Published by under categories Bilingual Baby, From Lina | comments Comments (1)

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.

Hi Lina

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.

learn Chinese characters: Learning to Read 200 Words
learn Chinese characters: Learning to Read 200 Words

Unlike her, I only recognize 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 goanna turn out. I am very pleased to tell you that today my son who just turned 3 last week can recognize 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 hasn’t’ 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 recognize all 12 words (via the flashcards), he gets to read the first book. By then he would already recognize all the words in the book and can successfully read the whole book himself. 

learn Chinese characters: Learning to Read 100 Words
learn Chinese characters: Learning to Read 100 Words

My son read his first book to his father (in mandarin) nearly 3 months ago. Needless to say he was very pleased with himself. After all 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 recognize all his alphabets by heart and know some of the sounds of the alphabet through pre-school.

Bilingual Flashcards - Animals & Vegetables (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards - Animals (English/Chinese)
Bilingual Flashcards – Animals & Vegetables (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards – Animals (English/Chinese)

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 recognize 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.

Bilingual Flashcards - Colors & Shapes (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards - Countries & Flags (English/Chinese)
Bilingual Flashcards – Colors & Shapes (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards – Countries & Flags (English/Chinese)

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 memorizing 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.

Bilingual Flashcards - Daily Necessities (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards - Numbers & Math (Chinese/English)
Bilingual Flashcards – Colors & Shapes (English/Chinese) Bilingual Flashcards – Numbers & Math (Chinese/English)

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 memorize all the words required for any particular book. But after a reading the same book a few times on separate occasion, 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.


 Do you have any advice on how to learn a foreign language?

Related posts:
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)


  1. 1
    marywhite // July 21st, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Hi, I’m here to recommend you a free e-book for your kids to learn Chinese.
    My 3-year-old twins really enjoy using it.
    It’s amazing. Maybe you could have a try.

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