Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #3.5: I am not sure whether my child can benefit from being a part of a Chinese community when learning the language…

May 30, 2016

What Makes a Community or Play Group An Effective Language Learning Environment?

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It is not always easy to find a community that works for your child. As we know, communal support can help foster the meaning in learning the language, but what are the factors that make it effective?

Board game as the focus.

 

Allow Creativity

Language is not always learned through words. It is expressed via all senses, e.g. smells, touch, movement, gestures and facial expression, thinking, to name a few. Through games and meaningful activities, one can engage to accomplish the goal at hand, without realizing the use of language. Certainly, the most organic way to go!

 

Allow Learning For Everyone

It is easy to turn into a “teacher’s mode”, especially when the focus of the group is too heavily in learning a language. Aiming for another goal, such as a

The Actual Game on the Floor for Everyone to Participate!

The Actual Game on the Floor for Everyone to Participate!

craft activity, a social play time, or a bible study, can take this pressure off. When all, including the adults, concentrate in learning how to fold an origami, or reflecting upon a life question, then language stops being a “means to an end.” After all, what is the purpose of knowing a language but for communication and expression?

 

Allow Mistakes

One of the biggest fear factors in learning a language (or anything) is to be laughed at. Everyone needs at least one setting where he is secured to use what he has learned. The adults, especially, should be there to encourage, rather than judge, what a child has said, however improperly put. It is fine to correct, but should be in a positive, rather than in a demeaning manner. One method would be to repeat what the child has said, but with the proper vocabulary or grammar and ask for confirmation. “Is that what you mean?” Model this behavior for everyone present.

Believe me, this WAS the board game we played. Messiness = Engagement!

Believe me, this WAS the board game we played. Messiness can mean Engagement!

Allow All Ages

Society makes it a norm to place similar age groups to learn a subject together. It is not always about the age, but rather, the level of expertise. But research has shown that one learns best when the next advanced element is present, naturally moving him to the next stage*. When more language-competent adults or children are present, your child can learn much more naturally and quickly than if he were placed in a classroom at the same-level.

 

Allow Enjoyment!

Enjoy being together! That is really the main ingredient to helping your child succeed to the next level of expertise in the language! Fostering your love for the language is an attitude you cannot forego.

 

* scaffolding theory and constructivism by J. Brunet

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May 17, 2015

How to Teach Chinese Idioms?

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idiom

Today, one can hear more modern slangs spoken than idiomatic expressions. Even though it’s not always widely used, we still find communication through these phrases, compact but full of meaning, somehow delightfully beautiful to hear and use.

 

There are many resources already available on the market. One can easily find books and videos packed with collections of ancient idioms. We probably have a few of those on our shelves, went through a couple of pages and left them to dust. Congratulations to those who have actually finished any of those. But in reality, how many idioms have your child actually used and applied in daily conversations?

 

Let’s think backwards to reflect our process on learning an idiom:

  • Our memory is a funny thing. If we don’t use it, we lose it.
  • The child needs to use it, not just define it or making up a superficial sentence with it, but to apply it in real context.
  • The child needs to know how to apply it in real context. Have they been hearing it used in situations meaningful to them? Have we also learned and used it in our daily life with them?
  • We can use it intentionally in our daily talk, in new situations and settings.

 

Conclusion: We need to be intentional about applying Chinese idioms with our child in real contexts of our daily living. Chinese is indeed beautiful when one can communicate such heartfelt feelings with so few a word.

 

Want to learn more? Look online. Here are some examples:

 

守株待兔:  This is a very useful idiom to use when your child uses the same method again to deal other situations blindly. [more]

你上一次贏了獎, 不過, 你不可以守株待兔, 要繼續練習.

You’ve won an award last time, but you can’t just sit waiting around and expecting the same outcome. You need to continue practicing.

 

拉牛上樹: This Chinese idiom (more so Cantonese; there are other regional idioms) is used to express the extreme (almost to the point of impossible) difficulty in completing a certain skill or task. [more]

To get Tom to understand algebra is pulling teeth!
要湯姆明白代數真是拉牛上樹。

 

三番四次. This can be useful to mean “repeatedly.”

你三番四次都做錯了, 有沒有甚麼我可以幫你呢?
You have repeatedly done it wrong, is there something I can help you with?

You can also teach math (numeracy) with this idiom, along with others like “事無三不成”, “無三不成幾”, i.e. how does three, not two, nor four, form a few? You can find lots of the number THREE in idioms!

 

Did you know this idiom also appears in the bible: 三番四次 = For three…, and for four? Look up for more!

 

So intriguing… Enjoy the fun!

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