Monday, January 30, 2012

Mini-Book 1- 妹妹有娃娃

妹妹有娃娃 (Mèimei yǒu wáwá; Mei-Mei has a doll/baby)- This is the first in what I hope to be a series of short pre-primers for children just learning to read (To locate other Mini-Books, click on the "Mini-Book" label on the right hand side of the web page.).  I have to admit that I "stole" this idea from my son's public school kindergarten teacher.  Every week she sends home a short paper book that has repetitive sentences in them.  At first I was confused how these monotonous story we going to help my child learn to read English; however, I am impressed by how they have given my son confidence, reinforced his ability to put a sound to each letter, and improved his ability to sight-read (recognize common words).

So I've taken this technique and modified it.  I consider this a pre-step to reading longer stories in Chinese.  Since my children have minimal exposure to Chinese, this series of books will help them establish grammar structure, help them practice sounding out (using the pronunciation guide for characters they are unfamiliar with), and allow them to practice recognition of characters they are learning to read without the pronunciation guide.

This first Mini-Book practices the . . . . . .  (yǒu. . . yě yǒu. . .; have . . . also have . . .) grammar structure.  It is a large file (20kb) so give it time to load.  Future Mini-Books are not so large.  When you print, print on both sides of the paper.  Page 2 prints on the back of page 1, etc.  Then stack the pages so that when they are folded along the center line, the page numbers proceed in numeric order.

妹妹有娃娃- traditional characters with 注音符
妹妹有娃娃- simplified characters with 漢語拼音 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to Write in Chinese on Your Laptop or Desktop Computer

Writing Characters- I think most people would agree that the most difficult thing about learning Chinese is learning how to write the characters.  The complexity of the characters and their number can be overwhelming.  So how can we encourage our children to go beyond the mainland Chinese pinyin system or 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) and move on to using characters?  It is a truth that children will be able to recognize a particular character before s/he is able to write it.  This has to do with dexterity, but also with how our brain processes characters (or letters).  So I would encourage you to *install a Chinese font and type set* that allows you to type characters by typing the 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) or mainland Chinese pinyin.  At the bottom of this blog are instructions on how to display both the character and its pronunciation (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin) so that your child can type and then later go back and easily read what s/he wrote.

If you have an iPad/iPhone, please refer to this post- Chinese Characters- How to write in Chinese on your iPad/iPhone

Typing  注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇ) on your Keyboard
Following these instructions on your laptop or desktop computer will allow you to input Chinese characters.  You will also need to install a Chinese font.  If you are looking for a font that will also provide both the characters and their pronunciation, scroll down to my suggestions below.
My kids keyboard for practicing Chinese.  
I have a separate one for English.
  • Directions:  Different computers use different operating systems (Window vs. Mac) and different versions of the operating systems (Windows 7, Vista, etc.).  The directions for each are a little different.  If you use Windows, you are in luck!  Below are three videos showing you how to enable Chinese input.  Find the video that matches the version your computer uses and follow the steps as they are shown to you.
  1. Widows XP 
  2. Windows 7 
  3. Windows  Vista
  • Note:  Once you have enabled the Chinese font on your computer, you will notice that your physical keyboard is still in English.  This is fine if you are using the pinyin pronunciation system.  However, if you are using ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, you will need to help your kids figure out which keys represent which ㄅㄆㄇㄈ sounds.  There are stickers you can buy to make it easy for your children to locate the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ keys.  You can perform a search for "Chinese stickers for keyboard" OR make your own stickers by using address labels.  As you can see in the picture, I chose to make my own labels and created labels that covered the whole key (store-bought labels generally attempt to include both the Roman alphabet and the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ letters on each key, which causes the letters to be smaller).  I had an extra keyboard, so I made this one the "Chinese" keyboard; we have another that still shows the English.  It is easy to plug/unplug the keyboard I need. 
Downloading the Chinese with 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇ) font 

  • Notes:  For the most part, this font works very well.  However, there are particular characters such as 星期 that may use a different tone than what you have learned.  星期 is said with two first tones in mainland China.  However, this font requires you to mark the tones as first and second (as it is said in Taiwan).  There are not many of these differences, but there are a few. 
Downloading the Chinese with Pinyin font
  • Here's the best I can do at this moment.  I'll keep looking into finding a font and posting better directions.  For now, here's the font I use (DFPHei-W5J-Pinyin1UUA).  You'll need to do a search online to locate this font.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Your Young Child to Write

Getting Your Young Child to Write- So your kid pays no attention to the labels you've made in Chinese all over the house and couldn't be paid to care about how to write the characters or pinyin/ㄅㄆㄇㄈ.  Now what do you do?  Because you want your child to learn Chinese.*  Think like a kid.  Try the ideas below and see if you can encourage your children to practice their characters this way.

*I've been told by a friend that schools in Asia don't require character writing
until children are 6 years old in order to prevent problems with dexterity development.
If your child is still in preschool or younger, please take this to heart and 
have fun with the suggested games below.  
Please, don't require perfection or intensive writing times.

  • Use tub-safe paint and practice in the tub.  (You can buy this at Target (just look for "tub paint") or make your own (see below).
  • Use window paint (do a search online) on your car windows or home.
  • Show your kid how to write with invisible ink (Use a water-paint brush or ear swab and lemon juice!  Apply heat to turn the writing brown.).
  • Write with a finger on a foggy mirror after a bath or on a cold, frosty window in winter.
  • Make your own crayons!
  • Sidewalk chalk.
  • Chocolate pudding and white construction paper (think "finger paint").  Ummm, I suggest you save this for outside during the summer and turn on the sprinkler for easy clean up!  Remember to wear clothes you don't care about- chocolate stains!  Or use vanilla pudding with food coloring- be careful; food coloring stains, too!
  • Shaving cream and black construction paper (think "finger paint").  You could also use whip cream, but they might not be interested in writing much the first time they get some in their mouth!
  • Use play-dough and mold the dough into different characters.  For beginners, you can have an outline on the paper for them to follow.
  • Glue small pieces of tissue paper onto a glass jar or onto a piece of paper to make characters.   For beginners, you can have an outline on the paper for them to follow.
  • Try making Chinese characters with Legos (this works best with boxy characters).
  • Make Chinese characters come alive by growing them!  In a disposable pan, place 2-3 inches of soil and moisten the soil.  Trace the character or characters you want to make in the soil so that there is a depression in the soil.  Place grass seed in the depression and gently cover with a thin layer of soil.  Don't forget to moisten the soil one more time.  Keep soil moist for 7-10 days and you'll see your characters come alive!
  • Glue dried beans to a piece of paper to form characters.  For beginners, you can have an outline on the paper for them to follow.
  • Instead of slits in the top of that cherry pie, write Chinese characters.
  • Decorate the outline of characters!  More details here
  • Lacing Cards!  Print out or write the character on a piece of heavy stock paper.  Then punch holes at the beginning and end of each stroke (some characters will be easier to do this with than others).  Then have your child use a long shoe lace or ribbon to lace the character!

You are only limited by your imagination!
Got a good suggestion, post it in the comment section below!

Tub Paint Recipe
  • 1/3 cup of clear liquid dish detergent (use a mild detergent that won't hurt if gotten in the eyes/mouth)
  • 1tablespoon of cornstarch
  • Food coloring; see caution below
  • Ice cub tray
  1. Mix detergent and cornstarch.
  2. Pour into ice cube tray
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to individual cubes
  4. Place in freezer until hard (a couple hours). 

Tub Crayon Recipe
  • 1 cup of white bar soap, grated
  • A few drops of food coloring, don't use more than 5-6; see caution below
  • 1/4 cup of water warmed in the microwave for 20 seconds.
  • Ice cub tray
  1. Mix soap, food coloring, and water.
  2. Scoop into ice cube tray
  3. Place in freezer until hard (a few minutes).
  4. Pop out of tray and set them on counter to harden and dry overnight.
    *** Test your tub for stain resistance before letting your child use this paint.  My tub is fiberglass and it came off easily, but I'm not responsible for your tub!***

      Thursday, January 19, 2012

      Gauge It and Celebrate!

      Gauge It and Celebrate!-  All too often we, as parents, make the assumption that if we teach something, our kids will remember it.  But how many times have we needed to remind our children to put away their toys, eat their meal, and say please & thank you?  If we thought about it like this then it might be obvious to us that showing them a character or a ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin sound once is not enough.  The teacher might be you or someone you have hired, but the universal truth is that kids don't learn things the first or even the second time they see it.  They need multiply exposures over a period of time and the more places they are exposed to the idea, the better they will be able recall the idea.  So, below is a good idea for gauging how many characters your child knows and a great way to reinforce memorization.

      What you will need:
      • Something to decorate (T-shirt, canvas bag, etc.)
      • Fine-tip Permanent Markers
      • Cardboard or Newspaper (so the marker doesn't bled through)
      • Square stencil that is large enough to write a character in but not too large (you can make this out of cardboard).  This is the "grid" your child will write the character inside; so make sure it is an appropriate size for your child to write in and for the project you have in mind.
      • List of characters to write
      • Optional:  scratch paper and pencil for you child to practice writing the characters

        • Decide what you want to gauge/measure.  Is the goal for your child to identify the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin sounds, to recognize characters, or to write characters?  Once you've decided on the goal, figure out a way to evaluate your child's progress.  This is important because it helps you identify if there is something your child needs extra help with.  Evaluating periodically means you don't spend 6 months trying to teach the next step before an earlier one is mastered.  An easy way to evaluate is to use flashcards and ask a child to say the sound/word for each card.  If this is difficult for your child, break up the cards into easier pieces.  Check their mastery of only 5-10 cards a day and then do the other cards a different time.  Note:  Each child is different.  You may need to find something more engaging to hold a child's attention and to see their best performance.  Check out the blog titled "Balloon Extravaganza" to see a fun and innovative flashcard solution.
        • After the evaluation is done, let your kid know that you are proud of their achievements so far.  Now they get to display their success to their friends!  Set up the T-shirt/canvas bag with a piece of cardboard or newspaper between layers so the permanent marker won't bled onto the other layers.  Lay the square stencil on top and have the child write the character they've mastered inside the square.  If they have mastered identifying it, but haven't written the character yet, you can choose to write it or give them a chance to copy the character.  You can also choose to write the English underneath the character; this presents a fun conversation starter around the community.
        • As your child masters more and more characters based on the goal you set-up, add them to the shirt/bag.  Seeing their progress as they add new characters every week will encourage your child and show them that they are making progress.  Remember to celebrate each success and keep practicing the characters that are mastered as well!   They'll love it! 

             Extension Activities:
            • If your child has already learned ㄅㄆㄇㄈ/pinyin and is learning to recognize characters, you can write the character for him/her, but then see if s/he can tell you the ㄅㄆㄇ for that character.  Then you can write it next to the character.
            • If your child has learned how to say the colors, practice asking for different colored markers as s/he writes the characters.  Parents can ask, "你要什麼顏色的?"  (Nǐ yào shénme yánsè de bǐ? What color do you want?)
            • If you choose to have students copy the characters, first show them the stroke order and challenge them to write the character in the same order.

            Sunday, January 15, 2012

            The Magic Brush

            The Magic Brush- This story is a wonderful way to introduce a child to both Chinese characters and its culture.  "Jasmine loves spending time with her agong -grandfather- while her little brother, Tai-Tai, is napping.  Agong teaches her calligraphy, and through the Chinese charactes they draw together, they create a magical world full of flying fish, monkeys, and mythical dragons.  And when the time is right, Jasmine will pass on the traditions to Tai-Tai too . . ."

            Inside the book, characters take on life and children can see the pictures behind the pictographic characters:  月, 星, 山, 林, 川, 舟, 水, 魚, 炎, 朋, 馬, 龍, and 公.  At the back of the book is a pronunciation key of each of these characters as well as their meanings.

            I should also point out that is available at the North liberty Public Library; The title is The Magic Brush and the call number is under PRIMARY, Author Yeh.

            Rhythms and Tones

            Rhythms and Tones- This is a wonderful book to expose kids who are learning Chinese as a second language.  It includes a CD with 24 songs that reinforce learning things such as:
            • How to say hello/goodbye,
            • Using tones,
            • Asking basic questions,
            • Titles of family members,
            • Actions,
            • Body parts,
            • Numbers and measure words,
            • Animals,
            • Common phrases,
            • Food,
            • Radicals and how they look in characters,
            • Weather,
            • Asking for and saying the time,
            • Days of the week,
            • Seasons,
            • Colors, and
            • Chinese holidays.
            At the back of the book, the piano music for each song is provided as well as a dictionary of the characters covered in the book.  This book uses mainland pinyin and simplified Chinese characters.  I should also point out that is available at the Iowa City Public Library; The title is Rhythms and Tones and the call number is j495.1834.

            Caps For Sale

            Caps For Sale-  This book can be read by students who know the characters covered by the first 10 chapters of the "Integrated Chinese" series.  It has both the characters and the ㄅㄆㄇ.  I should also point out that is available at the Iowa City Public Library; The title is 賣帽子 and the call number is j495.1.