How to teach our children Chinese?

Recently I was presented with a question that may concern many Chinese families who live abroad:
“I was originally from China. I think it is very important to teach our children Chinese. But they are reluctant to study Chinese. Do you have any suggestions?”

Knowing a second language, particularly one’s parents’ native language, will enrich one’s life in many ways. Children are like sponges, always ready to absorb new information. They learn quickly, and they are able to distinguish between different languages. After they have a good handle on one language system, say around five years of age, it is safe to teach them a second language.

I often hear Chinese parents tell their children, “Speak Chinese.” Or, they ask, “Why don’t you speak Chinese?” I’d smile and wonder why they are not speaking Chinese themselves. I think if Chinese parents want their children to understand Chinese, it helps to consistently speak Chinese to them, teach them Chinese songs and tell them stories in Chinese. They could select appropriate Chinese story cartoons and children’s song videos from Youtube for their children to watch. Speaking Chinese at home will not hinder the children’s performance at school. Of course, you will still supervise their English homework and tell them stories in English as well.

It is harder to make the children learn to write Chinese. As a parent, you could introduce them to a small set of basic characters and encourage them to write simple notes or short letters to their relatives in China or Taiwan. Ideally there is a weekend Chinese class that they could attend, and they also have the opportunity to spend some time (such during the summer vacation) in a Chinese-speaking community. When there is no one around who understands English, then your children will speak Chinese pronto.

“Thank you very much for the advice. They are great. I guess learning a foreign language is a progressive process. We learn it day by day and little by little.”

Yes, language abilities are like one’s muscles – They will grow strong when you flex them daily. 🙂

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Decorate a gift box using tissue paper flowers


Mother’s Day is coming up. Here is a quick and easy way to make a few flowers to put on the gift box for your mom. All you need is a few pieces of tissue paper and a small wire tie to hold them together.

In Chinese, flowers are called (huā)

What are some of the names of flowers in Chinese?

牡丹花 (mǔdan huā) are tree peony blossoms

玫瑰花 (méigui huā) are roses.

百合花 (bǎihéhuā) are lilies.

鬱金香 (yùjīnxiāng) are tulips.

菊花 (júhuā) are chrysanthemums.

梅花 (méihuā) are plum blossom.

櫻花 (yīnghuā) are flowering cherry blossoms.

桃花 (táohuā) are peach blossoms.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

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Make your own jigsaw puzzles for Christmas

Candy Cane Puzzle

What will you be giving your little sisters and brothers this Christmas? I have an idea. Why not make a few jigsaw puzzles for them?

In Chinese, jigsaw puzzles are called 拼图游戏 (pīn tú yóuxì).

You can ask your parents to get some blank puzzles that are 5 1/2 inches by 8 inches in size. Use a pencil to draw a picture on each blank puzzle. Maybe a Christmas tree with lots of pretty decorations? How about a Sata Claus,
圣诞老人 (Shèngdànlǎorén), saying “Ho, ho, ho!”

If you like the candy cane picture on this page, you could make one just like it. You can color it with crayon or water color then use a black marker to go over the outlines. You could write a short message on the puzzle. You could also add little stickers to some of the puzzle pieces. If you do, make sure the stickers don’t go over the jigsaw lines.

Take the puzzle apart and put the pieces in an envelope. Ask your parents to stuff the puzzles in the Christmas stockings for your brothers and sisters. They will have fun putting them back together. And they will be so happy that you made the puzzles just for them.

Candy Cane Puzzle with Stickers
圣诞快乐﹗
Shèngdàn kuàilè﹗

Merry Christmas!

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Sing “Eagle Catches Chicken”

The eagle has sharp eyes and powerful wings. It likes to swoop down from the sky and snatch up little chicken. Who will protect the little chicken? Their mother, of course. To see how she does it, watch this video for the Chinese children’s song called 老鹰抓小鸡 (Lǎo Yīng Xiǎo Jī) and sing along.

天上 (tiānshàng) means in the sky. 老鹰 (lǎo yīng) is an eagle or a hawk. (fēi) means to fly.

Therefore, the first line tells us that an eagle is flying in the sky.

地上 (dì shàng) means on the ground. On the ground there are a few little chickens, or 小鸡 (xiǎo jī). They are scared, and they cry. (tí) means to cry, to weep aloud or to crow.

母鸡 (mǔjī), the mother hen, is worried. (jí) is to be worried, anxious or impatient.

蓬蓬飞 (péng péng fēi) describes how the hen flaps about.

呱呱呱 (guā guā guā) is mimicking the hen’s clucking. (huàn) means to call out. Mother hen calls out to her children, “Hurry and come hide under my wings!”

快过来 (kuài guòlái) means come over here quickly.

(duǒ) is to hide.

翅膀 (chìbǎng li) are wings.

The lyrics are repeated so many times in the video that by the time you reach the end you’ll probably already know all the lines by heart.

Now that you know how a hen protects her little chicken, you could play “Eagle Catches Chicken” with your friends.

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Sing “Pulling Radish” – a Chinese children’s song

A boy goes to the garden to get a radish. He pulls and pulls, but the radish won’t come out. It is too large and heavy. He asks for help from others. When everyone pitches in, the radish finally comes out. You can find out more about this story by watching a video for the fun Chinese children’s song called 拔萝卜 (Bá Luóbo).

Following is a word list to help you understand and sing this song:

(bá) means to pull.
萝卜 (luóbo) is a radish.
老公公 (lǎogōnggong) is an old gentleman.
快点 (kuài diǎn) means to hurry up a bit.
(lái) means to come.
快点来 (kuài diǎn lái) means to hurry and come.
帮我 (bāng wǒ) means to help me do something.
老婆婆 (lǎopópo) is an old lady.
小花狗 (xiǎo huā gǒu) is a little multicolored dog.
小花猫 (xiǎo huā māo) is a little multicolored cat.
小老鼠 (xiǎo lǎoshǔ) is a little mouse or rat.
拔起来 (bá qǐlái) is to pull out or pull off.
大家 (dàjiā) means everybody.
一起 (yīqǐ) means together.

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Playing with numbers

Here is a math trick that you could use to impress a friend, a classmate, a parent, a brother or a sister who knows how to add, subtract and multiply.

Ask the person to think of a number but not tell you what it is. Then ask that person to do the following:

把那数字加上五.
Bǎ nà shùzì jiāshàng wǔ.
Add 5 to the number.

把结果乘以二十.
Bǎ jiéguǒ chéng yǐ èr shí.
Multiply the result by 20.

去掉最右边的零.
Qù diào zuì yòubiān de líng.
Erase the zero on the right side.

从结果减去十.
Cóng jiéguǒ jiǎn qù shí.
Subtract 10 from the result.

把那最后的结果告诉你.
Bǎ nà zuìhòu de jiéguǒ gàosù nǐ.
Tell you the final result.

You will say, “Aha! I know what number you had in mind.”
And you will tell that person the correct number.

(Between you and me, the correct number is one half of the final result of the above calculations. Do you know why this works?)

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The Number Man

ll-Number Man-s

How many Arabic numerals can you find in this picture?

Do you know how to say these numbers in Chinese?

If not, the video at this link will show you how.

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