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Monday, March 17, 2008

Animated Chinese Characters - Learn to Write Chinese Visually

Someone asked me this question in my previous post on Her Chinese Homework.

"My daughter has chinese test (ting-siah) every week. Aiyo, such a struggle cos the characters are so foreign even to us. A friend told me to prepare flash cards and read with her often. quite helpful. Just wondering if you have tried preparing your own and how to go about doing it. I can't find websites with prepared chinese character. "

Well, the first time my daughter brought back her practise work for her chinese test or "ting-siah" I didn't know what it was all about. Lol! So I just made her do her copy writing as usual. She scored a 5 out of 14 that time. Haha.

After realising what it was all about, I encouraged her to memorise the characters for the next Chinese test which her teacher handed out. (Normally they would let them practise the words before the test.) This time she did better. 12 out of 15 or something like that. The first time she just copied blindly. The second time she tried to memorise the Characters which helped. Parental guidance is always important to aid a child's learning.

Sometimes she asks me how to write a certain character. Gulp! How do you teach a kid how to write Chinese characters when you don't know it yourself? I use these useful sites:

1. From Chinese Learner dot com - Writing Chinese Symbols - Learn to write most frequently used 500 characters. I absolutely love this site. It is fantastic. It uses flash videos to show you how to write a Chinese Character, up to 500 commonly used Chinese Characters to be precise. You can see an actual person's hand writing the Chinese word in black or blue marker pen making it very easy to learn. The Chinese Characters are classified according to the number of strokes. I teach my daughter how to look for the Chinese Character that she wants to learn so that she can watch the videos herself when I am too busy to sit with her. It is a very effective teaching method.

2. From Ocrat mirror site - Animated Chinese Characters. This one uses animated Gifs to show you how to write Chinese Characters. It classifies the words under the Pinyin style of "a, b, c.... etc and other classifications. You can also search for a the animated gif of a word by copying and pasting the Chinese Character into the search box. I prefer the Chinese Learner dot com site which shows an actual person's hand writing the Chinese Character instead of an animated gif but I sometimes use this Ocrat mirror site as a substitute when I can't find the Chinese Character from among the 500 flash videos from the Chinese Learner dot com site. The Ocrat mirror site has more characters, I think. However its list appears to stop at the Chinese pingyin "f" characters. Probably because the original Ocrat site is no longer available and this is a mirror site which someone has taken the trouble to rebuild because it is so useful.

3. From the Chinese Outpost - Stroke Order for Chinese Characters. I haven't the time to go through and learn Chinese step by step which would be ideal in order for me to teach my girl so as a shortcut method, I find this stroke order principals for writing Chinese Characters very useful. I teach it to my girl and hopefully it will help her too.

And finally, last but not least, I rely on my old faithful Chinese-English dictionary with Order of Strokes and With Hanyu Pinyin as well. It is really useful for English educated persons who wish to search for a word in a dictionary. The Hanyu Pinyin is useful and helps me find the word I want (because sometimes I know how a word sounds like but I don't know how to look it up in a purely Chinese dictionary), the order of strokes shows me how to write the Chinese Character. The dictionary is indexed according to the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Index, the Radical Index as well as a stroke index so that means you can find the character by any of these methods. For those who are interested, my dictionary is from Intellectual Publishing Co.

I know some people who use software or special digital type of dictionaries but for me, for now, the above free methods of online learning is good enough.

I hope this post will be useful for those other parents who do not know Chinese but are trying to help their child to learn Chinese. If I come across any more useful links, I will share them of course. Perhaps you will share the links to some good Chinese Learning sites with me too?


  1. i send Ian to Bao Bei for mandarin. they focus on vocab a lot and i once asked two chinese teachers in chinese school and they told me that they expect kids to know a lot of vocab edi. i hope with bao bei, ian can catch up in chinese school. now he can understand a bit of mandarin and have recognixed abt 50 words after three mths. he is still in level 1, so dont writing yet

  2. hmm... I really have to take my hats off parents like you who knows no Chinese writings and yet have to guide a child in the language. It is hard, extra hard, but not impossible I guess, as you have shared with us.

    I am glad that I learnt Chinese during my Singapore education, or else I am not so sure if I would have the courage to send my daughter to a chinese school. This is also a point I wanted to share with you then but I left it out. When I went to SG to study Primary 1, I only knew Bahasa Indonesia. I got last position in the class and all my marks were in red because Eng and Chinese were foreign language to me. I did not attend kindy prior to that so it make it all the more difficult for me to catch up. But eventually I did.

    Although Chinese in the Sg education system back then was only a second language taught in primary and secondary schools, I benefitted greatly from it. When I went for job interviews as a fresh grad, that was always the question asked!!

  3. I was wondering too how my son would cope if the teacher decides to give chinese spelling test. Now my focus is simply teaching him the meaning of the words (expand his vocab) and to let him practise the basic strokes (not characters)as he is still weak in the basic strokes.

    The character writing exercises that he does, I think he is just writing it without knowing what it refers to.

    it is pretty hard for a child with limited or no mandarin background. They have to learn the meaning of the character, recognize the character and memorize it so that they can write it.

    Well i'm definitely going to learn from your experience. My son is a year younger than your daugther.

  4. wen,
    I'm still undecided about Chinese school so no Bao Bei for my kid for now. :P

    I still don't have the courage to send my child to Chinese School. :P

    You can use those links. Its really useful.

  5. Well, so far you what you did just great. I sent my daughter to chinese school blindly cos I know kids learn fast. After 3 months in Std 1, you will be able to see how well she reconise word. My biggest worry right now is not mandarin but Bahasa. :(

  6. Wow! I've been looking for sites about learning Chinese and I am so glad that you put up those useful links. :)
    I won't be needing them now but they will be handy once we move to Bangkok. My kids going to speak Thai more, but I hope that they know their mother tongue too.

  7. hijackqueen,
    I have no worries about Bahasa because I taught her myself. I taught her till she reached the level where she can read then I buy simple story books for her to read to keep her interest and build her vocab but I can't do that for Chinese because I have to teach myself too and yunno lah, its harder to teach an old horse. Haha.

    So glad you find them useful.

  8. wah..this is good. thanks for sharing. I shud buck up and re-start my kids' chinese lessons again...

    been so lazy..ha ha ha

  9. mott,
    You've got a good excuse to be lazy mah...

  10. Hi MG,

    Thanks for the reply. I never had time to review your comments. I prepared the flash cards but unless i spent some time going though with her, it's of no help. I wish i can be a SAHM.



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