Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nurturing a love for Chinese #1 - READ READ READ!

I have been asked numerous times on how do I nurture Dumpling's interest in Chinese especially when mine is a 'mixed' marriage and the hubs is not really all that good in the language. (*cough cough* that's kinda putting it mildly). So here's starting a series 1 of 10 (tips) that I have.


Many of my friends are sending the kiddos for Chinese enrichment and that's great. One thing that I do is to encourage them to read LOADS to their children and the earlier you start, the better. To this date, I recall the look of utter confusion on Dumpling's face when I first read a Chinese story to her.

In our usual fashion every evening, I'd sit her down and read aloud to her since young. At 16/17 months, I decided to pick up a Chinese title and read out to her. Suddenly, she looked up, frowned at me and asked me "Mama, what?" That was when I first freaked out and understood the arduous journey ahead of us in mastering the Chinese language.

Some comments / replies I get when I advise parents to read aloud to their kids:

- My kiddo is just not interested! He'd run around / walk away when I read any Chinese titles

My advice is to continue to read aloud because some children are not visual learners. What we are trying to do is to expose the child to the sound of the language, vocabulary and sentence structure. If possible, perhaps you can have the read aloud in an enclosed area (a room or in very young children, play yard).

Vary in your intonation and inject some 'life' as you read. Make it fun for your children. You can even extend to craft work after the read aloud. You can make story boxes or do shadow play too.

- I do not know the language so how am I able to read aloud to my child? 

Audio books will come in really handy in this case. You can also invest in one of those talking pens for the same purpose. I recently came across a really neat website that has online books and some are on a 'read to me' mode (uses flash)

Here's one of Snow White 白雪公主

- My child walks away the moment she sees that it is a Chinese title. What do I do?

For young children, I'd encourage brightly colored illustrations and to make it more interactive and fun, lift the flaps are always good too.

One thing which worked very well for us has been for the kiddo to read the translated titles (to Chinese of course) of some English stories. The idea is that if the kiddo has read the English titles before, they'd find it familiar and less resistant to it. Some of the translated titles which Dumpling enjoys are:

:: Mr. Men and Little Miss

Same characters (79 titles in all) with the same funny tales - it was a good way to ease Dumpling into lengthier titles in Chinese. Plus with all the names of the characters being translated, it is also great for them to be exposed to good vocabulary.

:: Curious George

Everyone's favourite monkey - George! Dumpling was able to recognise the same starting sentence 这是乔治 after only a few titles. She enjoys George's crazy antics in the English version and the Chinese copies were no different.

Being the chocolate lover that she is, it was easy for her to fall in love with this title: George and the Chocolate factory. She learnt how to say 'strawberry filled chocolates' in mandarin amongst many other terms too!

Being the dog lovers that we are, she also enjoyed another title on dogs 

:: Elmer

Elmer is another lovely series which Dumpling read when she was around 3+ or so. There is a certain cheekiness to the stories in this series which would have her giggling. With the colorful illustrations, this series is a 'winner'. When I showed her the Chinese titles, there was no resistance at all as it was 'familiar' to her and she was once again captivated with Elmer 艾玛 and his cousin 韦伯 (Wilbur).

Funny storyline like the above would have Dumpling chuckling out loud too

This is part of a 5-part series:
Part 2: Speak it, Use it!
Part 3: Watch it!
Part 4: Play It!
Part 5: Write it! (小书 Small Book)
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  1. This is really a good wakeup call! Thanks for your 1st tip! Looking forward to upcoming ones :)

    1. Hi Mommykim, why 'wakeup' call? :p But yes, reading is crucial for all languages. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing! I totally agree with you that it's important to read, and to start at a young age. I started reading to both EV and AA when they were about 9 months, and I'm glad to say that it has definitely worked for them. I also let them listen to Chinese nursery rhymes and songs, and try to speak to them in Chinese as much as possible. Do these work for you too? Looking forward to learn from your other tips! :)

    1. Your kiddos have a great start Winnie! :) Yes, we do listen to rhymes and songs and they work for us amongst 'helping' in other areas too. Thanks! Do pop by again next week on the next tip!

  3. Great books you have recommend here. I didn't know Little Men and Miss has them in Chinese! I totally agree with you on reading to the kids. If the book is engaging, it'll appeal to the kids regardless Chinese or English! Look forward to your 2nd post!

    1. Hi Christy, thanks! Yes, Mr Men and Little Miss in Chinese are quite new I think. :) Pop back again next week for Tip #2!

  4. Thanks for sharing these Chinese titles! I'm always on the lookout for interesting Chinese story books for my kids.

    1. Hi Ing, good having you back here! Yes, I think these stories have interesting storylines for the kiddos and there is somewhat less of a resistant if they are in Chinese and this makes it more enjoyable for them too. :)

  5. I explained to my elder that she has to learn to speak Chinese to speak to her grandparents who are not English speaking. She kinda understand and now accepts to speak and learn Chinese more.

    1. Hi Joey,

      Am glad that works well for you. I got my parents to communicate with the little one in Mandarin too and that's coming up in the next post! :)

  6. Hi may i know where you bought george book in chinese? My son will love it. tx

    1. Hi there,

      Do leave your name next time! :) I got my loot from dangdang as I usually a few series at one go a few times a year. But you can get this from this website: HTH!

  7. Hi, May I know where can I get Mr Men and Little Miss in Chinese?? My boys love them! Thanks!

    1. Hi dear, thanks for popping up and my apologies for the late reply. I got the series from Dangdang previously. What you will need to do is to go to SMH Forum -> overseas spree and look for someone who is currently conducting a spree for Dangdang. The titles are lovely. I am sure your boys will love them :)


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