Today’s post focuses on Ma LiPing (马立平), a person as well as a type of Chinese language curriculum she created for the Chinese American children of Chinese immigrants from Mainland China. This type of curriculum is best for children who are already fluent in Mandarin Chinese in that it is the heritage language of their family. This is not ideal for people who have no background in Chinese and are learning as a second language.
From my cursory examination and Googling, Ma LiPing sounds awesome and I wish it were available in Traditional Chinese. Even with that in mind, I’m tempted to buy it and then “translate” into Traditional for my own sake. I wonder if I could license it from them?
Anyhow, Ma LiPing is in some ways, a total philosophy and way of life. The general idea is that students are taught the most common characters used in the Chinese language (for reading books, newspapers, etc.). There is no pinyin taught since it’s for native speakers. (Even though kids in China initially learn characters with pinyin just as kids in Taiwan learn characters with zhuyin, they drop using pinyin around the third grade so most children’s books do not have pinyin in them.)
Through Ma LiPing, students are expected to know 1,500 of the most frequent words used in general Chinese books by 4th grade. In the 5th grade, to teach students to input Chinese via computer. And by the end of 10th grade, students are exposed to 2,794 characters.
In fact, this series reminds me of the Sagebooks in the sense that it emphasizes literacy of common words over learning words based on ease of recognition and writing. Unfortunately, Sagebooks is only for 500 characters.
Even though the Ma LiPing site is all in Simplified Chinese, you can get the gist of it using Google Translate (which I did). The site is fairly robust in terms of answering questions about the founder, curriculum, philosophy, FAQs, usage, lesson pacing, teacher training, phasing in to Chinese schools, sample materials, why some schools fail at implementation, and a lot of other information. It is incredibly thorough.
Or if you are not interested in wading through a passable Google Translated version of the site, you can try the American Chinese School’s site which does a pretty good job of summing up the Ma LiPing philosophy.
As the American Chinese School states, “the target learners of MLP curriculum are those students who already understand and speak Chinese at home as heritage Chinese, not a second language. If your child can not at least understand Chinese at home and the family can not provide a continuing language environment, learning will become increasingly difficult as grades progress.”
According to Oliver Tu, three years ago, he visited a Saturday Chinese school in NC that used Ma LiPing and sat through one fourth grade class. He spoke to the teacher afterwards and discovered that some kids do better with curriculum using pinyin first and some do better with 马立平’s curriculum. But, many kids using 马立平’s curriculum have to switch to the pinyin classes at ~ 5-6th grade since otherwise, they just couldn’t keep up.
If your family goes to a Chinese school that uses Ma LiPing, I would LOVE to hear from you about your experiences and feedback!
Ma LiPing (马立平中文教材)
Site Language: Simplified
Physical Locations: 475 N. Whisman Rd # 200, Mountain View, CA 94043
Products: proprietary textbooks, workbooks, CDs, flashcards, teacher training materials, some free sample materials provided on site, AP Chinese
Product Languages: Simplified, NO pinyin
Did you know I wrote a book on how to teach your kids Chinese? You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link) and it’s conveniently titled, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.
It’s full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark. Find most of the answers to your questions about how you can help your kids learn, speak, and read Chinese.