Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #4.5: The stroke order of a Chinese character is very important, but I am not sure how much we should press my child to memorize it…

January 26, 2017

Writing Chinese New Year Banners: Does Stroke Order Matter?

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Writing calligraphy banners in Chinese New Year has always been a popular tradition, even for young children. The mistakes of any stroke order and the strength (how hard the press and the release) of each stroke can, however, become more apparent when writing through this medium. How important is it to pressure this “order” into the teaching?

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As a child learns to tackle each Chinese character, there seems to be more than enough elements to remember. One needs to balance the time invested across the actual learning of the character versus this specific skill. And writing from the heart is always more important and meaningful than any skills acquired, because this part is what stays from a childhood into adulthood.

 

Chinese characters are not just a medium for communication. It is a pictorial art, a storytelling, and a way to express innerness. The way of holding the brush, the flow of how a character is written, the way a stroke starts and ends, the balance of sizes for each component against the available space, the control of pressure of each touch – ALL completes the character.

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A child is most certain to complain if you tell them all the necessary elements at once. You can start small. Modeling for him (or showing a video) on how it is done can be helpful. Write simple strokes first (i.e. vertical, horizontal, dot, hook, slants). Build from there. Then work on balancing sizes. Lots of practice is key. Do not forget this is more art than the actual learning of a character, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and so the imprint of the form of the character will stay.

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Golden rooster brings joyful news of early spring. The duo of rooster and horse shall never part. (My children are of the year of rooster and horse. The left verse is taken from online. They made up the second part to go with it.)

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February 18, 2015

Writing Chinese New Year Banners? Following the Heart of the Child!

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It is definitely valuable to introduce to the children existing blessings passed down over the generations, like 常常喜樂 (Be joyful always), 出入平安 (May you be blessed with safety). They may pick up the rhythm and the literary elements of these phrases. Alternately, writing their own blessings can also be more personal to their lives.

 

You may want to try this third idea. Most know that it is a tradition to have an elaborate feast during this holiday, usually with dishes with special names that sound like blessings, e.g. 發財好事 (dried oysters with black moss), 年年有餘 (we always have a surplus; fish sounds like something left). The issue is that children today, especially those raised overseas, may not have the delicate taste buds to enjoy these fine dishes.

 

To pass down this tradition more effectively, we may start to ask what foods the child likes to have for the new year, then work backwards.

 

A scenario: A child came up with sausages, eggs, onion and duck. Another child said we need vegetables, so they added broccoli and cauliflower. Then based on the food names, they came up with rhymes that may help make up a blessing The teacher may need to add some linkage to tie up the phrases, asking intermittently whether that is the blessing they wish to receive.

新年大餐

花彩家愛 (花菜雞鍋) Radiant Family Love
椰菜花 西蘭花 花調雞 (cauliflower, broccoli, chicken with huadiao wine pot)

 

常常是但 (腸腸豉蛋) Always Be Easygoing ( “是但”不注重過程, 但注重结果)
香腸豉油炒蛋 (sausages and eggs with soy sauce)

 

衷心萬得 (蔥心Duck) (Sincerity of the Heart Makes Everything Work)
洋蔥爆雞心鴨絲 (chicken hearts and shredded duck, stir fry with onion)

 

The advantages? The level of the word usage and understanding is adjusted for both the child and the teacher. And the child

  1. makes up blessings he likes to receive
  2. learns the words of the food he likes
  3. actually eats the food

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