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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How does a banana encourage their child to learn Chinese?

A "banana" is a rather degoratory term used to describe a Chinese who doesn't know Chinese. Meaning, the person is yellow on the outside (yellow skin for Chinese) but white inside (speaks only English for example).

Well, wether it is degoratory or not depends on the way you look at it. I don't think its shameful for a Chinese not to know Chinese. It was necessary then and that was the way we had been schooled and brought up.

Our parents had sent us to "English" school to learn English so that we have a better future. Those were the days. And it has helped us to be good in English. We had many job opportunities etc. But things are changing now with the new generation Chinese parents who know English. They are now sending their kids to Chinese school to learn Chinese since they are now good in English and there is no worry about that anymore. We have come a full circle.

So how do I encourage my child to learn to love Chinese when I don't know any Chinese myself? I learn it with her of course. That is the best support of all.

I remember the first time my girl brought home her "ting seah" (Chinese Spelling) work from kindy. I didn't know what that was all about. So I just asked her to write down the words on the paper like any other homework. When it was time for "ting seah", she got 4-5 out of 14 words correct.

Only then did I realise that "ting seah" meant Chinese Spelling or litterally translated means "listen, write". So I sat down and learned those words together with my girl. Every Friday, she would get a "ting seah" assignment and on Tuesday she would be asked to write those words in class when the teacher recites it.

I would practise those words together with my girl and have a "ting seah" competition with her. After we have finished studying and memorising those words together, we would read the sentence out to each other for the other to write and mark each other's work. She loves this. My girl would be delighted whenever she "wins" me in our weekly competition or if I can't remember to write certain words which she knew better than me and she'd go "Come mummy, I show you how."

Its amazing. With our weekly competitions, now she usually gets about 12-13 out of 14 words correct during her actual "ting seah" in class. Then I would remind her how good it is to know her work, so that she'd have less homework because they are required to rewrite every word that they got wrong. Now she usually just has to correct one or two words instead of rewriting almost entire sentences which takes up time.

So, it is possible for a mother who doesn't know Chinese to encourage and teach her child Chinese. Now, that I'm sending her to Chinese School, I need to support her even more. I hope that someone can recommend me some good resource for me to learn and teach at the same time. Thanks.


  1. hehe..I am banana too.i can speak chinese well but i can only write my own name. :P anwyay, a good way to rebond mother-daughter relationship. Being a banana has its good too:P

  2. when u know where can learn mandarin, tell me yeah..cos i'm also montel.

  3. iris,
    At least you can speak Chinese well. I can only speak half past six hokkien and even more half past six Cantonese.

    You are montel ah. I am pisang emas. Sweeter than you. Heheh.

  4. KL standard indeed more advance huh. 14 words of ting seah per week?? My girl only get 5 every alternate week (after rotation between ejaan and spelling) now..I wonder if she will be able to catch up.

    By the way hor..long long time ago, my greatgrandparents send my grandaunt to english missionary school, not because for her better future, because they thought girl no need to study so much and some more missionary school is FOC, compare to Chinese school then, that's why she attended English school while my grandpa and granduncle went to a Chinese school . Ended up it was a blessing in disguise, cause she was sent to England for teacher's training. :)

  5. Elaine,
    Their ejaan and English spelling gets rotated. So they do those on alternate weeks. Usually about 6 words or so and very simple compared to the Chinese.

  6. Kids always like to outsmart their parents. It's a great motivation. Glad you finally decided on a school. I'm sure you will be a great supporter. BTW, I hear the odanata series is a good way to learn the language.

  7. lian,
    The Odanata Series? What on earth is that? Never heard of it before. Maybe you could write a post about it. Hehe.

  8. I really salute you. That's a very good start to learn Mandarin together.

  9. khongfamily,
    I've been told that you can still do this at Std 1 and Std 2 levels but beyond that you'd have to rely on tuition teachers. Sob. Sob. Sob.

  10. i learn mandarin from my son's homework that he brings home. when he goes to std 1, i will get a talking dictionary which translate mandarin to eng, and vice versa. at least i will know how to pronounce and explain the chinese words shd ian doesnt understand. when he gets older and if i cant cope, well, tuition comes in

  11. from my experience, the best way to learn the language is through friends. ie her group of friends speak, and talk the language all the time. then they learn fastest. likewise for adults too. my company had me learn japanese and we learn fastest when we spoke the language all the time.

    reg tools to assist learning chinese...sorry i'm out of touch. but i reckon if u get some vcd/dvd should be a good.

    how's yr genting trip??? u wanna the tix?

  12. You know, I think I'm in a more SOS condition than you MG. We're not Chinese but one of my kid get Mandarin lesson and we can't help it at all. I could only look at all the strange letter...

  13. Hi! Found your site via bengbeng. Lovely bunch of bananas. One more to the bunch. I went to Mission school but that time they already started the Malay syllabus but I don't know why my BM sucks and Chinese even worst. I would not even speak a word of mandarin to anyone till after Form 5. Anyway, seems like it's in the gens cos' my elder two kids seems to dislike Chinese too. My #3 is in Chinese school and the teacher tells me it seems she does not recognise the chinese characters without pictures. Really mind boggling.

    And for those of you interested in learning chinese you can go to this website which I frequent sometimes to get the pinyin or chinese words from English. www.mandarintools.com.

  14. I think my son will get "spelling" next year and I will sure remember to use your trick to help him enjoy "ting seah".

    I am somewhat a banana... with knowledge of Chinese about pre-school level. Even that, some words I am learning from my son. he finds it amusing when I have to refer to his book to check if he has done his work correctly (i.e counting the number of strokes in a character).

  15. wen,
    A talking dictionary sounds like a good idea but it'll probably cost a lot yah? Do you know any good ones?

    little lamb,
    Yes, that is the best way. Through practise. We're all sick so Genting will wait for us. Haha.

    Its ok if its just one lesson. For us, its the medium where everything is being taught. Apart from English and Malay, they'll have to learn Science, Maths, Moral etc in Chinese so you'll really be in deep trouble if you don't understand the language. Well, actually, Math and Science is taught in English too and the kids will have to sit for tests for both Math and Science in English as well as Chinese. Thats why the kids in Chinese schools here are really burdened by homework. I'm still wondering whether I did the right thing sending her to Chinese school.

    cheeky bear,
    Mine was the first year where everything was switched to Malay. My spoken Malay is ok but the written one is blah. Thanks for the site. I use it too to look up words.

    If he finds it amusing you have to refer to his book he'll be even happier if you lose to him in "ting seah". They're always happy to find out that they are better than mommy in something. Hehe.

  16. hi,

    i will be following your blog closely as i can relate to you very well... i have decided earlier on that dd will be going to chinese school so there is no turning back. I believe yours will turn out well.

    odonata series are like peter and jane series.... its ming ming and li li. It introduces a character each page and keeps on repeating them in the story. It's a simple to follow short stories. I found them at Popular @ curve. The other similar concept i found at Popular in penang was sage formula ( 5 series) by lucia lau. This is how i learn by reading aloud to her at night. i ahve been looking hi and low for simple one liner stories and i finally found them. Those are the only english word on the book title so good luck. Let me know if you want to know how it looks like.

    If you found others of similar concept, i would love to hear about it. I have never thought about doing ting shea as a way of encouragement. I would love to try it out.. i think it will be an encouragement.

  17. We are bananas too. But I found that my girl actually did better than I had expected as she was constantly exposed to Mandarin in school. The teachers speak nothing but Mandarin, and the kids, although they speak English among their classmates, pick it up pretty fast as they need to understand what their teachers are saying! So don't get too stressed out. Things may turn out better than you think.

    I used the Besta electronic dict. Quite useful as in addition to pronunciation and definition, they also have a function where they show you how to write a character stroke by stroke. Bought it from Popular Ikano.

  18. mei shi,
    Thanks for the explanation. We've got our Ming Ming Li Li and will start on it this school holidays for our very own private "school holiday program". :)

    Thanks for the dictionary recommendation. :)


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