「謎底」,而橫額的「昌」字亦意指「娼」。


可以說,詞類同義詞反義詞的學習,是繼認字之後最基本、最重要的漢字語文學習。

思展出版的反斗歌,是現代化了的「聲律啟蒙」,是幼兒漢語修辭重要的第一課。

幼童的學習和成長,必須是多面體的。
語文的發展有賴孩子的認知,而認知則源自生活的體驗;有了生活體驗,還需要語文來表達情感和思維…
這樣環環相扣,才能造就出一個健全發展的人。

 

 

漢語的「疊詞」

「疊詞」很有節奏感,對事物、動作的描寫十分生動傳神,疊詞的聲律總是很活潑,聽起來就能讓人產生鮮明的印象,孩子也容易朗朗上口。因此,疊詞可以是孩子學習修辭很好的一個入門檻。讓我們來看看一些常用的疊詞吧。

形容詞

綠油油

黑漆漆

白雪雪(廣東俗語)

紅彤彤

光禿禿

滑溜溜

 

動詞 / 副詞

怱怱忙忙

慢吞吞

靜悄悄

熱呼呼 (熱辣辣 – 廣東俗語)

冷冰冰

水汪汪

胖嘟嘟

懶洋洋

笑呵呵

頂呱呱

亮晶晶

心情或氣氛的描述

得意洋洋

死氣沉沉

沾沾自喜

小心翼翼

依依不捨

漢語同時也是一個很有靈活性的語言,除了以上固定的「疊詞」之外,也有不少詞可以變化成為「疊詞」,而隨著這種轉變,意思上也會有所改變,例如:

人 > 人人

高的 > 高高的

原本 > 原原本本

大小 > 大大小小

明白 > 明明白白

透過閱讀優質作品,多接觸不同的描述方法,孩子就能領會到其中的微妙語意,也增加修辭的認識,慢慢地就能應用,提升寫作的能力。

「疊詞」除了能為書寫面文字增添色彩,粵語中有不少口頭上的疊詞是其他方言沒有的,雖然有部份現在已很少用了,但聽起來還是十分傳神,有時還有些「抵死」呢。

下面這些,你認識多少?

形容詞顏色類

紅蕩蕩
黃擒擒
青BB
金划划
黑濛濛
烏蟀蟀

五官類

眼碌碌
眼眨眨
眼定定
眼光光
眼猴猴
眼輥輥
眼坦坦
眼濕濕
頭恴恴
手多多
口窒窒
牙斬斬
嘴藐藐

高矮肥瘦類

高棟棟 <> 矮德德
肥騰騰 <> 瘦孟孟

其他類

滑捋捋 <> 諧十十
嫩蚊蚊 <> 老壓壓
淡牟牟 <> 甜野野
圓dum dum <> 扁踢踢
密麻麻 <> 疏筐筐
薄蠅蠅 <> 實輥輥
緊邁邁 <> 松匹匹
生鉤鉤 <> 死咕咕
香噴噴 <> 臭崩崩
亂糟糟
懵剩剩
震震拱
埯埯拱
恿恿下

粵語的表達描述是極其豐富,很值得學習和研究。

另一方而,從古典作品來看,能將漢語疊詞的特色表露無遺的,首選要算是李清照的《聲聲慢》:

尋尋覓覓 冷冷清清 悽悽慘慘 戚戚…

歷來有不少外國翻譯名師嚐試將它翻譯成英/法/德/俄語,都不傳神。大家若發現有傑作,請發來讓我們欣賞!

 

 

Step up your child’s reading with Study Cards

If Chinese is not your child’s first language, you might sometimes find them reluctant to speak it or read Chinese out loud. This is mainly caused by a lack of confidence, which is completely normal for anyone who is learning a second language, especially if your child starts at an older age.
This is when you can use Study Cards to achieve some breakthroughs.
Let us walk you through a few games.
要是你家孩子的第一語言不是中文,那他可能有時會不願意開口說中文或讀中文。其實在學外語的人來說這是很常見的情況:因為他們有種心理障礙,怕說錯被人取笑,所以不敢開口。如果孩子年紀較長才開始學中文,就更可能會出現這種情況。
你可以用閱讀練習卡來衝破這個心理關口喔。
這裏簡單介紹幾個方法:

 Character Matching Game 認字配對 

  1. Choose 3-4 cards, lay them out in front of your child.
  2. Choose a sentence that your child has already learnt from the book. Point to one of the characters in this sentence and ask them to point to the card of the same character.
  3. If several children are learning and playing at the same time, you can turn this into a little contest to see who can spot the answer first. Such contest can boost focus and performance.
  4. As your child gets better at spotting the same character, you can choose cards with similar characters, such as 他、她、地 or 天、大、人. This helps your child to focus on details.
  1. 選3-4張字卡排在孩子面前。
  2. 從課文中選一句孩子已學過的句子,指着這句子的其中一個字,請他從字卡片找出相同的字。
  3. 如果有幾個學生在一起的話,還可以比賽誰最快找到。競賽往往可以提高遊戲性和專注力,提高辨認力。
  4. 隨着孩子能力的進步,可以選字形類同的字,訓練孩子辨別細部的能力,例如:他、她、地 / 天、大、人⋯等。

 Homophonic / rhyming characters 同音字 / 近音字 

  1. Choose one study card (e.g. 羊), then lay out another 3 cards in front of your child, making sure one of them is homophonic of 羊 (e.g. 牛、陽、門). Ask your child to identify which character is pronounced the same as (or rhymes with) 羊.
  2. Other monophemic / rhyming character pairs: 每 — 妹 / 樹 — 書 / 明 — 名 / 越 — 月.
  1. 選一張字卡 (例如:羊),放3張字卡在孩子面前 (例如:牛、陽、門),請孩子找出同音/近音字。
  2. 其他字組例子:每 — 妹 / 樹 — 書 / 明 — 名 / 越 — 月

 Care Taker 和漢字深化感情 

  1. At the beginning of each week, choose 3 cards from the list of characters that your child has already learnt, and ask them to take good care of them. Ask your child to check that they are in good condition everyday.
  2. When you read with your child, ask your child to take the card out whenever you come across the same character. Your child can also make some kind of record of it.
  3. At the end of the week, ask your child, “Which character has been read the most times?” Which character do they feel closest to?
  1. 每星期挑選3張字卡,讓孩子負責保管好:請孩子要每天檢查一下,看字卡是否都完好無損。
  2. 當你和孩子一起閱讀時,每當句子中讀到孩子保管的字,孩子將字卡拿出來示意並做記錄。
  3. 一星期之後,哪個字出被讀過的次數最多?孩子和哪個字最有感情?

With the Study Cards and the games, you can get your child to engage without being forced to read or say the words. Your child will gradually become more familiar with the characters and the sounds. They will eventually build up the confidence to take the next step in their learning journey.
We continuously develop new games to help children to learn while having fun. Please stay tuned for our upcoming posts and videos.​​​​​​​
透過閱讀練習卡和遊戲的結合,你可以不必勉強孩子開口而達到教與學的成效。慢慢地,當孩子對認字的把握大了、自信心強了,自然就能打破隔膜,願意發聲朗讀和學習交談了。
我們將不斷開發多種富創意又有趣的教學方法,以文章和影片讓你易學易用。千萬要緊緊地追蹤我們喔。

 

 

Improve Chinese Vocabulary (Additional ways)

This post of our Linguistic Series is based on one of our Chinese blog posts. You can read the original here.

This post focuses on the progression of learning a language and provides additional ways to help your children apply speaking and writing Chinese in their lives.

Children are immersed in language and sounds from birth so what they hear most becomes their dominant tongue. They learn speaking by absorbing tone, vocabulary, intonation, and expressions. These listening and speaking skills build a foundation for reading and writing.

The more fluent your children are at listening and speaking, the easier it will be for them to learn reading and writing because they will already have the vocabulary and it is a matter of putting a symbol to a word they already know. Additionally, it will be easier for your children to guess characters as they read if they know common phrases, idioms, and expressions. Thus, even if they do not know every character in a sentence, they can logically infer what the character should be.

In fact, listening and speaking are paired together like reading and writing. Just as honing listening skills will improve speaking abilities, improving reading will naturally lead to better writing because children will passively accumulate writing skills by reading and observing different styles. This does not negate the need to formally learn grammar and writing rules, but reading widely and often will go a long way to give your children an innate “feel” for how Chinese (or any language) works and should sound.

 

If you combine all the steps of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, your children will gradually go from recognizing a single character to a phrase to reading a whole article and understanding the entire story. It really is that simple, though may not be easy. (By simple, we mean that the concept and theory behind the application is straightforward. The consistent speaking, reading, and writing in Chinese is a different story entirely.)

We have addressed many ways to help your children improve upon their various Chinese language skills (especially reading and writing because those seem to be the most difficult to do). Here are an additional set of suggestions that you can try.

 1 Provide lots of reading material 

The key isn’t just to provide lots of the types of books your child would naturally read on their own. Although, it IS wonderful to follow your child’s lead so if they love dinosaurs and will read anything with dinosaurs in them - regardless of fiction or non-fiction - provide as many books as you can that mention, include, or focus on dinosaurs.

However, we encourage you to expose your child to different styles and rhetoric. The more types of reading material you give your child, the more their reading comprehension skills will increase. This will then help their writing skills without you needing to actively do anything about it.

 2 Teaching life skills and metaphors in Chinese 

The Chinese language is full of metaphors based on life skills. Connecting these two seemingly unrelated tasks will therefore largely enrich daily vocabulary. Life skills such as doing the dishes, cleaning the house, folding laundry, cooking, etc. and common metaphors and idioms are often spoken and used without thinking. But since these make up a good portion of normal conversation, your children will need these words to describe the world they live in.

Here are a few such examples.

  • 治大国若烹小鲜 running the country is like frying a delicate small fish - do not over interfere
  • 十指不沾陽春水 one’s fingers do not have to touch the cold water / do her own laundry in March - living a privileged life
  • 年年有魚 (餘) Surplus year after year - greetings at Chinese New Year

 3 Impersonating people 

Although this may sound odd, it’s a fun and unexpected way to improve your child’s imagination and language skill. Your child will have to think carefully about how the person they’re imitating uses language such as the types of words they use, the level of vocabulary, usage of slang, whether they have accents, the cadence and speed, as well as how the person moves. This forces your child to describe and consider the world in livelier and more vivid terms - all on the subconscious level.

 4 Translate and understand intangible things 

For a younger child, intangible thing could be a smell or a feeling. Ask them, for example, what colour does this smell remind you of? Why? Or if cold was a texture, what would it feel like? Would it be sticky? Rough? Smooth? Why?

If your children are older, you can ask them to explain the difference between love for your family and love for a hobby. Or perhaps have them describe the feeling of a sunset without using colors and only food words. Or ask them to look at a painting and describe what the painting is trying to evoke without stating the subject or describing the actual painting. You can also ask your child to translate the meaning of a sentence or phrase into Chinese without doing a literal word for word translation.

Of course, you should use your discretion to make sure the materials you provide are appropriate. This skill helps your children access different parts of their brain as well as increases their creativity.

 5 Answer questions with more questions 

Too often as parents, we get irritated with questions from our children and want to answer as quickly as possible. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we can take advantage of the innumerable questions as an opportunity to get our children to think of things in a new way. (And in Chinese, too!)

So when your children ask you a question - no matter how close or open-ended, ask them another question and make them think and come up with an answer.

A simple example would be if your child asks you what time it is. Instead of telling them the time, you can ask several follow up questions such as: What time do you think it is? What are ways you could try and guess the time without using a watch or phone? How high is the sun or moon in the sky? Is it light or dark outside? Have they eaten a meal recently or finished an activity that is normally at a certain time?

Of course, this depends on your ability to suffer, but it can be a great learning experience! And yes, these questions are not limited to the Chinese language - but the idea is to have your children be flexible in their thinking - and to do it in Chinese.

 6 Teaching different descriptors 

We’re used to teaching our children easy descriptors such as big and small, near and far, light and heavy, and light and dark. But there are more contrasts and descriptors than those basic ones. You can teach them words for layers, depths, parallels, opposites, weights, densities, textures, sounds, materials, pressures, etc. The idea is to provide as many words as possible to help your children make a story or piece of writing sound more convincing and real.

 7 Rhymes 

The beauty of the Chinese language is that there are so many homonyms, actual rhymes, and near rhymes. Your child can learn different pronunciations, special rhymes, heteronyms (破音字 pò yīng zì - eg: "minute" and "minute" in English). You can also slip in teaching sound components because those will give a hint to possible rhymes or homonyms.

All these methods can be done individually or as part of a whole. But the idea is to make the Chinese language richer and fuller for your children. Thus, because they have such a wide and vast comprehension, it will be relatively easier for them to read and write. Their internal resources will be deeper and your children will have more words from which to draw on and use in their speaking and writing, thereby improving your child’s Chinese fluency and literacy.

基礎漢字500畢業生的兒歌

無論是哪個國家的孩子,他們的成長總少不了兒歌。現代的兒歌普遍帶有簡潔的旋律和歌詞,重複性高,節奏感亦很強。兒歌還包含豐富的形容詞和比喻,而歌詞的內容主題也多數圍繞着孩子日常所見的基本事物,例如身體部分、動物、數字、顏色等。兒歌還往往很容易可以配上動作,讓孩子可以邊唱邊做,全情投入幫助記憶。

現代的兒歌還有一個特色,就是同一個旋律往往可以配上完全不同主題的歌詞,甚至不同語言。因此,兒歌是孩子學習多種基本知識、增加詞彙庫、學習另一種語言的有效方法和工具。

在這裏,我們特別為基礎漢字500的孩子搜集了幾首經典兒歌。這些兒歌都應該是孩子已唱得琅琅上口的歌曲,它們的歌詞絕大部分在基礎漢字500的課程之內。我們建議家長將歌詞練習紙列印出來,讓孩子認讀。孩子在已有的漢字知識和對歌曲熟悉的基礎上,將歌詞和認讀聯繫起來,再同時學習幾個有用的新漢字,馬上就增加了閱讀能力。

兩隻老虎

這首歌除了「虎」字,全部都是基礎漢字500畢業生已會的字。而雖然「虎」字並不常用,所以不在基礎漢字500課程範圍內,但老虎在兒童文學世界裏卻是經常出現的動物。

兩隻老虎  兩隻老虎

跑得快  跑得快

一隻沒有耳朵

一隻沒有尾巴

真奇怪 真奇怪

這首歌的旋律有幾個英文版本,都和中文版一樣重複性很高。其中一個英文版本是 Sleepy Bunny

Sleepy bunny, sleepy bunny,

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Shhh….

Wake up little bunny, wake up little bunny!

Hop Hop Hop! Hop Hop Hop!

歡迎下載歌詞練習:

「兩隻老虎」繁體版

「两只老虎」简体版

 

我的朋友在哪裏

隨着交通發展得越來越便利,加上前後多次的移民潮和不少父母因工外派,現在的孩子可以說朋友遍佈五湖四海、世界各地。這首歌中間重複的「在這裏、在這裏」兩句,可以讓孩子改放他朋友的所在城市或國家,唱出屬於他自己的版本。

一二三四五六七

我的朋友在哪裏

在這裏 在這裏

我的朋友在這裏

*  *  *  *

啦啦啦啦 真歡喜

同唱歌來同遊戲

笑嘻嘻 多甜蜜

我的朋友就是你

這首歌只有一個「嘻」字是新字,已在練習紙中放大讓孩子學習。

歡迎下載歌詞練習:

「我的朋友在哪裏」繁體版

「我的朋友在哪里」简体版

 

我是一個大蘋果

這首歌一般是用粵語唱的,但也可以用普通話唱唱看。

全首歌只有一個生字,就是蘋果的「蘋」字。

學會了「蘋」字,就會得讀這句諺語了:「日食一蘋果,醫生遠離我。」(An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.)

這句話無論是粵語、普通話、英語,都很押韻的喔。

我是一個大果     

個個孩子都愛我

又香又甜又好吃

天真的小臉像太陽

大家快來吃多個      

笑面像個大蘋果

歡迎下載歌詞練習:

「我是一個大蘋果」繁體版

「我是一个大苹果」简体版

 

青蛙媽媽

青蛙媽媽這首歌中有棵楊柳樹。雖然在基礎漢字500課程中並沒有直接教過,可是楊柳樹卻出現過多次。大家認出來了嗎?這首兒歌的旋律輕快,歌詞也很有動感。因為描寫的是春天,所以都充滿了生機呢。

青蛙媽媽 睡醒了

呱呱呱呱呱叫

青青的楊柳 隨風飄

地上長青草

小鳥在歌唱

春天到了 春天到了

歡迎下載歌詞練習:

「青蛙媽媽」繁體版

「青蛙妈妈」简体版

 

小小羊兒要回家

這首歌的節奏比較慢,歌詞內容相對比較複雜。除了時間觀念,還有對羊的詳細描述:羊兒的顏色 (白、黑、花),它們的習性 (成群的、跟着首領)、它們的生活 (白天出去草地,夜晚回家)、它們的活動 (草地上吃草,回家時都飽了)。另外還有兒童普遍的心理現象:天黑就會感到害怕...但是不要緊,只有跟着媽媽,點了燈,就不怕了。

這是一首比較成熟的兒歌。

紅紅的太陽下山啦,依呀嘿,呀嘿,

成群的羊兒回家啦,依呀嘿,呀嘿。

小小的羊兒跟着媽,有白有黑也有花,

你們可曾吃飽啊?

天色已暗啦,星星也亮啦,

小小羊兒跟着媽,不要怕,不要怕,

我把燈光點着啦。

歡迎下載歌詞練習:

「小小羊兒要回家」繁體版

「小小羊儿要回家」简体版

 

 

Demystify「來」字原來不簡單

「來」is taught in book 2 of Beginning Reader in the Basic Chinese 500 course. It is a word that is easy for children to grasp and remember. You probably think you understand this simple character very well – it means “to come”, right?

Think again.

On one hand, it is a simple character and also a monosyllabic word. However, its many meanings go way beyond “to come”. That is the reason why it’s one of the most often used words. Here, let’s take a closer look at this character: first at where it bears the basic meaning of “from, or  to come”, then at where is does NOT bear such meanings.

 When it means “FROM / to COME” 

Here are a few examples

來信 - incoming letter

來人 - bearer; the person who came

問題來了 - here crop up the problems

 When it means more than “FROM / to COME”   

Here are some more examples

亂來 “making a mess of something”

連日來 / 一個月來 … the pattern here is [time + 來]. It means “recent times”, or “the time from recent past up to now”

十公斤來重 “weighs ABOUT 10 kg”

合不來 "do not get along well”

起不來 “cannot get up”

來得及 "will make it in time” vs 來不及 “too late”

說不上來 “cannot recall now”

趕不起來 “cannot complete it in time”

 Further Usage 

來 to mean something that has happened, that is in the past:

他們打起 ( 架) 來了 – They started a fight.

你說甚麼來? What did you say just now?

來 to denote consequential moves:

想來好笑 It is funny to think of it (first – you think, then – you find it funny)

一來… 二來… 三來… Firstly, … Secondly, … Thirdly,…

There are also cases when來 is used as a preposition, such as:

來客 a guest

來客 a visitor

來臨 the arrival (of)

來源 the source

後來 afterwards, later

In the above examples, while the other character alone is enough to express the meaning, in modern Chinese, however, it is usually used together with 來, forming a bi-syllabic word.

How to Improve Writing & Speaking Chinese

This post of our Linguistic Series is based on one of our Chinese blog posts. You can read the original here.

This post focuses on the different ways that you can help your children apply speaking and writing Chinese in their lives and why that is important.

 Continuous practice to improve speaking and writing capabilities 

It may seem as if we’re belabouring the obvious, but one of the most important aspects to help your children speak or read Chinese is consistent practice. Malcolm Gladwell claims that it requires at least 10,000 hours of practice in order to become an expert at a topic, and while one may disagree by saying that the quality of that practice matters more than the quantity, putting in the work is still essential.

If you can speak Chinese, speak it to your children and encourage them to speak it back. Even if it requires you to have an “artificial” feeling practice time of 15 minutes a day of only speaking Chinese, do it. If your child is having difficulty speaking back to you, you will likely need to boost their vocabulary.

Depending on your household’s Chinese ability, you may need to hire tutors, mother’s helpers, or convince family to come for the specific purpose of conversing in Chinese with your children. (You may need to do this even if your Chinese is excellent.) Whether the time is a session to learn new vocabulary, a play-based free time, or a formal lesson, that’s up to you. There are pros and cons for each of these choices, so it depends largely on how much time and effort you can expend.

The same goes for writing Chinese - you may engage your children to actually write the characters or you may have a game of expressing cogent and well-expressed ideas with them. We’ve gone into more detail in one of our previous pieces about how writing promotes thinking, explaining why writing Chinese is an important skill. With all that theory on its benefits, the key here is nonetheless practice.

For writing characters, your children will need to either practice writing characters alone, or in the context of phrases and sentences, or try out any of our writing focused activities on the Learning Journal. For writing essays or longer forms of writing, consider using prompts, pen pals, drawing comics, or any other methods to encourage writing longer thoughts down. The more they practice writing in this manner, the more they will improve.

 Going beyond everyday conversation to provide a specialized or expanded vocabulary 

Although you may spend 95% of the time speaking to your children in Chinese, if you only discuss daily living activities, your children will not have a very wide vocabulary (unless your daily conversation is incredibly broad and varied). Consequently, your child’s writing is a direct reflection of their speaking lexicon. After all, it stands to reason that if they do not know the word when speaking, they will not know it for writing.

 

When you take an honest look at what you talk about with your children during the course of a day, it is very basic. The rudiments of communication are covered - such as bodily functions and needs, foods, school, family, and perhaps, feelings. Of course, these are important terms to know and use. However, they are not enough.

It is this knowledge gap that is the biggest hindrance to Chinese fluency in your children.

When your children are young, it seems enough to only know the words of daily living. But when they are older or become adults, they will feel the inadequacy of their vocabulary very keenly. They will no longer be able to describe 80-90% of their life with any clarity, sophistication, or intelligence. Why would any person choose to express themselves in a language that cuts themselves off from so much of their life if they were not compelled thus?

 Intention and effort are needed to introduce specialized and expanded vocabulary 

Truthfully, to do anything well requires specific intention and effort.

It is even more the case when it comes to increasing the breadth and scope of your children’s Chinese vocabulary. This is basically because the words and terms you need to use are NOT part of your daily life.

You may need to seek tutors or outside help (and perhaps, a lot of online videos) to introduce and expound on these topics. There exists also a large collection of specialized books and magazines, many of which geared towards children. And though these materials are readily available, it does requires some additional energy and time to research and procure them.

 Give children the opportunity to formally say / debate / discuss topics in Chinese 

This may sound somewhat intimidating, but what we really mean is to create space for, schedule, and follow through with a time to discuss things with your children in Chinese. If you want it to be more “formal” than a deeper conversation with your kids, you’ll have to do more work.

Keep in mind that this can be as simple as doing a book report or presentation with some Q&A afterwards, a book club with other kids, or as complex as a debate team. The entire point is to provide opportunities for your children to be able to think on their feet, formulate cogent arguments, as well as be flexible as they respond to others - all in Chinese.

This is especially important if your child tends towards perfectionism and doesn’t want to speak Chinese unless they can say everything perfectly. These artificial scenarios will allow your child to practice and fail in “safe” situations. The more they see that the world won’t end if they make a mistake and that everyone is practicing, the more they will be willing to try in “real” life situations.

Furthermore, if you extend this application towards writing, your kids will have additional time to shape their words into more sophisticated phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. The main benefit of writing is that it is not instantaneous or immediate. The very nature of writing allows for more considered word choice as well as relief in knowing that editing exists so their efforts do not have to be perfect immediately (or at all).

Achieving Chinese fluency and fluidity in an anglophone society for our children requires an inordinate amount of effort.

For some of us, we simply do not have the time or inclination to do so.

This article is not meant to add to your worries and guilt.

However, if you find that this level of Chinese is what you want for your children and you are willing to do the work, we hope this piece provided some additional ideas.