Hello friends! It’s been three months into the start of Kindergarten for my son and we finally have our Chinese learning routine down. Undoubtedly, some people will find what we do either too darn little or too crazy much. 🤷♀️🤣
Social media is really a double-edged sword. It can be inspirational and helpful, but on the flip side, competitive and stressful. As they say, 一山还有一山高. There will always be someone who does things bigger and better, so I just try to do what I can and be okay with it.
What is his current state of Chinese? At 6 years old (~1.5 years of Chinese exposure):
- Listening and Speaking: A couple of weeks ago, we were at a holiday party and Little Man played extremely well with two 6 and 7 y.o. boys from China (children of visiting professors) and conversed in Chinese for hours. While his speaking ability is below theirs, they had no issue understanding and conversing with one another. 🙂
- Reading: I have lost track of how many characters he knows, around 1200+. He is more comfortable reading Simplified books with/without pinyin and to a weaker degree Traditional books with zhuyin.
- Writing: Knows basic strokes and some basic characters. More importantly (to me at least), he is showing interest in writing and often writes on his Boogie board for fun. He is learning to write zhuyin in Saturday class.
We devote most of our time towards listening/speaking/reading and minimal expectations for writing.
Because my spoken Chinese (Singaporean Chinese) is not the best, my son’s primary means of acquiring advanced language is through read aloud. Most days I squeeze in 30 minutes read aloud and on an extremely good day, around an hour.
I try to select books that target his specific gaps in vocabulary. For example, I felt that he was missing “school vocabulary” and “slang” and hence decided to read him 米小圈上学记, which is the diary of a 7-year-old first grader in China. Through reading aloud this series (now on Book 4), he acquired a lot of vocabulary pertaining to schooling in China.
I have him read aloud to me around 15-30 minutes every day. It is usually shorter on weekdays and longer on weekends. I used to pick out the books for him, according to what I deem an appropriate reading level, however lately he has been selecting his own books to read. It’s nice that he is starting to be more confident and self-directed with Chinese reading.
I try not to obsess over reading levels (let it go, let it gooooooo…). We jump around quite a bit, sometimes reading easy picture books and sometimes longer bridge books. It doesn’t matter how easy a book is, there will be at least a few characters he doesn’t know. And it also doesn’t matter how hard a book is, he will read it if he’s interested. So, we’re just going with the flow.
Somehow we ended up with a routine of reading 简体 Simplified on weekdays and 繁體 Traditional on weekends. This enables us to maintain our current level of being able to read fairly decently in both.
#2. Flash Cards
We do a review of 10 characters every day using flash cards (video demo below). This takes around 5 minutes and I have found it to be stupendously helpful in making sure he can read characters in isolation without any contextual clues, and also pay attention to the radicals/meanings for words that look or sound alike 油，邮，由.
We are using a set of 1500 flash cards I purchased from Taobao and randomly review 10 every day. For characters he knows very well, I store away in a box. For characters he made mistakes or is not 100% certain, we do spaced repetition until they are mastered.
We started the school year using Singapore Chinese textbook 1A, however, after completing it I decided not to continue to 1B. The main reason for this is that juggling Singapore textbook/workbook/exercise book in addition to Meizhou textbook/workbook/worksheets (below) proved to be TOO MUCH for me.
I decided to simplify things and just use one handwriting book shown below. He copies 4 lines every day. I do not bother giving him 听写 to test what he remembers. I periodically supervise to make sure he is writing in the correct stroke order and his writing is acceptable-looking. Again, we are just going with the flow.
Saturday Chinese School
We love our Saturday Chinese School because everyone there is so friendly and it’s great to connect with Taiwanese families and local resources. We had so many fun play dates together last summer!
We spend almost our whole Saturday involved in Chinese activities – 2 hours zhuyin class, 1 hour extension class, 1 hour art class. On top of that we have homework (~30 mins per week) and preparing for tests/exams (~30 mins per week). Not going to lie, some weeks it’s a drag to supervise homework and force myself to review zhuyin with him. Especially since I don’t even know it myself!
In spite of the workload, I really really appreciate our Chinese school because I probably would not have introduced Little Man to Traditional Chinese otherwise. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my son would pick up both Simplified and Traditional at 6 y.o., something which I did not do until I was in my teens.
So there you go! That’s the state of our busy lives right now. Overall I am just really thankful that I got his Chinese on track before he entered school and now I just have to maintain it.
More challenges up ahead I’m sure, as he gets older and ever busier. 😝