Early Chinese recognition

Here are some tips taken from the 二三快读 guidebook to help promote early Chinese reading literacy.

  1. Learning through games

Kids learn best through play, so we should get them interested and get their attention. Once they reach a “word sensitivity” stage, they will pick up very quickly, and you can use books and worksheets. Meanwhile use games to pique their interest.

  1. A constant environment

Use a constant environment that your child likes for the Chinese lesson. This needs a little trial and error on the parent’s part, as it’s different for each child. Consistency includes a fixed time, place, person, method. This is important because it helps create a habit that the child looks forward to, and it helps kickstart “word sensitivity” earlier. One example can be enacting a classroom situation: Mom’s the teacher, child’s the class monitor, and soft toys are classmates. When mom asks soft toys a question, the child answers on behalf of the dolls.

  1. Always use the correct pronunciation at the first instance
  2. Bring creativity to teaching the words

Don’t just tell them, “这个字,是这么念.”  Use creative ways to teach them. For example, using the word 哭, we can say “ Does it look like a pair of eyes, with a tear drop?” This brings the word alive.

  1. Get the child to be involved while learning / recognising words

It’s not just a one way teacher-student conversation. Ask questions and make it interactive.

  1. When explaining the words, keep it simple

Don’t need to say ”打人的打“, especially for younger kids. Just say “打“  because they tend to repeat what you say.

  1. Teach nouns first
  2. Encourage the child through achievement milestones

Suggests putting up a sticker board or taking photo at the 100 words milestone.

  1. If they are distracted, stop the lesson.
  2. Ask the child to repeat the word
  3. End the class when the child is the most interested

So that they will look forward to the next session

  1. Choose flash cards with no pictures. Bigger words for younger children

Or the child may identify the word because of the picture, and not the word.

  1. Don’t stick Chinese words on the objects.

Do not stick 门on the door, and 窗 on the window. Unlike the English language which is phonetical, children are still able to read the words if you remove the words from their respective objects.

For Mandarin Chinese, words are derived from pictograms (象形字). If the words are taken off the door and the window, the child may not be able to identify the respective words. Hence, letting them see the pictorial aspect of the word is more important.

  1. There’s no need to teach words with fewer strokes first

To the child, the Chinese word is a picture. Hence, with more strokes, it may be easier for them to remember how it looks.  Whereas words with fewer strokes such as 三 and 川, may cause confusion for the child.

  1. Teach words singularly, and not as a 词组

An example is teach “朋,宝,孩“  at one lesson, and another session teach “友,贝,子” as the child may get confused if you teach them together, especially before they reach “word sensitivity”.

  1. Don’t teach similar looking words at the same time

For example, do not teach “鸟,乌,马“, ”甲,由,田,申“ at the same time because they may get confused.  Put a significant duration between teaching these words, and when you do, explain the difference clearly.

  1. For 多音字,teach the one that is used most often.

好 should teach using the 第三声 first. Later on, the child may ask, why is it 爱好, not 爱好(第三声) then you can explain that in different context, the word sounds different.

  1. Start with a few words, short duration, and extend the duration longer

It should start with a few seconds, 1 or 2 words and extending it when the child gets interested.  Do not force.

  1. Before the child has a significant vocabulary, do not explain the meaning of the different 部首。

This can be done when they recognise about 400 – 500 words.

  1. Revising helps the child remember the words

Methods of revision will be discussed in a separate blogpost

  1. Get into reading early

Spark interest by letting know they can actually start reading. Some kids, after knowing 1000 – 2000 words lose interest in learning because they do not see why knowing these words is beneficial.

  1. Watch out for the 3 year old “rebellion”

If the child is rejecting learning Chinese, keep playing with them games instead of forcing them to learn the words. Do not get frustrated, just stop word recognition and let it be enjoyable for them.

  1. For kids that are just not interested, do not force.

Otherwise, the child may have a dislike towards Chinese.

 

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Two Days in Brussels with a Toddler

We travelled to Belgium, Netherlands and London in June 2016 with our 16 month old toddler. Our Europe adventure is posted up on this page.

Wow, it’s more than a year and here I am, writing intermittently about my travels to different places. (Obviously not the most organised person around) We’ve since been to so many more countries, so I am doing all the catch up now before the memories get too fuzzy!

Transport: Singapore to Brussels

We took the red-eye KLM flight from Singapore to Netherlands and transferred to Belgium. Still amazed that a transfer between Amsterdam to Brussels takes only 20 minutes. That’s even closer than a flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur!

The 15 hour flight was pretty challenging. She was tired out and only wanted to nurse on me the entire flight. Thankfully she didn’t have much ear trouble!  KLM’s flight crew did make up for the discomfort though: they were so sweet and watched out for us.  I was also pleasantly surprised that we were given front seats with more leg space so we could fit a bassinet, even though we didn’t pay the 20 Euros for seat selection! Thank you KLM for your great service!

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We survived! Though XP looked a little rugged out 🙂

 

It was a short 20 minute train ride from Brussels Airport – Zaventem to Brussels Central station.  Easy peasy.

Tip:  There are two exits to the train station, one on each end of the station. The distance to the main tourist centre felt more or less the same, but if you have luggage, please look for the exit without the stairs!  It is located on the side without the main ticketing booth. If you see the stairs, walk in the opposite direction and you’ll find the other exit.  That saved us a lot of effort.

Accomodation

We stayed at the NH Brussels Carrefour de l’Europe hotel, a 5 minute down-slope walk from the Brussels Central station.  The 4 star hotel’s location was fantastic and we had a huge room to ourselves!  Make a right after you exit the station. Look out for the roundabout and you’ll see the hotel on the right hand side. [ Of course, Google Maps is extremely helpful too :)]

Source: Venere

Tip: Arrange to stay in Brussels over the weekend as hotel prices dip significantly!

We slept through most of the afternoon with the jet lag, and only ventured out for lunch and dinner.

The day after we spent one decent day in Brussels. Here is a brief of what you cannot miss!

Must Dos in Brussels

1. Buy chocolate from Mary

Mary  was founded in 1919 and from what we know, the royal family makes personal visits to buy their choiced chocolates. These chocolates are not exported out of Belgium, so these are make great souvenirs!IMG-20160615-WA0002

2. Do a walking tour (if you are child-free)

If your travel companions are adults, you have to catch the free walking tour with Viva Brussels Tour .   We were given little insider tips and history about the place that you wouldn’t get to know travelling on your own. Our guide Ava was so sweet to wait for us despite our little defiant toddler, but if you prefer to take your time (especially with the little one), I’d suggest the following places as a bare minimum:

  • Grand Place
  • The Saint Hubert’s Galeries
  • Mannekin Pis
  • The Saint Nicolas Church
  • The Royal Park
  • The Royal Palace & Square

3. Have Moules, Frites and Beer!

 

You can’t say that you’ve visited Belgium unless you’ve eaten your Belgian Mussels and Fries.

We ate at La Maree  a Michelin Star Restaurant, a 15 minute walk from our hotel. Food was awesome, and they took good care of my toddler.

Overall Feel

We saw quite a few armed soldiers patrolling around the airport and the Brussels Centrale station in light of the terrorist attacks and the ongoing Euro Cup. That made me feel a little nervous, but my husband said he felt safe seeing them around. Do watch out for your belongings as well as pickpockets are well-known in the area. We didn’t meet any, but a friendly Chinese local advised us to stay alert and keep watch .

People there were friendly and nice. They speak good English so that made things easier too!

Brussels Centrale is not stroller friendly.  Streets are cobbled, so bring your baby carrier.  Bring your own child-friendly utensils too, because restaurants don’t provide these.

Yup! So that’s it! Hope it’s helpful!

 

 

 

 

Our Toddler Chinese Learning Journey

Just want to use this platform to track our Chinese learning journey. My daughter is 2.5 years old, and we have been trying to introduce Chinese to her. Just like most Singaporean Chinese families that I know, she has a preference to speak in English even though she understands what we speak in Chinese.

Background

Mom: I started learning Mandarin only at 6 years old (K2) because my dad was posted to Malaysia during my kindergarten years. Cried like crazy after my first Chinese class.  However, I am generally quite good with academic grades and memorising. Even did Higher Chinese from P5 to secondary school. So I can read well, but I can’t speak well. In my mind, I always translate what I need to say from English to Chinese, hence the 2 second pause before a response. Struggled when most of my ex-colleagues spoke Chinese generally, but realised after a few months I can start conversing a little better. Even feel that speaking in Chinese brings about a 情切感 that you can’t get with speaking in English

Dad: Family speaks Chinese, he speaks pretty good Mandarin when he wants to, but he went to a primary and secondary school where Chinese was considered uncool, and it was cool to fail Chinese. (you know which school 🙂 ) So he can sputter some fancy proverbs once in a while, but he can’t read to save his life. He stumbles at basic words. When we KTV, I have to whisper the lyrics so that he can sing the song haha. So he speaks better than me, but really reads badly. 

My husband was more motivated to teach her Mandarin than I was. Since I was the main caregiver, honestly I cringed at his request to speak purely Chinese to her. So in her first 2 years, I suggested:

Mama speaks English. Papa, Yeye, Nainai speaks Chinese to her.

That didn’t work out though. Papa, Yeye, Nainai all wanted to speak English to her as well because she understood English faster and they wanted to gain her favour.

So we started Chinese classes.

Chinese Enrichment Classes for 1 – 3 years old

  1. ChengZhu : went for trial classes for PlayNest and PlayClub. Also signed up for their holiday camp at PlayClub. The teachers were caring, and I love the  drama part of it all.   My number one choice. Love it, but it is too far (Rochester) and required twice a week commitment at PlayNest and PlayClub level.
  2. BibiNogs: Located more centrally at Serene Centre (Botanic Gardens MRT). It was OK generally, just that I didn’t like the HanYuPinYin segment and again, twice a week commitment.
  3. Sparkanauts Chinese: They started a Chinese class and we attended one of their first few trials. Unfortunately, perhaps because there were so many new babies, it was difficult for them to handle the class. This would have been my top choice because the system was promising: Gym Class + Chinese. That’s all I need for my girl. It may have improved a lot since I attended in 2016.  My girl really loved their English Sparkanauts session by the way.
  4.  You Le: We liked this a lot and ultimately attended this for three semesters It had once a week classes, located at Tanglin Shopping Centre. Nan Nan Lao Shi was very loving towards my girl.  The classes had many chinese songs and my girl really loved it. I play the songs for her during the week and she can sing and dance to it. She spoke more Chinese after attending You Le as well. I stopped only because I enrolled her in a daily 2-hour playgroup and the timing clashed with their schedule.

There are others that I did not attend, like Edugrove, Little Mandarins and Hua Language Centre.

I am considering to put her into Berries,You Le or retry Sparkanauts Chinese when she reaches N1.

 

General notes on teaching Chinese:

  1. Have a good Chinese environment. Main caregiver or both parents speaks Chinese.
  2. Don’t introduce Han Yu Pin Yin too early (before K2), because the kids will use it as a reading aid (i.e. crutch) and may have poorer word recognition. As much as possible, buy books without Han Yu Pin Yin at the bottom. Do note that HYPY is testable in Primary School though, so there should be exposure, but not necessarily at the pre-school level.  What you can do is to teach them separately.
  3. Character recognition can start after 3 years old.  Chinese character recognition should only be taught after understanding the story or poem (China’s doing this). Do not do a testing flash cards style because they may come to dislike the topic. The key thing is to let them love Chinese
  4. Read stories animatedly, not in a boring manner
  5.  Use pictographs to teach Chinese (Check out Chineasy)
  6. Children learn better from human interaction compared to videos.

 

Chinese Teaching Resources

I intend to try these along the way – will review when I get down to it. Will keep adding to this list along the way too

Teaching Resources

  1. 二三快读,四五快读:These are Chinese teaching resources with weekly suggestions, I believe. 四五快读 can be found on Taobao. For some reason,  二三快读 is not on Taobao any more but I found it from a Carousell seller. I will be picking this up next week.
  2. Flip for Joy: Recommended Chinese books

Videos:

  1. 碰碰狐 Good quality videos!
  2. Sesame Street in Chinese For those that like Sesame Street

Teaching Ideas

  1. Crazy about Chinese by Diana Ser

Andaman Hotel in Langkawi

We travelled to Langkawi with our 11 month old baby for a 3D2N trip. This was our 2nd trip after our Bangkok trip with our baby. The first trip we had tons of help from family members, this time, we travelled to Langkawi with a big group of friends with toddler and preschooler kids. We were very assured, as noob parents on travel, that we would be in safe hands.

We stayed at the Andaman in Langkawi, and boy was it a great choice for a family holiday!
 Why we liked the Andaman

  1. The Coral Reef Nursery
Coral Nursery at The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort
The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort
The Andaman has a unique coral reef nursery where the children could get up front to see the corals and feed the sea animals in the Coral Reef.
They had very nice staff (marine biologist students) that showed the kids around the nursery and patiently explained to them about the coral and fish.  The children got to pet sea cucumbers.
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 Animals and corals for petting.
If the kids were older and if the weather was better (it rained all three days we were there), they are able to snorkel in the nursery
2. Beach at your doorstep
 
Beaches never go wrong with kids. There were sand toys for the children to play too, though you may want to pack some along in case there are too many children. Parents can enjoy a drink at the Beach Bar while watching over them.
 
3. Free Kids Club (Young Explorers Club)
The Young Explorers Club is available for free for kids aged 4 -12. It was well equipped and they offered baby sitting services if you need it too. The children were unfortunately not able to attend the activities due to the inclement weather. Nevertheless, they were able to entertain themselves well with the indoor slides, books, games, craft inside the club.
4. Great restaurants and service
We were initially concerned about our baby’s food. Emailed the restaurant and found out that the nearest supermarket was half hour away, so we weren’t sure how to cook her meals. Our girl wasn’t into puree food either so pouch food wasn’t a solution.
Our worries were unfounded. They were willing to prepare vegetables like broccoli, meats etc according to our requests (i.e. boiled/steamed with no salt) and they did it very gladly.
Kids under 3 years old eat for free too!
We ate at their International/Malay (Tepian Laut) where they served breakfast, their Japanese restaurant, and at Jala, their barbecue and Scandinavian/Malay restaurant. My personal favourite is the Tepian Laut because their nasi lemak and satay was quite awesome.
5. Nice rooms
Our room was nice and pretty well equipped with a sun bed outside which we didn’t use. Baby cot was provided too. Monkeys invaded our balcony the next day, and the kids and my baby loved it 🙂 Benefits of staying really close to the rainforest.
6. Nice pool 
They had a slide at the pool. Suitable for older children, not too much for my baby though.
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Transport 
Getting a taxi there was easy enough from the airport, so save money on the airport transfer!
Conclusion
We did not need leave the hotel at all – there was so many wonderful activities at the Andaman! We weren’t able to join their rainforest walks but heard great reviews about it. I’d bring my daughter here again when she is older so that she can enjoy it more.  Perhaps add a couple more days so we can go out to explore the rest of Langkawi! Definitely recommended for kids aged 3 and up.
Rating: 5/5
Address
The Andaman, Langkawi
Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi, 0700, Malaysia

KLM review:Travelling from Singapore to Europe

We travelled to Belgium, Netherlands and London in June 2016 with our 16 month old toddler. Please find my other posts on this adventure in this summary link

We took KLM for our long-haul flights from Singapore to Brussels (transfer in Amsterdam), and from Amsterdam to Singapore.

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Flying Blue!

We took the red-eye KLM flight from Singapore to Netherlands and made a transfer transferred to Belgium. Still amazed that a transfer between Amsterdam to Brussels takes only 20 minutes. That’s even closer than a flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur!

Amazing service

The 15 hour flight was pretty challenging. XP was tired out and only wanted to nurse on me the entire flight. Thankfully she didn’t have much ear trouble!  KLM’s flight crew was really sweet and professional though. We noticed that the crew watched out specially for us – like they’d give us some extra fruit for her, and they would take some time to chat with her.

KLM requires us to pay 20 Euros for seat selection, which made me wonder whether I was taking a budget flight or a full-fledged service flight before the ride. Was slightly skeptical of their service because of this. We chose not pay for it, so  I was also pleasantly surprised that we were given front seats that could be fitted with a bassinet!  That definitely gave me some relief over the flight. Thank you KLM for your great service!

Tip: If you do not want to pay for seat selection, do your online check-in early as you can pick your seats then, and you will have more seat options.

For our return flight, we were assigned 2 centre seats. These seats could still be fitted with a bassinet, but an aisle seat is always easier! Sadly, we could not change the selection online. So I boarded the flight with some disappointment, but when we boarded we were so happy they assigned us those seats! We could raise the arm rest for the centre seats, so we got a couple seat, i.e. more room for us! So so pleased! I don’t think it’s the same for every plane ride, because we got the aisle seat on our journey there, and I am not sure if it’s the same for all rows on the plane ride. Just glad that so much thought was put in for travellers with babies and toddlers.

The flight crew also held conversations with passengers seated near them during take off and landing. I don’t usually see this on other flights – crew usually keep quiet or speak among themselves. I thought this made KLM very personable.

It also helps that the crew spoke good English too, understand that they learn English as a second language.

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Though XP looked a little rugged outm we survived! 🙂

 

So thank you KLM! Because of our awesome experience, we will be taking KLM to Bali next week 🙂 Remember to get your Flying Blue membership to earn miles!

 

Disclaimer: We were not sponsored for the flights and we paid full-fare:)

 

 

 

Travelling Europe with a Toddler: Plane or Train?

We travelled to Belgium, Netherlands and London in June 2016 with our 16 month old toddler. Please find my other posts on this adventure in this summary link

EasyJet, Source: Wikipedia

During our time in Europe, we made the following trips:

1. Singapore to Brussels via Amsterdam: KLM  (15 hours)

2. Within Belgium (Brussels, Bruges, Mechelen) : B-Rail  (1 hour to Bruges)

3. Mechelen to Amersfoort: B-Rail to Amsterdam, InterCity Direct to Amersfoort (~ 3 hours)

4. Amersfoort to Nijkerk : Taxi (~15 mins)

5. Nijkerk to Amsterdam: NS Rail (1.5 hours)

6. Amsterdam to London Return: EasyJet (1 hour)

7.  Amsterdam to Singapore: KLM (11 hours)

When my husband told me that we’d be travelling from Belgium to Netherlands by train and it would take 3 hours, I balked. A flight between Brussels and Amsterdam would take only 20 minutes, so I wasn’t sure if that was a great idea with all the luggage and train transfers. We live in Singapore, and if a car ride that takes more than 20 minutes, I’ll get a loud, protesting baby.

All in all, after all the travels, I’ve changed my opinion and now I would pick taking a train with my toddler. 

InterCity Train, Source: Wikepedia

 

Why pick the train?

1. More predictable timings compared with budget flights: Our EasyJet flight on the AMS-LON leg was delayed for 3 hours, of which an hour was spent on the tarmac. The plane ride which would have taken an hour + 2 hrs of check-in = 3 hours, turned into a 6 hour journey, which was longer than the 4 hr journey by train. The delay was due to strikes and bad weather. Our return flight was also delayed by an hour.

I’m not sure if this is a budget airline issue, or whether this is generally a problem travelling in Europe, whether by train or by plane. Understand that rail strikes were happening when we were in Belgium as well, but fortunately, our trip as not cancelled. At least there is less weather issues with train rides as there are with planes.

2. Less hassle: Being from a non-Euro country, meant we had a lot of security checks to go through. There was no checks for our journey between Belgium and Netherlands.

3. More leg space, more views, happier toddler :Somehow the problem of a toddler in a confined space was less pronounced for XP on a train than on a plane. She was really excited to take the trains even though the trips were longer. Every time a train passed, she would go “Toot Toot!” and wave at the train. We also picked seats that faced each other, so she had room to move around on the train, play with her sticker books and toys. Whereas for our plane rides, there’s only so much of sky that XP could take , and she really disliked the infant seat belts which meant a more fussy baby. Having various security checks and meals and diaper changes reduced the extra points we would have given for the “free time” we got at the airport –  we didn’t get to shop much and we were really rushing from point to point.

What do you think? Would you travel on a plane or a train with your toddler in Europe?

12 days Netherlands, Belgium, London with toddler

I’m not done writing up our Perth trip yet, and here I am, writing about a new trip already!

Travelling to Europe with a 16-month old toddler is daunting enough to quell any desire to travel for the travel-deprived mummy. Think long-plane rides, bumpy roads, poor connections = cranky baby

But W had a work trip to Belgium and Netherlands that coincided with our 5th year wedding anniversary and hence we decided to come against all odds and go ahead with it 🙂

So here’s our itinerary and 7 tips to travelling in Europe with a toddler from Singapore.

Belgium

Day 1. Brussels
Day 2. Bruges
Day 3. Brussels
Day 4. Mechelen (W work trip)

Netherlands

Days 5 – 7. Nijkerk ( W work trip)
Day 8. Amsterdam

London

Day 9 – 11. London

Netherlands

Day 12. Amsterdam
Day 13. Home sweet home

What I would change:

If this weren’t a work trip, I’d spend a bit more time in Amsterdam, used it as a base to see a bit more of Netherlands and fly back from London.

That would have reduced our travel time significantly. But anyhows, W needed to fly back from Amsterdam and we wanted to head to London to meet our friends.

Watch this space for more blogposts hopefully, if life doesn’t catch up too quickly!

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Ciao and cya soon!

 Mummygoosey is a stay home mum to an active toddler. We are based in Singapore.  This blogpost is part of a series to Travelling in Europe with a Toddler. We will be linking this summary page to the other pages of the series.