This post was sponsored by Sagebooks. All opinions are mine and mine alone. I also include affiliate links.
Sometimes, I get stuck in a rut with these articles because I’ve been writing about Chinese and Chinese-ing for so long that I forget not everyone has been following me from the beginning – and even if they have, they might not have stuck around until now. This is mind-blowing to me because I’m the center of my own universe (not my children, sadly for them – or is it good?) and I cannot imagine people not finding me in a linear fashion.
Who cares if this means you didn’t even have children when I first started blogging about Chinese?
CLEARLY, YOU HAVE NO VISION.
Hmmm… this doesn’t sound quite like the auspicious start I had intended.
Anyhow, today I thought I would do something a little different and try a Q&A style type of post because I can. Thus, I bring to you, what people most frequently ask me about Chinese.
1) Do you have any advice for people just starting out?
Why, yes. Yes, I do. An entire book, in fact.
Oh, that’s not what you meant? Very well. (But go buy the book anyway. The author is a mediocre parent but a great writer!)
Here’s my best advice: Figure out what you want. Find out what you need to do to get there. Do it.
Geez, thanks for nothing, you might be thinking.
But honestly, you need to figure out what you want. What level of fluency? What level of literacy? What amount of time/effort/resources/ability are you willing to invest? When is it too much for you? Do you have an exit plan? Why do you want what you want?
2) No, seriously. Do you have any actual advice?
I mean, that was advice.
But I suppose you want some things more akin to the “what you need to do to get there” portion of my previous advice.
Ok. (I can occasionally be accommodating.)
Surround your child in as much Chinese as humanly possible for you and your family. Whether it is speaking, media, books, music, WHATEVER. If it can be done in Chinese, do so.
Chinese comprehension is the key to Chinese fluency and literacy.
The more you can front load comprehension and extend it as long as feasibly possible, the better.
Beyond that, there is no magic. No Easy Button.
You have to do the work.
It will be hard. The odds are against you. But if you want it, it’s possible. Also, it’s okay to decide one thing now and to change your mind later. And then change it again.
3) Should I teach my kid Traditional or Simplified?
If you have more time, I address this topic in more detail here. However, in brief, whatever is easiest for you to support – whether through attainable resources and/or family support. Eventually, you may want your child to learn both. It seemed ridiculously out there as a goal when my kids first started, but my older two kids (9, 7) switch seamlessly between the two scripts.
Because I’m a giver and I spent so much time on the graphic the first go-round, I bring you my handy dandy flowchart that still brings me life.
4) Should I teach my children zhuyin or Pinyin?
I don’t see why there is this unnecessary either or mentality. Both are useful. For another piece where I go in great detail on why I think teaching your kid zhuyin is a good thing, go here.
In general, pinyin is useful for adults and older children and super handy for typing Chinese on a computer or handheld. Zhuyin is useful for younger children, pronunciation, and bridging the comprehension/literacy gap when your children are too old for baby books but not literate enough for the truly interesting books.
Both are vital.
My older children wouldn’t be able to read the Chinese chapter books they’re reading without zhuyin. They haven’t learned pinyin yet because they’re just learning how to read English and I don’t want to confuse them. However, as an adult, I cannot live without pinyin. I never learned pinyin officially because I learned zhuyin when I was 4 or 5 but it has been integral to my growth and teaching my children Chinese.
Cookie Monster (9) read through all the Roald Dahl books in Fall 2018 and just recently finished the Magic Treehouse series in Chinese. He’s moved onto the Reading 123 series.
5) What curriculum do you suggest and why?
If your household speaks mostly Chinese and your kids can comprehend Chinese to a reasonable degree for their age, I prefer the Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500 Sets. I like how each lesson builds on the previous one and is an efficient and developmentally appropriate way to introduce and reinforce the 500 most frequent characters in Chinese children’s books.
My two older children went through Sagebooks before I ever was sponsored by them and it’s because of my good experience with the books that we eventually partnered.
Are there other books and readers and curriculum out there? Of course! Will your child also learn how to read Chinese through them? YES! But you asked for my opinion and I prefer Sagebooks and have used them successfully for 3 out of 4 of my kids.
6) Do you have a Sagebooks discount code?
Sorry, folks. Even though Sagebooks is a major sponsor of my blog, I do not have a coupon code.
I know it’s a big price tag, and the shipping cost is a source of sticker shock, but believe it or not, Sagebooks takes a hit on international shipping and eats some of the cost. Remember, these are 25 books and 50+ if you buy the full thing including Treasure Boxes.
That’s a LOT of weight.
However, Sagebooks occasionally runs sales or reduced shipping so if you follow them on Facebook, you can keep up to date on any promotions they are having.
Alternatively, you can always check different Facebook groups to see if previous owners have outgrown the series and are selling them used. There usually is a discount – albeit, MINOR because these books have a high resale value.
Hopefully, through all of Sagebook’s online resources and my highly informational posts, you can figure out for yourself if Sagebooks is the right fit for you and your family.
7) But what about if your family doesn’t speak Chinese?
In that case, Sagebooks will not be much use to you. (Or at least, not until you become fluent enough in speaking and comprehension to benefit from the reading.)
I do not have first hand experience for teaching older children Chinese from scratch so I cannot vouch for the efficacy of any particular curriculum or class. However, any well-rated Chinese as a second language program should suffice.
8) Where do I buy Chinese books?
I have a bunch of posts on my site (in the sense of listing Chinese bookstores) but truthfully, I would do better to direct you to two places.
Where to Buy Books in Taiwan – Guavarama
Online Chinese Bookstores – CHALK Academy
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. and Mrs. Books. When I haven’t forced Guavarama and Fleur to haul my books back from Taiwan, I have always had the best service from Mr. and Mrs. Books. Their customer service is second to none, they take pride in their work and products, and they are honest and easy to work with.
Mrs. Books takes the fear out of buying Chinese kids books because she curates it all for you and you just have to say, “Yes.” She is funny, personable, and most importantly, trustworthy. I’ve worked with her in both a professional capacity as well as a customer and in all ways, Mr. and Mrs. Books have won me over.
9) What Chinese books should I buy?
I have a few books I’ve reviewed in the past but honestly, I hate doing that stuff because it requires a type of patience I do not possess. Also, this presupposes that I pay attention to what my children are doing as well as me knowing what I have purchased.
You ask too much of me.
Instead, I will again divert you to the most excellent Guavarama because she LOVES this stuff and more importantly, loves to tell you about it. Also, a bonus link from CHALK Academy.
CHALK Academy’s Favorite Chinese books
You’ll note that though I hate writing or talking about books, that hatred does not extend to acquiring them. I was likely a Book Dragon in a previous life and I don’t care what my husband says, we need them all.
This is a picture from June 2018 and my shelf no longer looks like that because all the shelves are now crammed full of even more books. I would take an updated picture but that requires work on my part and I’m sure you all will understand me when I say that would be too much. Just imagine more books and random crap my children shoved onto the shelves to ruin the aesthetic.
10) Where can I send my kids to Chinese camps?
Unfortunately, I am not the person to tell you. Why? Because I believe in internet safety.
However, there are plenty of groups and even Google to help you find camps for your children. I also wrote a pretty good guide for how to deal with camps once you do find them.
11) Isn’t it enough for my children to be in Mandarin Immersion school?
I don’t know. Maybe?
This is no shade at you or your kid’s Mandarin Immersion school. Truly.
But without knowing you, your family Chinese situation, your actual Chinese goals, it’s really a toss up.
I lean more towards probably not but again, it really depends on what you want and are satisfied with. I am not you and that’s probably for the best! (Can you imagine a world full of horribly anal-retentive judgy people who, though admittedly good-looking, kept setting lofty goals you had no means of actually attaining but forcing you to anyway? I hate this world.)
12) I really dislike you.
I’m sorry. Is that a question?
I get it. I really do.
I say a lot of things about the tough road of teaching your kids Chinese that people don’t want to hear. But just because you don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. <insert Gallic shrug>
I wish it really were a case of pushing a button and automating Chinese but we live in the real world and it does no one any good for me to lie or tell tall tales.
All you would have to do is listen to my children on video, meet and speak to them in real life, or look the pictures I post of their homework and books. You would immediately be able to tell if I was exaggerating their Chinese speaking or reading abilities.
I could lie and tell you that this was magic. All I did was speak to them in Chinese every day, send them to English school and a weekly Chinese school and WOW! Magic!
But I didn’t. I expended a shit-ton of effort. And I still do not know if it will be enough for what I hope.
Alrighty! If I didn’t hit your question, odds are because it wasn’t a good question.
Just kidding! (Sort of?)
Just tell me in the comments and when I get enough, I will make another post. I love it when other people do work for me! I consider it the height of my leadership skills.
Thanks for reading, friends! I know I can be an acquired taste, but whatever that taste is, it’s tasty!