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Beginning Mandarin?


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1 hour ago, OneThoughtMayHideAnother said:

Fantastic. You will love Skritter! When you sign up, you can choose from a number of their pre-made lists for beginners. And I will also post my character starter syllabus for Skritter here when I find it, so probably when the kids are asleep. I think the app works best on Android and in browsers, but the iPad app is good enough, too. (If your kids like the iPad, you can use both the iPad app and the browser version in Safari.) 

Dd and I already played around in skitter tonight before her bedtime and agree re the addictive quality of it. But (but!) it’s still hard for her (and me). It tells you to write the character for “you” and the phonetic spelling but you have to scribble it wrong a few times before it gives you a line to trace. I need a step in between, dotted lines, lol. Because unless I click the lttle

i for info, we wouldn’t know off hand what that is (though she seems to have a much better memory than me once she sees it)

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1 hour ago, Janeway said:

Did you all speak Chinese before you started doing it with the kids? Because I would love for the kids to learn some basics, but I have no idea as to much beyound what I learned in Ni Hao, Kai-Lan.

Me? Nary a word. I’m struggling so

much in China omg. I have a Chinese friend on wechat standby. But I’m motivated to teach my kid ;)

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Native Chinese speaker here.

The above posted skritter looks problematic.  It has a combination of words and characteristics.  It has both simplified and traditional characters.  Some are not a character, but part of charcter.  It does not have logic connection between the items.  Remembering those is difficult 

Chinese is difficult to learn.  Chinese has over 6000 characters.  Knowing about 3500 can get you through 99% of written text, knowing about 2400 characters get you through about 97% of written text.  But often, those characters by itself does not mean anything, they need to form words to make meaning.  The word combination is endless.  My daughter is born here, English is her first language.  We have been working hard on English for several years, she knows about 1200 characters now, she can only read baby level doctor Seuss kind beginner book in Chinese, whereas for English, she can read Harry Potter quite a while back.

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2 hours ago, OneThoughtMayHideAnother said:


Skritter allows you to enter both words and characters as items to learn, so that you can learn characters in isolation or practice them within a word. If a particular character is causing you trouble, you can choose to add several words containing it to your study queue in order to get extra practice.

My list contains only traditional characters as well as some of the radicals that make them up. Skritter allows you to use the same list and choose the option to study the simplified versions, though. Most of the items I selected for the first list, although not all of them, are the same in both systems.

There is logic and connection between subsets of the items on the list, but, correct, no logic and connection between all of them. I used those subsets (e.g., teaching the mu4/tree character/radical together with the sen1lin2/forest word) to make up fun, rewarding daily mini-units of new character writing practice.

I teach my child radicals before teaching him characters made up of those radicals. Some radicals such as the one for "woman" above are stand-alone characters anyway. Knowing basic radicals makes it much easier for him to remember how to write characters such as "ting1". He's only 4 and he's not finding it confusing. He understands there's a radical/character mu4 for eye and then there's the word yan3jing, for example. Knowing radicals also helps him guess the meaning or pronunciation of characters he's never seen before.

I think our method is very efficient. We only study characters about 10-15 minutes a day most days, we have a ton of fun while doing it, and he's learning how to write (with emphasis on the correct stroke order) over 50 (traditional) characters a month. He can read many more than that. For example, he's recently learned to read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" in Chinese  even though he doesn't know how to write all the characters in the book yet. So, anyway, if we keep it up, we're on track to learn *how to write* the 3500 characters that make up a vast majority of texts by the time he's 10. He will likely be reading many more  than that by then. And, at this point, my main challenge is slowing him down, explaining that this is a marathon not a sprint, and that it's probably not a good idea to add all those new characters he's encountered and wants to practice to our study queue at the same time. Sooo, anyway, all this is why I do believe we have come across a very efficient, painless method of conquering one of the hardest (but also the most fun) parts of learning Chinese.

Of course I understand that knowing characters alone doesn't mean you know Chinese! We use a variety of books, programs, and videos to learn the language in addition to character practice. In this thread I focused on character practice because that's what OP was asking about. OP also mentioned she will hire a tutor to make sure her children are in good hands.
No disagreement from me about Chinese being a difficult language. It seems like you're doing great supporting your daughter's Chinese literacy while living in an English-speaking country. If you have any tricks, wisdom, resources (or your own Skritter lists) to share, I'm sure many here would very much appreciate it.

I did not realize skritter is your customized list, and I did not realize that what you posted is not one list but a group of mini-lists.  Then I took back my previous comments.  The list is decent. I especially like the fact you can put radical in the list.  

I don’t use skritter, I use quizlet, similar thing but I can’t put radical in quizlet.

I want to remind you don’t be fooled by initial success.  I remember my daughter started learning fast too.  That gave me a false hope that mastering 3500 characters is a task easily achievable.  It is not!!! My daughter flew through the first 500, then she started to rapidly forgetting, the more I teach, the more she confuse with words she already know.  It took us way more time to get from 500 to 1200, still a long way to go!

I now teach her words instead of characters.  I made up word list for her using only the characters she already know.  


除,Chú (除了,除非,除法,除此以外,排除,清除,除草,开除)

We read too, mostly I read to her, knowing 1200 characters is not enough to read her own grade level book.

I also try talking with her in Chinese.



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I'm unsure about learning characters in isolation of a total approach in a Chinese class... All my Chinese was learned later (and, honestly, my reading and writing skills have been the first thing to go, so I'm hardly an expert)... but anyone going into it as a beginner should just realize a few things to inform how they approach it. Like, the baby words you learn to speak aren't the same baby words you'd necessarily learn to write first. So there's a disconnect between learning your ni hao level of speaking and your first characters. There are these two different systems of writing (simplified and traditional... this is really more of a point of information, but many Americans don't know this... people in the PRC only really know simplified, people in Taiwan and Hong Kong mostly use traditional, though if you're a native, literate speaker then reading both isn't hard, though writing can be tricker if you're trying to go simplified to traditional). Stroke order matters, just like how you don't write letters all wonky (yes, there's some variation, but mostly people start letters at the top and write them in a certain fashion) - characters that are carefully copied without understanding stroke order don't look right, even to my mostly-illiterate Western eyes. Words can be one or many characters... and the characters can take on some really different meanings depending on their words. So, just because you know all the characters on a sign doesn't mean you can necessarily understand the sign.

Just go into it knowing all that, I guess. Memorizing interesting stuff that later gets tied into a matrix of useful knowledge is okay, after all. I mean, many of us have our kids memorize these little things that they don't fully get at age 6 but can later use and apply when they have more knowledge.

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