Teach Chinese S2: A little a day goes a long way (1/4)

Hi, it’s Carol here…

​I tested Covid-positive on the eve of Lunar New Year in end January. Then the Daddy joined me in the Quarantine Room after 3 days. Oh no!!!

​This meant both parents in the room; three children outside with another adult who usually doesn’t babysit them.

​I was well enough to supervise them using Zoom the whole day.

Since we couldn’t go anywhere, the three children took turns to have short online learning sessions with me.

​Learning has become a habit in our home.

​You and I are people of habits. Just like we always put a shoe on the same foot first.

​When helping our children to learn, one of the most effective ways is to develop a routine that becomes a good habit.

​The habit needs to be so automatic that it becomes hard to break.

​An automatic learning habit. Sounds cool? It is!

When our school closed due to the pandemic, I decided to start Jae and El on a structured Chinese reading programme. I made it a priority.

​I kept other activities status quo, no adding anything else until this new routine had set, just like jelly.

(Photo by Kezia Lynn, Pexels)

I’ve tried and completed many learning programmes with my three children over the past 12 years, so I know that prioritising and keeping it short at first is the winning formula.

​Anyone can do this. It’s a simple strategy that works.

​Sample routines

​The examples below are for children at least 3 to 6 years old and ready to learn to read Chinese. For a younger child, replace reading with speaking.

​During school closure, I decided on this routine:

–> breakfast

–> first presentation: Chinese reading cards (I started with only one word at first.)

–> dinner

–> Chinese cards quick review

​Then when schools reopened, this became our routine:

–> back from school, shower

–> lunch

–> free play until home learning time (alarm sounds)

–> first presentation: Chinese reading cards

–> dinner

–> Chinese cards quick review

​Yes, you may have noticed that we do Chinese cards twice a day. The second session is simply a quick 1 to 2 minutes review.

This is to counter Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, where a learner can forget 60 to 70% of what she learnt after a day without review.

​If you work out of home in the day, this is an alternative routine to consider:

–> after dinner

–> first presentation: Chinese reading cards

–> next day breakfast

–> Chinese cards quick review

Once your child can read at least 900 common Chinese words and understand thousands of phrases linked to these words, she can read and learn more independently. 

​Eldest Vee was 11 years old when he started revising Chinese idioms independently for his high school entrance exams.

–> 2 pages a day (freedom of choice on when to do this): read the book, self-quiz then answer the questions. I’ll mark and go through corrections with him.

​We go through the learning routine 5 days a week in a regular week.

​During the lockdown, we did 7 days a week since we had plenty of time at home.

​To see results, a priority always comes first.

​Your routine may look different from mine. It’s ok.

​As long as you can stick to it, it’s the best one for you!

​Review your current routine and slot Chinese in right after an activity that’s a good cue for you.

​Two years on and we still do this.

​Sustainable outcome

​I mentioned to Jae that Level 3200 is more than enough for now, so he can stop the programme, yet he wants me to continue.

​Fine, so I just cut down from 10 to 5 new words a day.

​As mentioned in Season 1 before, we keep the new activity to 5 minutes unless the child is having such a great time and wants more.

​From 6+ to 8+ years old: El started from <100 words and levelled up to 1200

​From 8+ to 10+ years old: Jae started from ~1000 words and levelled up to 3200

​From 11 to 12 years old: Vee revised 600+ idioms

​Like the Tortoise and the Hare, we’re going slowly and steadily.

​Parents who guide their children consistently will see sustainable results.

​Review your Chinese learning routine and ask me questions if you have. 

​See you in the next email two days later.

~ Carol @ Owlissimo.com


“Mummy, me first!”

​Jae and El often want to be the first to go through Chinese cards with me.

Besides a learning habit that has set like jelly, there’s another powerful ingredient that keeps them going.

​Find out in the next email.

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