Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Library #2 Review - FAIL

I was so excited to find Mandarin learning resources at our library the other month. We visited the library in a neighboring town, and while they had rows of Spanish bilingual books, their Mandarin Chinese section was small enough for me to check completely out - 3 books. And while technically they do have both English and Mandarin Chinese characters, they don't include the pinyin-so for someone trying to learn Mandarin-they provide only a glimpse into cultural and historical aspects of China, but none of the sounds.

Mouse Match by Ed Young  

A traditional tale about parents of a young mouse who search for the best groom for their daughter. They seek the sun, clouds, mountains.... each object referring them to another, greater, more powerful being until they end up at a mouse. I don't get the draw of this story whatsoever. The artwork was dark and the book opens up accordion style to show the whole story at once (not really very practical). The Chinese characters are on the reverse side with no artwork. My daughter has a decent attention span and patience for books, but this one was not a hit. I quickly had to change from reading the words to talking with her about the pictures - which is fine for working on her love of reading.  I was just disappointed that this was not a tool to help us with Mandarin.

The Magic Brocade, A Tale of China Retold by Aaron Shepard and Illustrated by Xiaojun Li

My daughter liked the illustrations in this book. Overall, I liked them as well-they are high quality watercolors that give the book a dream like quality, fitting for the storyline. I tend to shy away from any books that mention "Magic" of any kind, but took this one so I could review it as part of this blog. The story itself is kind of sad and strange involving fairies-we quickly went to talking about the pictures instead.  At least the Chinese characters are on the same page as the English-but no pinyin, so not helpful.

Lady White Snake, A Tale from Chinese Opera Retold by Aaron Shepard and Illustrated by Song Nan Zhang
This is not a children's book. I think the target audience would be for someone high school age or older who was going to see the opera in person. It has a lot of helpful information in the back about the history of locations and items in the story.  The pictures have a lot going on with them-so E and I were able to look at those together. The Chinese characters are on the same page as the English in this book as well.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Language Stars - Week 7

We've moved onto new topics this week at Language Stars - emotions and family relations. When I saw the curriculum sheet online, I was curious how this would be taught because I don't think my two year old understands all of these emotions in English.

We started with love and hearts.  I'm not sure if E understood, but it was sweet. The craft was coloring and folding this picture - so we practiced saying "I love you" and "I love you a lot" or "I love you so much."

We also reviewed family members - mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister and brother.  I'm not sure if she understood this part either-as the family looked a bit different than ours. I'm planning on printing out some pictures of our family along with the words and practicing again.  Thanks to Kai-lan, I think she understands grandma and grandpa already.

We also spent more time this week reviewing some basic statements like:
  1. My name is __
  2. I am __ years old
  3. I live in ___
E did so-so with the echoing of the statements. I think she did catch on to the first 2, but I don't think she understands we live in America or Illinois or even the correct city yet. Something for us to work on.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Move over Dora, Kai-lan is our new favorite!

Dora has been a favorite of my 2 year old's.  She goes along with her on the adventures, responds when Dora asks her to-in English or Spanish.  It has made me wonder if maybe we should have signed up for Spanish instead of Mandarin! Until...

Kai-lan's Great Trip to China came in the mail from Netflix yesterday. Instant hit.

I've read reviews of how Kai-lan was essentially a Chinese version of Dora, and to an extent she is.. but it is different. The episodes don't have the same set-up like Dora's use of the map, backpack and three steps to make it to a destination.  Instead the episodes are more about certain topics and her friends include her Grandpa. How sweet is that? 

We've watched it one time through and had a chance to practice some of our established vocabulary plus learn some new words-like "happy," "grandpa," "grandma," and "pull." Most of the episode is in English-with just a few words in Mandarin Chinese.  While I don't really like to have the TV on much-I certainly am happy to have found another cute option for helping our Mandarin learning.

The Nick Jr. website has a few print-ables as well for Ni Hao Kailan.  Here is a link to number flashcards. I appreciate that they have the Chinese characters and pinyin on the cards.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Language Stars - Week 6

Week 6 was all about animals. Our makeup class at the other center covered the same topic. So, we had a very similar lesson at our regular location.  The teachers did present some of the items differently-which I appreciated.

The kids played a game trying to find the different animals under cups. I don't know if they didn't understand the game or if it was too tricky for them-but it seemed like this wasn't their favorite activity. 

We had snacks and used place mats with pictures of 5 different animals to help learn the vocabulary.  We've retained: duck, cow, cat, horse and pig.

I really like this art print on Etsy.  I like the flashcard style and the simple monochrome and modern design of the duck.

I'm drawn towards ducks.  I read that my great-great-great grandfather and his twin brother raised ducks and sold duck eggs in Thailand (then Siam) before they were "discovered" and traveled the world. But that is a story for another day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Language Stars-Online Resources

Once you've enrolled in Language Stars, you have access to a special part of their website for students. I have found this extremely helpful as I still struggle to pronounce things correctly.  We use this a few times a week.  I haven't seen such a thorough offering from any other language learning school.

This includes:
  1. Mandarin Character Practice Sheets - roughly 20 vocabulary words with step by step directions on how to create the characters. I've printed a few of these out but we have not tried them yet.
  2. Learning Topic Sheets -  These are the exact ones used in class-just smaller. I print out a few copies of these for around the house.  I try to place them near like objects for review.  Online, you are able to click on a button and have a native speaker say the vocabulary words. I use this feature a lot.
  3. Nursery Rhyme -The same rhyme that we do in class- and again with a button that will have someone say it for you correctly. We've been doing the same rhyme for a few weeks now-so it is becoming more familiar.
  4. Song -Song with lyrics in Mandarin and English. Some of these are the same as on the Language Stars cd. All are playable from the website.
  5. Coloring Page - Basic coloring sheets covering the vocabulary items from class. This week we are reviewing farm animals and pets - so we have a copy of this next to our barn.
  6. Activity Sheets - These are activities for parents and kids to do at home to reinforce what was taught in class. They are game type activities and we haven't tried them yet. They seem a bit advanced-but I plan to give them a try in the upcoming weeks.

One thing I would like to see on their website that is not there yet is a pinyin pronunciation guide for Mandarin Chinese.  While I'm able to piece some things together from the rest of the vocabulary, it would be helpful for me to have a resource to go to when trying to sound out something that is not part of the Language Stars curriculum.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Peking Acrobats Show

We took in the Peking Acrobats show last night for some Chinese cultural experience. It was part of my mom's birthday gift. The theater was crowded and the show was really amazing.  E does a gymnastics class once a week-so I pointed out things that we're working on in class - back bends and handstands.

I think my favorite act was the parasol balancing. The acrobats are so strong and skilled-they really make it look simple. The biggest crowd pleaser had to be the man who stacked chairs maybe 8 high and then did a one armed hand stand on top.You can watch some of the show here.
According to E, it was "Really really really really really good!!"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Play & Learn Chinese with Mei Mei, vol. 1 - DVD Review

This is the second DVD we've watched from Mei Mei.  This one was much more helpful for us in our vocabulary building and practice.  Mei Mei goes through a topic, then a child does as well.  We're only familiar with numbers, some body parts, and some greetings at this point-so we found these sections the most helpful.  She also covers family, actions, games, songs, and ages.

The DVD is a little dated in my opinion, but it doesn't take away from the effectiveness.  Like Mei Mei's Dance and Learn, we'll check this out from our library again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Language Stars - Week 5 Make Up Class

E was sick with a cold and we missed our regular class at Language Stars. Luckily-they do allow make ups and they can be done at any of their locations!  We have a fairly busy week scheduled so I was glad to find a class at another center that worked for us-it was twice as far away for us, but worked out well.

There were just two kids in this class and they seemed younger than E. The teacher used a lot of songs in this class - including Old McDonald and My Body Makes Music.  E was not quite herself-but the other kids really participated with responding to the teacher and repeating things she said. I was impressed-we covered a lot of vocabulary today including colors, numbers (to 20), farm and pet animals, and body parts.

We did a craft with a duck reviewing colors and counting while coloring it and taping different colored feathers on it.  E was thrilled that fruit loops were again on the menu today.

She did say one word to the teacher today - "Zai Jian" as we were headed out the door.

Lantern Festival at Lu's

Dinner out last night for Lantern Festival at our local Chinese restaurant, Lu's.  We had a chance to practice a bit of what we've learned so far-hello, goodbye and thank you.

We won prizes for guessing the answers to riddles: chopsticks and this little cup.

E's fortune this time was: "Executive ability is prominent in your make up." Quite fitting for this two year old!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

China's Bravest Girl

China's Bravest Girl is the legend of Hua Mu Lan.  It is written in a poem in this version by Charlie Chin.  The pictures are sweet with enough going on in them to keep E's interest.  We've read it daily since we found it at our library. We can only read this in English since there is no pinyin accompanying the Chinese characters.  I wonder if we'll ever be able to read the characters! Here is one passage from the book that is my favorite part:
"The ocean hides the oyster.
The oyster hides a pearl.
Bright armor and heavy helmet
hid China's bravest girl."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Language Stars-Week 4

There is a new girl in class! I believe all of the other kids in class have at least one Mandarin speaking parent.  I don't believe I've mentioned this but the other moms in the class are lovely-they all have more experience with Mandarin than I do and are very helpful if I'm unsure of how to pronounce something. 

We again covered winter clothing and counting.  Additionally we started learning colors.  The story, The Mitten, was told in Mandarin using an English copy of the book.  This is a sweet book in any language.  E understands the words for fox, frog, rabbit and bear.  The kids decorated mittens with stickers after their snack of goldfish crackers and Fruit Loops (used to reinforce the color vocabulary). E has not had Fruit Loops before and loved them-I suppose a few won't hurt. After today we can both confidently say the word for "mitten" - shou tao!

It has become clear to me that I will not be able to retain much from week to week unless we pick up our usage of Mandarin words at home.  I'm also hoping to find a program that I can use-perhaps the Pimsleur Approach? I like the idea of 30 minute lessons I can listen to each day.