Early this year, when I found out that Ethan’s K2 syllabus (which comprises English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese) would have a weekly “Chinese Dictation” session, or known in Chinese as 听写 (“tīng xiě”:Listen and Write), I could not help being a little concerned.
Well first of all, we have never forced Ethan to learn Chinese and we never will. It’s a “nice to have”, but it isn’t compulsory, plus he won’t be going to a Chinese medium school anyway.
Secondly, I am NOT and don’t think I will ever be a Tiger Mother in the whole context of it, but I definitely could not bear to see my child sit there every week and not write anything during “tīng xiě”. I think every Mom in her right mind would do this. Or maybe it’s just something that was ingrained in me since my school days.
So I had to take it upon myself to “coach” Ethan in “tīng xiě” every week. Even though I do not speak or write Chinese (Mandarin), I told myself I would try my best to learn and teach Ethan, and in the process, I hope to learn something myself too!
Every Friday, he would bring back a list of characters he was supposed to learn up by the following Friday.
The first few weeks were relatively easy. The first one was just writing numbers 1 through 10, and he didn’t even need my help. Of course it inevitably became harder as the weeks went by, and soon we were learning how to write 2-character phrases. Now Chinese is basically all about memory and practice, so there were times when my memory failed me and Ethan then had to “correct” me.
That was satisfying, to say the least. Well, in the sense that I *knew* he was remembering the strokes!
I would usually go over the character and its meaning, and then show him the correct order of strokes, before we individually practised writing it. Before we bought the Creative PlayChinese tablet, I relied on the online Chinese tools to help me out. In fact, I still sometimes do!
Then, after we had practised a few times, I would cover the characters and we would the try to see if we could write them all out correctly. I even took the initiative to get us each a Chinese exercise book to write in! 😀
Week after week, Ethan would happily show me his “tīng xiě” sheet, where an all-correct submission would be given 3 stars. I could tell he was getting more confident and nothing could make me happier. In fact, I have never EVER told him, “You better get it all correct, okay?”, on the contrary, we always encourage him to just try his best, so even if he made small mistakes, it was still okay. 🙂
Well, then the “tīng xiě” assignments became sentences! Gosh…it just got more and more challenging , and on my part I was finding it tough to capture his attention at times.
You see, we previously revised the “tīng xiě” only on Thursday itself and he would remember it for Friday. As it became more difficult with more characters to remember, I could tell Ethan was becoming more overwhelmed by it all when we did the revision on Thursday. He would seem disinterested and he would easily lose concentration and tell me it was too difficult, or that he was just too tired.
So I changed the schedule a little and our “coaching sessions” now start either on Monday or Tuesday, breaking up the week’s assignment into parts. And then the following day, I would go over the previous day’s work before starting on a new one for that day. This method has been working so far, and I am very pleased with the results.
He’s not overly burdened and yet he is happily doing well in his “tīng xiě”. Even his teachers have been telling me that Ethan is doing VERY well in Chinese this year, which makes my day 🙂
The last thing I want to do is to have to bug him to finish up homework or assignments…at least not at this age! 😛
Well, considering he won’t be going to a Chinese school, it is really a great achievement, and it’s always good to have a little bit of knowledge of an additional language.
Here’s his latest “tīng xiě” sheet from last week: 🙂
And here is a list of items I have been using during our sessions, some more than others, but I thought it would be a great reference list for the parents who are in the same boat as me:
- Chinese online tools: http://www.yellowbridge.com/
- Creative PlayChinese Shenbii tablet
- Exercise Books or papers for writing and practising
- Sharp pencils