My Personal Favorite Posts of 2015

Welp. It’s the end of 2015 and you have now suffered through my Top Chinese Posts of 2015 as well as my Top Non-Chinese Posts of 2015. And as much as I enjoyed them, my most popular posts weren’t always the same as my personal favorites. Plus, you know you’re bored at home so you need stuff to read as you fart around the interwebz. Why not MY stuff?

Here then, are my Favorite Posts of 2015 in no particular order.

1) Longing for Grace – Deep down, I think we all yearn to be given absolution, to be given grace in abundance. My thoughts on how my lack of grace hurts both myself and my children.

2) The Terrible Fear in Tenderness – Wherein I share of my difficulty in being emotionally present (as well as vulnerable) with my family.

3) Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies – Even though this was in the Top 10 Non-Chinese Posts of 2015, I think it bears re-posting. I want to convey that policing our daughter’s bodies, as protecting as it seems, just reinforces the lie that the problem is with our daughter’s bodies and not the men and women who choose to violate them.

4) We Are Not Things – Not enough people saw this post and I want to shout it to everyone and everything. We are not things. Also, it is a gushy love letter to Mad Max: Fury Road.

5) Realistic Expectations for Learning Chinese – This post was in the Top 10 Chinese Posts of 2015 but I love it because I am a combination of helpful and mean (I mean, “honest.”) Because seriously, folks have some completely delusional beliefs and there is nothing I like better than pointing them out.

6) How to Gauge Chinese Fluency – This was also in the Top 10 Chinese Posts of 2015 and I love it for the same reason I loved the previous post. Because White Sense of Fluency is a real thing and it really pisses me off.

7) Sacking Up – Wherein I educate my readers on the origin of “Sack up” as well as go off-topic with random musings.

If you are a super-dedicated reader, likely you have already read these posts. I thank you for your loyalty and patronage! And also, if you also liked them, feel free to share on Facebook with your friends. After all, they might be bored, too. And you have the cure for their boredom. What a hero you are! A legend in the making!

Oh, and um, Happy New Year. See you all on the other side!

Top 10 Non-Chinese Posts of 2015

Well, it’s both the Monday after a holiday as well as a Monday of a holiday week so my guess is either you’re at work with very little to do, or at home with a ton to do but you want to procrastinate. Thank goodness, I live to serve. Here, for your procrastinatey endeavors, are my Top 10 Non-Chinese Posts of 2015.

1) Accepting Mediocrity – What do you do when you started out high-achieving but then you got burned out and are now stuck somewhere you never thought you’d be: Mediocrity?

2) Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies – “Policing our daughter’s bodies, as protecting as it seems, just reinforces the lie that the problem is with our daughter’s bodies and not the men and women who choose to violate them.”

3) That Time I Got “Ching Chang Chonged” at Mini Golf with My Kids – The last time someone hurled “ching chang chong” at me, I was in elementary school. Thirty years later, I can say that is no longer the case.

4) Just Another Reminder that I Don’t Belong – “What does it say about this woman that she has so little exposure to Asians that she thinks everyone is foreign born? And doesn’t see anything wrong with that assumption?”

5) Shiny, Delicate, Lovely Things – Even though my friend’s jewelry shop is no longer running my promotional code, you should STILL check out her gorgeous pieces (and of course, BUY THEM).

6) Being Invisible – Is my super hero power being invisible? If so, I want a new one, please.

7) My Parenting Secret: Mediocrity – What’s my parenting secret? Apparently, it’s doing the bare minimum to keep the children alive.

8) When Did I Cease to be a Person? – “A few weeks ago, Dr. T asked me to think about what would nurture me as a person. I had no idea what she was talking about.”

9) Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking – “I’m so tired of the church being silent and irrelevant on things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah. My eternal soul matters. But my life here and now matters, too.”

10) Kondo-ing My Life – “Is what I am doing bringing me joy? If not, then don’t do it. Only do the things that bring you joy.”

Alright, that’s it. Now get back to work. (Or other areas of the interwebs.) Happy Monday!

How to Get Your Kid to Speak Chinese

**This piece was originally part of a series of posts. You can find the updated version, along with exclusive new chapters, in the ebook, (affiliate link) So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese

I confess: this is a somewhat misleading title since truthfully, you really can’t force your child to speak Chinese if they really don’t want to – at least not without some major relational and communication costs.

Also: this article may be less useful to folks who are in non-heritage and/or non-speaking families. Mostly because if you don’t speak Chinese, your opportunities for your child to speak Chinese are limited and you have to get creative with your methods since it’s not as if you can verify that they are indeed speaking Chinese, let alone correctly.

Plus, it’s possible your child might be more excited to either “show off” their Chinese since the response to their speaking Chinese (especially if they are white or not ethnically Chinese) will likely be amazement and praise due to the novelty and not actual ability whereas if your child does have Chinese heritage, the expectation (however unfair) will be that they should speak Chinese anyway so unless they are fluent or native level, there really isn’t anything marvelous about it (even though it really is) and quite frankly, why isn’t their Chinese better than it is – don’t they care about their heritage at all?

Furthermore, many ethnically Chinese kids often do not want to speak Chinese because everyone else speaks English and why should they be compelled to speak a language that is not their native tongue? And besides, everything is in English anyway because we’re in America and it’s really hard and seriously, no one speaks Chinese and please just stop making them try and communicate in a language in which they are hamstrung by their lack of vocabulary and comprehension and ability.

Incidentally, this is not a bitter rehash of White Sense of Fluency (WSOF) or if you prefer, American Sense of Fluency (ASOF). Just a statement of fact in how our world works right now. Also, I readily concede that just because your child is not ethnically Chinese and also learning Mandarin does NOT guarantee that they will be excited about speaking Mandarin. In fact, they might experience similar objections their ethnically Chinese counterparts experience. Really, it just depends on your kid.

So, tl;dr: You can’t force your kid to speak Chinese – at least not without major consequences and fractures in your relationship. Personally, I don’t think that is worth causing major damage in the parent/child relationship.

However, with that said, I often think that parents (especially Chinese speaking parents) give in too early and too easily with their kids. This is not to judge you if you are one of the parents who have given up. After all, it’s hard to be constantly waging a never-ending battle to get your kid to speak Chinese. It’s hard to consistently speak Chinese (especially if you’re not all that great at it in the first place – or used to speaking Chinese) and require them to speak it back.

Truthfully, I’m not you or your kid. It might only seem as if it was too early or too easily from my outsider’s perspective. I have no idea. And honestly, I have no idea if any of my suggestions will work for you (or for non-Chinese speaking parents, for that matter).

So really, this is all just a lengthy caveat and YMMV (although if you’re a long time reader, you’ll note that this is also one of my briefer disclaimers). Also also: these suggestions might work better when the kids are younger. Anyhow, here then, are some of my suggestions for how to get your kid to speak Chinese:

1) Decide if you even want your kid to speak Chinese. 

No, seriously.

It seems like such a bullshit answer but really, is this what you really want? Because remember: Chinese fluency requires intention.

So, do you want your kid to speak Chinese? And if so, how fluently? And if fluently, the more fluently you want them to speak, the more work you will have to do. How much effort is too much? And at what point will you say, “This isn’t worth it?”

My two cents? (Alright, with the amount of words I’m outputting, it’s more like two dollars.) If it is to the point where you and your child are fighting all the time, your kid doesn’t even want to speak or communicate with you, or your child doesn’t even want to touch anything Chinese with a ten foot pole, maybe it is time to either pull back on the Chinese speaking thing or reconsider your tactics.

Healthy relationships with your children trumps Chinese fluency any day of the week.

Also, if you decide after reading this post that you don’t particularly want to put in the effort of having your kids speak Chinese, that’s okay. They will still go on to have perfectly good, complete, and happy lives. Plus, their Chinese journey isn’t necessarily over. There is always college or after college. I mean, seriously. As long as they’re alive, there is still a chance.

dumb and dumber

2) Do not respond to your children unless they speak Chinese. 

Obviously, please use common sense. If your child is injured and calling for help in English, that perhaps isn’t the best time to insist on them asking for help in Chinese.

When I was little, I didn’t realize my parents could even speak English (they are Taiwanese immigrants). As a result, I had little choice but to speak to them in Chinese because otherwise, how would they understand me?

As I got older, my parents refused to respond to me unless I spoke to them in Chinese. I quickly got the picture that if I wanted anything at all from my parents, I would have to ask for it in Chinese. When I got into my teens, I have no idea what language we communicated in. It was likely a motley of Chinese and English and sometimes, Chinglish.

There are variations of this method, of course.

Until recently, I told my children in Chinese that I didn’t understand them. A blatant lie since I obviously speak and understand English just fine. However, four year old Gamera now calls me out on this because of course. She tells me that I understand English because I can speak it. I’m just grateful she humored me as long as she did.

Six year old Cookie Monster is much kinder and has never commented on my obvious falsehood. He just switches to Chinese and repeats what he just said (although he does sometimes require a few reminders before he switches).

Now, I have started to either ask them to tell me in Chinese and if I get push back, I say that I want them to practice their Chinese because it’s really easy to forget and lose their Chinese if they don’t. It helps that I have first hand experience with losing Chinese language skills so I use myself as an example. And since Gamera enjoys being superior to me, she likes to remind me how I used the Chinese word for “sticker” when I should have used “tape.” This tact has been successful thus far.

When they get to the point where they don’t care about losing their Chinese, I may go to my parent’s method of ignoring them until they do speak Chinese.

3) Create a Chinese Language Ecosystem (CLE) as much as possible. 

It is difficult to speak Chinese if you do not have the vocabulary to support what you want to say or the comprehension to understand what someone is saying to you. The only way to boost vocabulary and comprehension is to increase Chinese exposure.

To that end, your best bet is to create as comprehensive CLE as possible. Many of the remaining suggestions expand upon things you can use when creating your CLE. (Protip: maximize your car time with the kids. You have a captive audience. I constantly have Chinese songs and stories playing in the car. If you have a DVD player in the car, you can have them watch movies or shows in Chinese.)

How do you create a CLE? In short, as much as possible:

– Speak to your kids in Chinese

– Have them consume Chinese media (either original works or Chinese translations) by watching Chinese YouTube videos/DVDs/movies; listen to Chinese songs/stories; read Chinese books (I often translate simple children’s board books regardless of the book’s written language); use apps in Chinese; etc.

– Tell stories in Chinese

– Attend Chinese playdates/playgroups/classes/extracurricular classes/cultural programs

– If you need childcare, hire a Chinese speaking au pair/nanny/day care

– Travel/Extended stays overseas in Chinese speaking countries

For more in-depth explanation on what a CLE is and entails, I highly recommend Oliver Tu’s excellent post about the CLE and its applications. Shoot, in general, just go to his blog and read everything he has written. His daughters are nine and twelve so he is much further along on this Chinese language journey – not to mention, incredibly successful. I pretty much just copy whatever he does or recommends.

4) Bribery.

In general, I would refrain from punishing your kids when they do NOT speak Chinese since that will cause a negative association with speaking Chinese. (I do, however, break this rule when my children start speaking predominantly English. I tell them if they do not speak in Chinese it is because they are watching too much English YouTube/media and I start pulling back their English media time and amp up their Chinese media time.)

I’m pretty sure bribery is self-explanatory.

Reward the behavior you want. In our house, I do not enforce our screen time limits if they are watching anything Chinese or are using Chinese apps.

5) Hire help.

If your Chinese isn’t up to snuff (or you just want more support), hire tutors/conversation partners/mother’s helpers/nannies/conversation only Chinese classes. Remember, the focus here is in speaking and conversational skills – not necessarily reading and writing skills.

Additionally, your children might respond in Chinese more willingly to people who they ONLY associate with Chinese speaking. Plus, children can often be evil and listen to or speak in Chinese with anyone except you, their parent.

6) Find Chinese speaking peers.

This one is a little more difficult because most kids will resort to speaking in English to each other since that’s the norm. Also, if your kids are really proficient in Chinese, the older your children get, the more difficult it will be to find peers with comparable Chinese levels unless they are recent immigrants. That, of course, brings about a different set of difficulties in terms of relatability, and the recent immigrant’s parents likely wanting their child’s English to improve more so than practicing their Chinese. Perhaps a bargain can be made.

7) Tell older siblings you need their help to teach their younger siblings Chinese. 

In multi-child families, the eldest child usually has the best Chinese skills. (Not always, but usually. Also, sorry to my baby brother for ruining your Chinese.) Mostly, this is due to the fact that once the older child learns English, they will most likely speak to their siblings in English because it is easier for them, and as a result, their siblings will a) have far earlier English exposure and b) have far more English exposure in the household.

Some variations on this include: telling your older children that their younger sibling only understands Chinese or enlisting their help in preventing their younger sibling from losing their Chinese.

Whatever helps you promote speaking Chinese between your children. Personally, I think this is easier when the kids are small versus when they’re older and will require more sophisticated words.

8) Go overseas for camps, classes, or extended trips.

If financially feasible (because tickets, food, lodging, and tuition are not cheap and add up), consider going overseas. The focus at these camps will be to promote Chinese speaking – however you still run into the same problem of kids speaking mostly in English if the camp is catered to overseas Chinese. Another option would be to enroll your children in camps for local kids (but just know that there will likely be a huge communication barrier even if your child is really good at Chinese).

9) Encourage your kids to create performance art in Chinese. 

Does your kid love Minecraft? My Little Pony? Singing? Acting? Writing? Whatever it is, encourage your kid to make videos/songs/music videos/fan vids/short stories/whatever in Chinese. This combines bribery (play all the Minecraft you want as long as it’s in Chinese), relevance (stuff they’re interested in), and narcissism (seeing their work shared on YouTube or amongst friends).

Plus, I’m sure there’s all sorts of educational theory on how this synthesizes language into different parts of their brain or something sciencey.

10) Use the time-honored tradition of Chinglish.

Allow your child to speak as much Chinese as possible and to sub in English if they do not know the words in Chinese.

Now, some folks object to this route entirely because they feel it either dilutes their efforts or gives their children a way to slack off and cheat. However, I am of the opinion that any Chinese is better than no Chinese and that many children (myself included) would rather be silent and not risk looking foolish than to try something in Chinese only to stall, grope around desperately for the right word, and then fail miserably.

Instead, allow your child to say in English the parts they don’t know in Chinese. Then, show them how to say the phrase or word in Chinese and have them repeat it. It now becomes a teachable moment and your child will have a better shot of remembering the new vocabulary because they needed the word versus some random word they have to memorize as part of a lesson.

Chinglish allows your kid to attempt to speak Chinese without losing too much face or the expectation of perfection. It can be freeing.

11) Have realistic expectations.

I wrote a long post about having realistic expectations for learning Chinese in general. This will likely be more along the same lines.

– Be reasonable.

– Learning new skills (especially a language as complicated as Chinese) requires time.

– If your child has limited exposure to Chinese, it isn’t really fair for you to expect that their spoken Chinese will be fluent.

– Even if your child can understand Chinese, if you do not encourage them reply to you in Chinese, they will never learn to speak Chinese with confidence or proficiency.

– If you try to make your child speak to you in Chinese but do not equip them with the appropriate vocabulary, they will still be unable to communicate with you to the level and nuance they would be able to in English.

My friend, Irish Twins, has a great analogy. Imagine that your children have two toolboxes, one Chinese and one English. You want your kids to build a house with only one of the toolboxes and you want them to use the Chinese toolbox. Unfortunately, the Chinese toolbox is tiny and only consists of a hammer, some nails, and a phillips head screwdriver. There is no way your kid can build a house of the same magnitude as they could with the fully equipped English toolbox.

– Unless you can predict the future, do not be too pleased with your child’s Chinese before they start any type of English school full time (be it daycare, preschool, Kindergarten, etc.). This is not to discount your hard work up until that point, but that is totally counting your chickens before they’ve hatched. For sure, the better your child’s Chinese is at this stage, the more set up for success you will be – but by no means is anything guaranteed.

Until your child starts English schooling, their English exposure will be limited and Chinese will have no competition. But once English schooling begins, that’s when the appeal, allure, and relevancy of English will encroach on their Chinese. (Not to mention social pressure to conform and be liked by their peers.)

Trust me. Unless you have an intentional plan of action, your child’s fluent Chinese will disappear faster than a blink of an eye.

Well, now that I’ve thoroughly depressed and overwhelmed us all, hopefully, I have mentioned a few things that can help in our long road to Chinese speaking fluency. I would love to hear your thoughts on what has or hasn’t worked for your family. Let me know in the comments.

Should Your Child Learn Traditional or Simplified Characters?

traditional or simplified**This piece was originally part of a series of posts. You can find the updated version, along with exclusive new chapters, in the ebook, (affiliate link) So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.  Special thanks to Mind Mannered for many of the references re: Traditional Chinese. I would not have been able to write much of this post without her diligent work and research. Thank you!

ETA: Also, I particularly want to apologize to Mind Mannered. I am very sorry if my laziness and lack of due diligence caused her harm in any way. My original post used her Tables without her permission. I didn’t realize she had done all the hard work of making the charts and tables in the references into a comprehensible format. I have removed her proprietary work and included the original charts instead. The original Table 1, I no longer included because the abstract is behind a pay-wall. However, I have now gone through and added links to the original references when possible. 

**A/N2: Also, this is a highly sensitive topic for some so please be respectful. I will employ my commenting policy with a tyrannical hand both here and on my Facebook pages. I presume the admins will monitor the threads on the pages I do not “own.” Don’t be a dick. Also? I get to decide who’s being a dick. You’ve been warned. Behave. 

I’ve taken a few weeks off from the series because my brain broke while writing it. Who knew I had so much to say and required so many words with which to say it? Furthermore, some of these topics require a lot of background research and reading and although I would love to spend all my time doing that, my family actually requires attention. (I know, I know. RUDE.)

Anyhow, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by launching myself head first into a somewhat contentious and heated debate on Traditional and Simplified Chinese Characters. (What can I say? I’m a giver.)

For those of you without a personal stake in the matter, the issue may seem a bit silly and perhaps, unnecessarily muddies the water in Mandarin Immersion schools and curriculum discussions. However, it is a rather important thing to consider and decide because even though they are both the written language for Chinese, they are different enough that someone who only reads Simplified may have difficulty reading Traditional (and vice versa).

So, what is the difference?

Traditional Characters are Chinese characters that do not contain the newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946 by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These characters are used primarily in the Republic of China (ROC aka Taiwan), Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas Chinese in South Asia.

Simplified Characters are the standardized Chinese characters in use in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the 1950s, the PRC drastically simplified many Chinese characters on average by about half their strokes in order to promote literacy. (See, even Chinese people thought Chinese was hard to learn!)

Okokok. Those are pretty dry definitions and actually do little to help folks completely unfamiliar with Chinese characters which to be fair, likely all look the same to the illiterate.

After all, how does a person who has little to no first hand experience with Chinese characters decide what their kid should learn?

For those of you who see the rather intimidating block of text below, here’s the tl;dr:

If you do not have a particular preference, choose whatever will be more easily supported by your time, interest, resources, and abilities.

If you have just a little bit more time, I refer you to my Fancy Flowchart™ (aka: Mandarin Mama’s Guide to Deciding Whether Your Child Should Learn Traditional or Simplified Chinese Characters) that should help 80% of you out there. As for the remaining 20%, let’s be real. No flowchart, no matter how amazing, would suffice. But fear not! There’s more info after the Fancy Flowchart™.

(As a side note, I am inordinately pleased with myself for creating this flow chart. It’s a sad but real thing that it took me HOURS to create. But I will forgive myself because most of that time was spent trying and discarding different free flow chart software both online and off. Now, if I can figure out how to make it Pinnable, I will win the internets for today.)

Traditional or Simplified Characters Flowchart

For those of you who do not know, there is a raging debate within the Chinese community about whether Traditional or Simplified characters are better and why. Some of it is due to political ideology, some based on preference, and some based on practicality. If you are really curious, may I suggest to you this link.

It will be no surprise to many of you that I preferred Traditional Characters – and staunchly. However, as much as I personally prefer Traditional characters, that doesn’t necessarily follow that I think your child should learn Traditional. (Of course, it would benefit me if more folks chose Traditional because then there would be more materials easily available in the US, but that is an entirely different topic and not altogether germane to this particular discussion.)

In true fact, my opinion on what people should choose has changed greatly. I find that the further along I am on this journey of teaching my kids to be literate in Chinese, the more nuanced and pragmatic my opinion becomes.

When I was younger, I was told Mao butchered the Chinese language in order to pass along a Communist agenda. After all, why else would you take the “heart” out of “love” and truncate characters associated with goodness and virtue but leave whole all the characters associated with evil and disobedience?

(Incidentally, whether this is true or not, I’ll leave up to you to decide. But also know that many of the Simplified characters were changed to older or cursive forms of the characters, so it’s not as if Simplified characters were just made up out of whole cloth. There are rhymes and reasons to the simplification.)

In fact, I was so against Simplified due to this “Communist agenda” that I had at first, refused to allow Cookie Monster to go to one of his current Chinese teachers because she only taught Simplified. I didn’t want him learning to read and write Simplified Chinese. It seemed contrary to all that I had been taught and believed about the beauty of the Chinese language. Plus, I was worried that he would be confused learning both Simplified and Traditional characters – as well as prefer Simplified because it would seem easier.

And yet now, I can’t imagine Cookie Monster not attending class with this teacher. She is wonderful, kind, and fantastic. (I had initially been intimidated because she seemed super Tiger Mom and I was really worried Cookie Monster’s spirit would be crushed. I was so, so wrong.)

Cookie Monster has no problem recognizing the same Chinese character in both Traditional and Simplified. He just accepts that there are different ways to write the same word and rolls with it. I think that is a good way to go.

Here’s the thing: Language isn’t static – no matter how we may wish it.

After all, American English evolved from British English – which itself has evolved from Old and Middle English (which is nigh incomprehensible to us modern folks). Yes, the different spellings, phrases, and terminology isn’t as drastic as the differences between Simplified and Traditional, but you get the idea. My point is that they all still manage to be English and neither are Old English.

There will always be people who lament change to language. (Confer “literally” now also meaning “figuratively” and joining the dubious ranks of “cleave” being both itself and its antonym. Boggles the mind.) I am often one of those lamenters. But I also recognize that language is a living, breathing organism, constantly changing and morphing, depending less on official definition and more so common use. So, if the common person is woefully ignorant, so thus changes the language.

And say you object to Simplified characters on an ideological basis (ie: Communism is bad, etc.). I get it. I do. However, you speak English, right? Americans, the English, and other English speaking countries have totally edited their history and language to erase the past and their colonial and genocidal tendencies. That has not led to my boycotting English.

Or perhaps you speak Spanish? Or Japanese? Or German? Or Russian? Or Arabic?  I mean, seriously. If we’re going to argue against a written language based on bad shit that people speaking/reading/writing the language did (eg: mass genocide; fascism; you name it, a country’s done it), then quite frankly, we should just all start speaking Esperanto.

But I digress.

Anyhow, for the rest of this article (and really, any other articles about Traditional and Simplified characters), you will need a basic understanding of how a Chinese character is formed. I promise it’s relatively painless and quick. (I also blatantly copy/pasted from Wikipedia because: laziness.)

Ok. Here are the basic types of Chinese characters and what they mean. If you want actual examples of characters, click through to their respective links.

If you are a language nerd like I am, you can find out more here (The last three are links to GuavaRama because quite frankly, she’s awesome and breaks things down in very simple terms. She is, after all, teaching her young children.):

1) How a Chinese character is formed.

2) Chinese character structure

3) Chinese character shapes

4) How to write beautiful Chinese characters

Alright, enough preamble. (Good Lord, I babble.) Here then, are some more of my abbreviated thoughts on Traditional/Simplified characters. I am using bullet points because quite frankly, I’m tired and it’s far more concise and easier to visualize.

(A/N3: Much of this information would not be possible without the fruit of Mind Mannered and her careful research, summary, and references. Seriously, without them, my post would be mostly opinion, conjecture, and wikipedia links. All of the academic references and a good portion of what follows comes from Mind Mannered’s summary as indicated in the references, but I also include many of my own points.)

Traditional

1) Strengthens parsing semantic and phonetic information due to the way Traditional characters are structured and formed (see above). (1)

a) Provides more visual cues to support reading and helps facilitate learning and character recognition. (1)

i) Researchers have explained how this often helps young children recognize Traditional characters more easily than Simplified characters. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

b) Focuses more attention on the general principles of the written language, particularly how phonetics and semantic radicals are combined to make characters. (1)

i) Children perceive characters as being more similar based on how they sound vs how they look (3)

ii) Allows children to guess words based on context and combined phonetics/radicals.

iii) Follows more regular patterns (7)

iv) Research on language learning emphasizes how explicit, systematic instruction in the structure of the language is more helpful than incidental exposure and rote memorization (7)

2) Easier transition to reading Simplified even without prior instruction (Table 1)

3) Harder to write

4) Even within the Traditional script, there have been adoptions of Simplified characters.

a) 台灣 (tai2 wan) instead of 臺灣 (irony: the “Tai” in Taiwan)
b) 画 (hua4) instead of 畫
c) 什 (she2) instead of 甚

5) Fewer resources in the US and harder to access materials unless you buy/ship from Taiwan/Hong Kong

a) No textbooks/curriculum adhering to Common Core

i) I can understand that unless a Mandarin Immersion school was formed specifically with the Traditional characters in mind, most MI schools may choose Simplified for this reason alone.

Simplified

1) Strengthens visual and spatial relationship skills due to the way Simplified characters are structured and formed (see above). (1)

a) Provides fewer visual cues so requires more attention to detail when learning characters via rote memorization. (1)

i) Even with fewer visual cues, 1 billion Chinese people still manage to learn and be literate.

b) When controlled for reading ability, results showed that children learning Simplified characters demonstrated superior visual skills. (Table 2)

c) Children perceive characters as being more similar based on how they look vs how they sound (2)

2) Easier to write

3) Approximately 1 billion people use it

4) Lots of resources in the US due to the Chinese government, in conjunction with the Obama administration, actively encouraging US students to learn the language.

a) Common Core textbooks/curriculum are developed (although untested and many are in their first editions)

5) Harder time reading Traditional without prior instruction (Table 1)

a) However, I know plenty of people who have figured it out with great facility so I doubt it’s much of a hurdle.

6) Same character represents multiple words.

a) Context helps and I refer you again to 1 billion people who have figured it out. Plus, English has many homonyms and English speakers figure it out without much problem so even though I find it weird that Simplified Chinese has made many separate characters with the same pronunciation into the same character, I am confident that people can figure it out from context.

I know that this is far from all-encompassing, however, short of becoming a PhD in the subject (and I emphatically am not), I think this should suffice for most folks who have no preference (or clue) regarding Traditional or Simplified characters. And if not, well, Google is your friend. Also, the library.

And so, after this ridiculously long post, (and come on, when have my posts in this series been short?), I refer you again to what I said at the very start:

If you do not have a particular preference, choose whatever will be more easily supported by your time, interest, resources, and abilities.  

(See? I told you all you needed to do was read my Fancy Flowchart™.)

Thanks for sticking it through. If you’re still wanting more, I have included tables and references below. Many thanks, again, to Mind Mannered for her research and hard work. Your summaries cut down my research time significantly. Plus, your documents were so well executed!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


ETA: Again, my extreme and humble apologies to Mind Mannered. I would be furious and hurt if I were in her shoes. I was super lazy and and an idiot and didn’t check your references to ensure that I wasn’t stealing proprietary work. I am very sorry for any and all distress I may have caused. Also, thanks to Mind Mannered, we have a lovely list of references to check out. 

References

  1. Mind Mannered (2015). Research Highlights on Learning to Read and Write Chineseprivate paper
  2. Seybolt, P. J., and Chiang, G.K.-K. (1979). Introduction. In P. J Seybolt & G. K.-K. Chiang (Eds.), Language reform in China: Documents and commentary (pp. 1–10). NY: M.E. Sharpe.
  3. Chen, M. J. and Yuen, C.-K. (1991). Effect of pinyin and script type on verbal processing: Comparisons of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong experience. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 14(4), 429-448.
  4. Hannas , W. C. (1997). Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  5. Ingulsrud , J. E. and Allen , K. (1999). Learning to Read in China: Sociolinguistic Perspectives on the Acquisition of Literacy. Lewiston, NY : E. Mellen.
  6. McBride-Chang, C., Chow, B. W.-Y., Zhong, Y., Burgess, S., and Hayward, W. G. (2005). Chinese character acquisition and visual skills in two Chinese scripts. Reading and Writing, 18(9), 99-128.
  7. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  8. Liu, T.Y., and Hsiao, J. (2012). The perception of simplified and traditional Chinese characters in the eye of simplified and traditional Chinese readers. In N. Miyake , D. Peebles, and R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 689-694). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Additional References:

  1. Lin, D., and McBride-Chang, C. (2010). Maternal mediation of writing and kindergartners’ literacy: A comparison between Hong Kong and Beijing. In Research in Reading Chinese (RRC) Conference.
  2. Lin, D., McBride-Chang, C., Aram, D., Levin, I., Cheung, R.Y.M., Chow, Y.Y.Y., and Tolchinsky, L. (2009). Maternal mediation of writing in Chinese children. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(7-8), 1286-1311.

Tables:

Table 2: Compares the skills of college-attending adults’ in reading and writing Chinese in their less familiar script (excerpted from Liu & Hsiao, 2012, Table 1).(8)

Table 1: Compares the skills of college-attending adults’ in reading and writing Chinese in their less familiar script (taken from Liu & Hsiao, 2012, Table 1).(7)

 

Table 2: Compares the reading and visual skills of kindergarteners at two different time points (taken from McBride-Chang, et al., 2005, Table 1).(5)

 

Excuses, Excuses

I know. I know. I’ve been totally neglecting my blog. I have reasons. Well, more like excuses. But regardless of reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks. And like all things, the more I fall out of habit, the less I “feel” like doing it.

And I love my blog. I just sometimes need a break. But even though I love it, getting back into a habit of blogging regularly is sometimes difficult – especially if my brain feels stuck or racing or both simultaneously.

I have noticed something, though. Every time it seems as if my blog is taking off on a nice trajectory – increased views and engagement or what have you, I “burn out” and pop off the screen for a few weeks. And of course, it takes a few more months of regular blogging to re-build back up to where I was and then, wouldn’t you know it? I “burn out” again.

I really wonder if that is just my way of self-sabotage.

Either that, or it’s just the cycle of my life. Or, I suppose, it could be both! This trying not to be “either or” is really frustrating to me. I do far more enjoy concrete answers versus the vagaries of real life.

Anyhow, am I the only one that does this?

Sound off in the comments.

New Home

I’ve finally gotten off my duff and moved all my blogs to my very own site. What does that mean for you? Well, if you primarily read my blog from my Facebook updates, you don’t have to do anything! YAY! If you happen to use an RSS Reader such as Feedly, then please take the time to re-subscribe at my new Mandarin Mama site. If you primarily read through WordPress, you should still be able to subscribe through WordPress at the new site.

The site shouldn’t look too different since I would rather get something up than make a ton of fancy changes only to never make the transition. I know I often fall victim to perfectionism and as a result, procrastinate until some arbitrary “perfect” state which, of course, never arrives in a timely manner (if ever).

Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I am more okay with the idea that “good enough” is perfectly good enough. I don’t have to have everything perfect and final right out the gate. In true fact, the creative process is rarely like that. (I know. I’ve written about this before.) Of course, since I love detailed and well working systems, this chafes at my inner anal retentive crazy person. But as my old boss used to say, “A mediocre plan executed perfectly is better than a perfect plan executed mediocrely.” Or something like that.

Besides, the beauty of life is that it is always a work in progress. This site (like life), can have one iteration now and a different iteration later. There is nothing wrong with that. I know. So boring when I’m blabbing on and on about the site (“But it’s a metaphor,” she said pretentiously) when who cares as long as it’s working?

Very well. Moving on! (Pun intended. I’m here all week, folks.)

Speaking of new homes, we’ve been at our current house for about 4.5 years and it STILL has mostly bare walls (except for the wall I’ve designated for all of Cookie Monster and Gamera). I am TERRIBLE at interior decorating and my house is so boring and over-run with toys and functional furniture. There are no interesting eye-catching pieces and we will never be featured in a magazine.

Part of me thinks that when the kids are older, we’ll hire someone and re-decorate and be all fancy and modern. (I do enjoy the modern look.) However, I doubt that will happen because even though I like the LOOK of modern furniture and pretty, sleek designs, it doesn’t seem very ME, if that makes sense. I think I am much more of a comfy, slouchy sofa and well-loved furniture type. Also, I HATE knickknacks and clutter. (I do well enough cluttering up my house, thanks!) But perhaps, someone can spruce “me” up a bit. This will be at least a decade off, so I suppose there is no sense in worrying about it now.

Anyhow, hope you like the new place! 😉

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.