There Is A Potato In My Home

One fine day, Kor Kor declared that he disliked Chinese! I have noticed he often speaks English to everybody, even when he is engaging in pretend play with his toys. Didn’t expect such a firm and direct answer though. 

I am really flabbergasted. Both Hubby and I have consciously spoken Mandarin to all our children since they were born. Because we think Chinese is a much more difficult language than English, and hey, we have always been speaking Mandarin to each other, why change? We read Chinese books to them and we speak Mandarin among ourselves too, including my siblings, and the maternal and paternal grandparents. Yes we do read English books to the kids and they do watch DVDs in English. But they only get two hours of DVD a week, and the split between English and Chinese books/DVDs is about half-half…. So what happened??

My guess is, firstly English is really an easier language to grasp. Secondly, I have been rather lazy in speaking proper Mandarin recently, e.g. “我们去science centre” instead of “我们去科学馆”……


So now, I shall try to rectify the situation. There are so many English books on my to-read list for the children, such as the classics like Oliver Twist and Moby Dick (the Classic Starts versions, not the originals ok, not gonna kill myself), and favorites by Enid Blyton and E. B. White. But I am going to stop reading those to the kids. Stop buying them. Instead, I shall concentrate my time and effort on reading Chinese books. 

What I borrowed from library during my first visit after my new resolution


The boys are loving this – a good stepping stone. They have learnt a new 成语 “三头六臂”!


If I do come across good English books, I shall just leave them on Kor Kor’s desk and hope for the best.

OK, definitely not buying any English books for the children. Not for the rest of the year at least. Deep breath. 



How To Buy Books From Dangdang (Science Books recommendation)

(not sponsored – but I wish Dangdang would sponsor me! Please?)

I try to provide Chinese books on most topics so that the boys see Chinese as a language medium on its own, not just as a separate subject. More specifically, the only subject taught in Mandarin.

One might point out that it seems pretty useless to know jargon or specialised vocabulary in Chinese. The thing is, each Chinese character has its meaning. For example, when the child knows 长颈鹿,he will probably know 颈 means neck.

It also helps the parents to improve our own language ability when we read the Chinese books to the child. For example, I do know that a plug is 插头 and often use this term when speaking to my kids, but it was only after I read a Chinese book on electricity that I started to refer to a socket as 插座。

And I am so glad I found this set of books and wanna share with you all!



Sample pages from the book on volcanoes:

Each book also comes with a 1-2 pages of a Parents’ Guide, a few questions to test the child’s understanding, and a hands-on activity.

Sample pages from the book on Earthquakes:

Other than this 《地球》 set, the series has two other sets 《物理、化学》 and 《生物、人体、环境》。Each set (more than ten books) costs around SGD30 excluding shipping. Which is very cheap compared to local bookshops! But some of my friends have had difficulties ordering from Dangdang. I have done it many times using a local credit card with no problem at all, with direct delivery to my doorstep. My most recent purchase arrived last week via UPS. It took less than two weeks.

Step 1: At the book(s) you want, click “加入购物车” (Add to shopping cart.)

Step 2: Go to your shopping cart ( “购物车” ) at the top of the page.

Step 3: Click “结算”

Step 4: You will be asked to log in. If you do not already have a Dangdang account, click “注册” (Register.)

Step 5: To register, fill in your handphone number OR email address. Then your selected password. Lastly is re-enter password to confirm.

Step 6: Click “结算” again.

Step 7: Enter your delivery address, i.e. Singapore address.

收货人 Your name

收货地区 Country: Select 新加坡

详细地址 Your address (Block, road name, unit number)

邮政编码 Postal code

手机 or 固定电话 Mobile number (65xxxxxxxx) or Land line

[For the address, I used to be able to use just my English road name. But now it requires at least 3 Chinese characters??!! Anyway, just add on the Chinese name of your street at the end of your English road name. Because our local deliverymen might not understand the Chinese address.]

Step 8: Not very sure where this step will be for new users. For payment method 支付方式,choose “网上支付”

Step 9: You will be asked to confirm your delivery method. Urmm, I only get one option anyway. So just agree lor. “确认送货方式”

Step 10: Submit order 提交订单

Step 11: You will be asked to choose your specific payment method (选择网上银行或平台支付). Click “支付平台”, followed by “国外信用卡” (overseas credit card).

Step 12: Choose your card type – Visa / Mastercard. You will be redirected to the next page to fill in the credit card details.

持卡人姓名 Cardholder’s name

卡号 Card number

卡有效日期 Valid till

Then I can’t help you anymore. I think that should be the last step. Cos I can’t click any further since I don’t really want to buy anything now. It’s quite common to get an error message saying that the payment was not successful. Don’t worry. Just check your Dangdang Order History in 1-2 days. Nine out of ten times that I got this error message, everything was fine when I checked my account later and my books did arrive. If there is nothing in your Order History after waiting two days, do check your credit card transaction history to confirm the payment has not gone through. Then just repeat the order process.

Happy shopping, and do let me know if you have any recommendations on books to buy from Dangdang too!




Teaching Chinese

This is not a sponsored post.

I recently attended a short workshop conducted by Eeva Chang, the principal of Eduplus Language Centre (among the many other hats she wears). It was a free workshop which anyone could attend, so it’s not considered sponsored, right? And nobody cared that I was a blogger lor. Frankly speaking, when I realised she was the principal of a private tuition centre at the start of the workshop, I felt quite sian and thought it would be like an advertisement and that it would be a waste of my time. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise. I even took notes when I felt what she was saying made sense, and good things must share! The main gist of the workshop is on three factors which affect a child’s grasp of the Chinese language.

Family Language vs School Language

According to Eeva, the child’s grades start to fall as the discrepancy between the standard of the language spoken at home and the standard in the syllabus widens. Typically, this happens in Primary 3 as the syllabus in Primary 1 and 2 is still relatively simple and sounds like the casual Mandarin spoken at home. Thus, for the child to be able to catch up with the school requirements, the home environment has to provide progressively higher standards of the language.

My thoughts: As I listened to the speaker’s examples of different standards, I knew that while I have no problems understanding up to Primary 6 standards (she didn’t go beyond that), I only spoke perhaps Primary 3 standard or lower to my kids. Isn’t it such a waste when I have the ability to ‘teach’ my kids but I am not doing it?? After pondering on it for some time, I concluded in my case, it’s not so much a worry that it would be too difficult for the kids to understand… but that I am too lazy to speak properly to them! Cannot, cannot. I must stop being lazy!

Also wondering, if I continue to be lazy, or if the parent isn’t confident in speaking Mandarin, will reading Chinese storybooks with level-appropriate chim-ness be adequate? I am sure it will help somewhat, just not sure whether it is enough. Hmm. (I didn’t ask the speaker cos I prefer to be a silent participant. That’s me – shy :P)

The Golden Law 黄金定律

The sequence of learning Chinese is from Listen >> Speak >> Recognise >> Read >> Write >> Use.


The more the child listens to the spoken language, the more he will be able to speak with ease. As he speaks more in the language, it will be easier for him to recognise the words he sees. Eeva gave the example of 举一反三 — when the child knows this idiom, he will be able to recognise it just with the words x一x三.


Then reading is about recognition anyway. And once the child can listen, speak, recognise and read, he won’t feel tired writing and using it. This is in contrast to what many parents and teachers make students do – copying words many times in an attempt to memorise them.


Visualisation 语言视觉化

Eeva told us that the image in the child’s brain when he hears the word is his understanding of the word. Thus she often asks her students to draw a picture based on a word she gives. From the picture, she can then assess their language abiilty.

She did a simple exercise with us at the workshop – we had to do an action based on the word ‘flower’. Many of us used our hands to do something like a cupping action. Eeva demonstrated that there were many other ways to do ‘flower’, e.g. taking a deep breath to show the flower’s fragrance, or pointing to herself to indicate she was pretty like a flower. The more varied the child’s visualisation of a word, the more he will be able to describe things or emotions etc and write well.

The above points are what I remember from the workshop and my translation based on my understanding. I was intrigued by Eeva’s sharing and had almost decided to attend her talk in September, despite the hefty ticket price. I think it will be an useful session, but it’s in the afternoon so childcare will be a problem. So it’s no go for me. But do click on the link to find out more about her talk if you are interested.

Meanwhile, I shall start reading books on teaching languages, especially Chinese. No idea where to start, shall visit a Chinese bookstore soon for recommendations. If you know of any good books on this topic, please share with me! If it’s good, I will do a review and summary here after reading. Thanks in advance!


So Many Things to Teach… I Choose Chinese Literature

Slowly and gradually, trying to figure out what to do for the boys’ homeschooling. Though I am not and not intending to use any formal curriculum, I do need some guidelines for myself. Otherwise, really, the days zoom by in a blur. From books and social media, there are so many ideas of activities to do with the kids. I feel like doing all of them! But my recent activity-recording has helped me to be more realistic – I know there is no way I can do everything. In fact, there is no way I can do more than a little bit more than what we are doing now.

Finally, I have chosen

This isn’t a proper academic subject (not in primary school anyway, but then, everything can be linked to ‘academics’), but neither are the other ‘subjects’ I was considering. Truth be told, though I was in a SAP secondary school and did Higher Chinese for ‘O’ levels, there wasn’t much emphasis on Chinese literature or Chinese history (unless you were doing C.Lit as an ‘O’ subject). I wasn’t exactly a diligent student either, so much of it went over my head. It was only in my 20s that I started to appreciate the beauty of the Chinese Language.

And this beauty is something which I want to immerse my children in from young.

I also find Chinese Classics to be very useful in teaching values. Somehow, it sounds less like nagging when I am repeating the verses instead of ‘stop fighting!’ / ‘do what i say!’ etc. Too bad I cannot 出口成章 (speak like a book)!

On being good brothers!

On being good brothers!

I am currently re-reading this book by a Chinese mother who is an educator by profession and has also groomed her daughter to be outstanding in character and academic performance. She started reading and memorising Tang poems together with her daughter since the girl was 4+ years old. Her take is that when the child is so young, there is no need to explain what the poems mean. It is enough just for the child to enjoy the rhythm of the poems. In addition, it is easy for the child to remember the words even if he is not making a conscious effort to do so. When he is older, he will gradually grasp the meaning as he is used to the language. The author also notes that while adults might find it difficult to understand ‘traditional’ way of speaking (I don’t know the proper terms, but it’s something like what Shakespearean language is to the English Language – uses the same words, but they are different.), children have no such differentiation.


(If you read or recite a book 100 times, the meaning of the book will come out naturally.)

Literally translated as 'A Good Mother is Better than A Good Teacher'

Literally translated as ‘A Good Mother is Better than A Good Teacher’

As for the other topics which I would like to expose the kids to, I can only read books to them as and when they request or I am free.


Writing Chinese Is Not Easy!

I have been reading 《弟子规》(Standards for Being A Good Student and Child) to the boys for some time, and one day I suddenly felt like writing it out.

Gosh, I realised it was SO DIFFICULT to write neatly! I was doing it very slowly and carefully, hoping to write beautiful Chinese characters. Shouldn’t have been so difficult… I was a neat student when I was in school!

It was a sobering lesson. I am glad I did this before I started my boys on handwriting practice. Even as an adult, with developed fine motor skills and years of handwriting experience, I still failed to produce good writing. I must remind myself to be patient and not expect too much when the boys do start handwriting work!


Learning Without Teaching Chinese: HYPY, Radicals, Punctuation

(Ho ho, I should do my other Part Ones (for the other subjects) before moving on to a Part Two, ya? But it’s easier to add on than to start a new topic :P)

While I try to avoid books with hanyu pinyin, some books are just too good to miss, so we do have some books with hypy at home.

When reading the book as usual one day, I just point out the hypy to the boys. “See these letters? These are hanyu pinyin.” Write the same letters four times with the four tone-marking diacritics. Read out loud to the boys. “These are the four tones.”

Doesn’t matter whether they understand. It’s just to introduce them to hypy. They don’t have to know hypy until sometime in primary school anyway, and when they go to primary school, the teachers will teach them from scratch.
That’s another one of my teaching philosophies – early exposure, not early mastery. If the average child masters hypy at say, nine years old, I might expose my child to it at four years old, but I do not expect him to master it before he is nine. Early exposure means he has five years to slowly take his time to learn, thus minimizing the need to teach and drill.
Once you expose your child to something new, he will never be ‘un-exposed’ again. He will start taking notice of it whenever he comes across it in future. And children being children, you can be sure he will ask questions when he’s ready to learn. So I just wait for his questions and answer to the best of my abilities. If I do not know the answer, I will help him find the answer or guide him to find the answer himself if possible.
Same thing for radicals. “呱 is a sound, so it comes with a 口.”
Similarly for punctuation, it’s just exposure for now. Using the same page above, demonstrate to the kids the pause for the comma, the exclamation for the exclamation mark, and the stop for the full stop.
We also have this talking pen book on hypy lying around the house. But I have not gone through it with the boys yet. Just letting them explore on their own and get used to hearing the sounds first. Slowly, slowly : )
(By the way, most of my conversation with the kids is in Mandarin. But for easy writing and reading, I translate into English here.)

Learning Without Teaching Chinese 耳濡目染

Since Day One, both Daddy and I speak mostly Mandarin to the kids. Other than feeling more comfortable in our Mother Tongues, I have always felt that Chinese is way more difficult to master than English.

Thus I read a lot of Chinese books to the kids, including non-fiction books. Often, I realise that the Chinese translations of well-known English books are very, very well-written, sometimes even better than the originals in my opinion. And if the original is not English, I will always choose the Chinese version over the English version. And since we converse in Mandarin, the Chinese version feels more familiar and endearing too. (Whenever possible, I choose books which do not have hanyu pinyin, because I do not want the kids to rely on hanyu pinyin to read the words.)

I make sure that their name stickers have their Chinese names. Our reward chart and routine are written in Chinese too. More than a year ago, I realised Kor Kor was talking to/for his trains in English. He wasn’t speaking much then (he only started speaking at three years old), so it was just bits and pieces, like the trains’ names. (Yep, I even used the trains’ Chinese names with him.) Immediately, I bought him Chinese Thomas and & Friends books, to nudge him back to using Mandarin.

(We do have many English books as well, and we often read English books to the kids too. Thus, I think the boys had no problems understanding English, though they might have some difficulties speaking English. Anyway I wasn’t worried at all.)

Recently I decided to introduce the character strokes to Kor Kor (but Didi also listens in most of the time).

And to introduce dictionaries as well!

I wasn’t really expecting Kor Kor to use the dictionaries. Just thought I would leave them where he could see them, so that when he was ready to start using a dictionary, he would know where to find one. But just a few days after I bought the dictionaries, I saw Kor Kor flipping through the beginner dictionary, and using his finger to trace the strokes of the words! Then he told me ‘this word has four strokes’. WHEEEEE..! Never underestimate a child’s readiness! The morale of the story is, if I didn’t provide the dictionary, he wouldn’t have had the chance to use it, and I wouldn’t have known he could. Granted, he wasn’t really using the dictionary to check words yet, but at least he is now familiar with thick thick dictionaries and using them to learn strokes. What’s the worst that could happen anyway – some dust on the dictionaries? 😛