The following is the long email from my best customer, also a friend, in New Zealand. She gave me a fresh idea on how to help children learn Chinese characters.
I read some of your old blogs on “How to help children learn Chinese characters?” today. They contains a wealth of information that I have never read anywhere else. I am grateful that I found your blog. Thanks for sharing them.
In return, I also want to share some of my experience with you and your readers. Three and half months ago, we bought back from Malaysia some “Learning to Read” series book. This series was recommended to me from a friend who has successfully taught her son to read before he turns 7 (before he entered primary school). He goes to Chinese primary school in Malaysia.
Unlike her, I only recognise a few hundreds of Chinese words myself and my husband cannot speak nor read Chinese at all.
When I first bought the books and many others, I do not know how it is gonna turn out. I am very pleased to tell you that today my son who just turned 3 last week can recognise nearly 80 chinese characters (simplified) and successfully read nearly 8 books in this series by himself. There might be a odd word here and there that he hasnt’ committed to memory, but overall he has learnt to read more words today than he was 3.5 months ago.
The surprising this was, not all this words are the simplest characters. They are actually not in the order of difficulty and more than half of the words cannot be illustrated by picture alone. But quite a few of them will appear on the 100 most commonly used chinese characters list.
The first series aim to teach 100 words, divided into 8 books made up of simple easy to relate stories for children. I have only bought the flashcards and the books for the first series to try out. Every book introduce about 12 words, once the child has successfully recognise all 12 words (via the flashcards), he gets to read the first book. By then he would already recognise all the words in the book and can successfully read the whole book himself.
My son read his first book to his father (in mandarin) nearly 3 months ago. Needless to say he was very pleased with himself. Afterall he was usually read to. He hasn’t learn how to read in English yet because English is learn phonetically, we are not going to use this method of teaching. I did intentionally let him learn to read in chinese first because it is harder to learn chinese than to learn english. Even though he already recognise all his alphabets by heart and know some of the sounds of the alphabet through pre-school.
In the past I have tried flashcards method with him for chinese, but did have much success until I found this series. This series help me understand the appropriate way to teach which I find very effective. Not only were words introduced to him, but there are also reinforced through repetition and through use in the story context. To ask a child to remember 100s of unrelated words that he doesn’t get to read or see in books defeat the purpose of learning to recognise words. It is only through practice, repetition and application that this short-term memory will become long term memory. The second book introduces another 12 words, but some of the words in the first book will also appear in the second book. And so it goes on.
Some of the words such as “also” cannot be illustrated by picture. I find that if my child has never used that words in his daily conversation, prior to introducing that word (a few days before), I will start using that word in my conversation with him. Once he learnt the meaning of the word in the context of our conversation and know how to apply the words in sentences appropriately, only then will I flash that particular word to him. I find this method most effective in learning new vocabulary.
The benefit of the flashcards are it let us play around with the words. By the time he learnt 12 words, we already have sufficient words to make/create sentences or phrases. It provides many flexibility of learning the words through repetition. So he was not just memorising the stories from the books but can actually read individual words and understands the meaning of the sentences that I make. I also writes out the word in his sketch pad so he sees how it is written – the strokes and all. The book does include the order of the stroke. The book has one page of words on the left and picture on the right, so that the words are clearly separate from the picture to avoid distraction.
It took us 3.5 months to complete 8 books (each book about 60 words written with the 12 new words introduced and some other words previously introduced). It probably takes us less than 5 minutes a day, at most 4 days a week now that he goes to pre-school 4 days a week. Towards the end, I did let him read the book even though he could not memorise all the words required for any particular book. But after a reading the same book a few times on separate ocassion, he did end up remembering those words that he didn’t remember earlier.
I am not saying that you must buy the book to learn chinese character, but rather the method they use works very well for us. I have yet to find another that works better or as effortless. Even I myself learnt many new words through this series along with my child.
Best of luck with your journey of raising a bilingual child.
How to help children learn Chinese characters? (Method 1)
How to help children learn Chinese characters? (Method 2)
How to help children learn Chinese characters? (Method 3)
How to help children learn Chinese characters? (Method 4)
How to help children learn Chinese characters? (Method 5)