Tag Archives: bilingual chinese english

Maintaining bilingualism in adopted kids

Long time no write. Just super very busy. Very super busy.

But I was pointed to this article Raising a Bilingual Child in Adoptive Families online magazine. Most of it is just reminders for me. But also reminders that my child has jumped from one group to another since August.

Big Boy is no longer at home all day with mommy except for a couple days of daycare. We used to do a lot of Chinese play together, hide and seek, Kingka game, watch Dora in Chinese etc. And now we just have a few hours in the evenings and weekends. So his Chinese exposure has really tapered off.

Also at now five years old, he has gone out of the toddler age where I can really just plop him in front of any dvd and he is thrilled. He actively uses the dvd player himself now and doesn’t have to rely on me to change the language to whichever he wishes to hear. He does bargain a bit: “… but will you let me watch another dvd if it is Chinese?”… “Yes!”… but I have to watch he doesn’t switch it to English when I’m not watching. Many of our materials have alternative English or Mandarin soundtracks (vs language learning dvds like Mei Mei, The River Dragon King, Walker and Ping Ping where the dvd is in English and the Chinese is words and phrases integrated into the English). I am happy to report that he does voluntarily chose Chinese language learning dvds out of our dvd library. And I keep adding new dvds to keep his interest fresh.

But I can no longer “force” him to listen to me read Chinese books out loud badly. And we have lost our weekly Chinese native speaker friend, whose current work schedule doesn’t allow for so much extra engagement.

Baby Learns Chinese Phonics bundle

On the other hand, he is coming of an age to be able to formally teach a language or go into language learning classes. I have bought the Baby Learns Chinese (sort of a misnomer for phonics program!) Phonics dvds for him for Christmas: I think he is ready now that he knows his ABC in English and French and has a good basic understanding of letter sounds from ReadingEggs.com Though I do have some concerns that the different sounds for letters in pinyin phonetics and English phonetics might confuse him (see previous post).

I am thinking that now he may be of an age to start Saturday Chinese Class… which is a Chinese community offering here. I believe the classes may be French/Chinese so would be more appropriate now that his French has improved exponentially with five day a week French preschool. He seems to be doing very well academically (vs behaviourally!) in the total francophone learning environment. So taking him to a Saturday Chinese Class for french speaking students might work now. Though I am not sure I want to add more school days to the life of a boy who has just just turned five. (or to lose my weekend relax time!) I’ll look into it.

But I do have to recognize that his interests and needs are evolving as he gets older and enters “school age” vs “preschool” (hah! I guess that is a funny thing to say about a kid who is officially a “preschool student”… an oxymoron when you think about it!)

So, for us, I read this article with a “trilingual” eye, as our bilingual needs are already taken care of. We are anglophone, living in a mostly English dominant continent, with anglophone extended family and friends. Living in a francophone environment, with preschool, daycare, friends and neighbors dominantly french.

How are you doing with a second or third language? How are you dealing with changing language needs as your child changes from baby to toddler, from toddler to preschooler, from preschooler to school age?

Some Montreal resources:

Montreal Chinese School: seems to be traditional characters, Sunday mornings or afternoons. Also seems to be geared towards kids whose first language is Mandarin.

JiaHua School of Montreal: They do have classes for children whose first language is not Mandarin, with the goal of integrating them into the regular Chinese classes with Mandarin speaking students, on Saturdays, starting at age 5.

McGill Playgroup for adopted Chinese Children I have friends who go to this who like it, though I think it is just a bit of a fun brush against their culture rather than real language learning.

EReadbook: last couple days of free shipping AND Happy Sharing program!

Well, today we got our Ereadbook Touch pen and books… so very exciting. They arrived super quick from Ontario (ordered Monday afternoon and arrived Wed by 12:30 noon!), in perfect condition. All files for the books I ordered already loaded on the pen, so we were good to go upon opening the box.

And it was a much bigger box than I expected. Just the Starter Set has enough in it to keep you busy for weeks. I thought it might be very little material without getting the extra books in the Packages, but the six books that come with the pen have all sorts of things, from games to stories. And the other books that we got with it (Classic Fairy Tales, 600 Words, English Chinese dictionary… which is hardcover btw) are all wonderful. The pen can “speak” for about 6 hours before needing recharging. Recharging is done via the USB cable, that plugs into a regular AC adapter that goes into a wall socket. A neck lanyard keeps the pen around your kid’s neck. It shuts off by itself after giving several verbal cues that you are leaving it unattended!

Right now Bigreach.ca is offering free shipping within Canada until Feb 28, for the Chinese Spring Festival (includes Chinese New Years). I think it is definitely taking advantage of, as the starter box is quite bulky and heavy. They sent it by expedited, and I needed to sign for it.

If you do order the pen, either this week or later, you can say that you were refered by me, Leanne, and that my pen ID # is E2003-132067. Email your order to “order@bigreach.ca”

They have a “Happy Sharing Program” (Word .doc) to encourage people to refer their friends (and complete strangers!)… give the pen ID of the person who referred you and when you buy a pen and register it for warranty, you will get $10 credit off your next regular priced books, and the person referring you will also get $10 credit off THEIR next regular priced books. Win-Win. Here is the price list and package descriptions

Anyways, my son likes it and wants to actually listen to Chinese in books for once, and I like it in that it really helps my listening skills in Chinese. The book’s various segments (illustrations, pinyin, chinese characters) speak with a variety of male, female and children’s voices, and say things from short and cute to complicated. One can listen to a single phrase many times over to help with listening comprehension and reading help. I think that one of the major uses for me will be to increase my reading-out-loud skills, that I can transfer to our other non-talking Chinese picture books.

And already, just reading “Xiao Hong Mao” (Little Red Ridinghood), I have picked up vocabulary, syntax and phrases I can use to play with my son!

I will try to get a proper photo-post done to show the whole pen set and books in the near future. For now, I recommend it.

Practice your reading with Chinese Readers!

I have lucked upon these wonderful books, P3 Chinese Readers (what a memorable name! LOL!), edited by Yin Dalu, put out by PPP Company, Hong Kong (the Professional Publishing People).

P3 Chinese Readers

P3 Chinese Readers

I find it hard to find simple, engaging material to practice reading Chinese characters that is not overwhelming (ie the average picturebook in chinese, even with pinyin, can mean a week of looking up vocab) and that is not part of some very involved, structured textbook. Ie painfully educational.

Chinese Reader: inside book

Chinese Reader Green open book

You know, there is a reason why in Grade One and Two, they have those Leveled Readers that your kids bring home: very short simple storybooks that reinforce learning and give a sense of accomplishment. Well, now you can get just such a thing in Chinese. These Readers are glossy little books: about 8 inches square, 13 pages including the inside back cover. They all have bright flat colors with clear classy photographs, and often the addition of drawn characters that interact with the photo settings and objects.

Chinese Reader Orange

Sample Chinese Reader Orange

Each “story” is only written in large clear simplified characters, and end on page 10. Page 11 is a page by page listing of the text in characters, pinyin and English. Handy to keep your thumb here. Unlike having English and pinyin on the page with the characters, you can’t get lazy and just not read the actual wenzi, BUT you can quickly and easily consult a forgotten word or pronunciation. Page 12 is either a quick quiz on vocab or a grammar note, like “yi, er, san” are used for counting, but “yi ge, liang ge, san ge” are used when enumerating something. Page 13 (inside back cover) has key vocab in character, pinyin and English.

Reader Orange spread

Pang/shou: Reader Orange

Text by page #

Bu Tong! Text by page #

Very clear, simple, and handy to practice your character pronunciation and understanding.

Inside Back Cover: Orange

Inside back cover: Orange Reader

There are six levels of difficulty: Orange Readers mostly have one or two words per page, and perhaps a phrase or short sentence at start or end. Extremely basic adjectives, nouns, verbs, numerals, colors and animals are introduced.

Chinese Readers Blue

Blue Chinese Readers

Blue Readers build on Orange level one, with a phrase or multi-character word per page, and some semblance of a tale. Family members, farm animals, clothing, body parts within proper basic sentences.

Chinese Reader Blue spread

Blue Reader inside spread

Green Readers are level three, and introduce longer sentences and a wider vocabulary. Weather, hobbies, telling time…

Level Four is Purple Readers. They have sentences with more complexity: describing people, making comparisons, using adverbs, talking about living in, going to, taking transportation.

Blue Reader text by page #

Blue Reader text by page #

Brown Readers have longer sentences still, introducing concepts like “not only y… but x as well”, giving directions, explaining “why” you like something etc. Seasons of China, travelling, getting around Beijing, wanting to buy something, what do you want to be when you grow up…

Finally the Red Readers are mostly simplified versions of Chinese tales: Hua Mulan, Zhong Kui Kills the Ghost, Pangu Separates Sky and Earth.

Blue Reader inside back cover

Blue Reader inside back cover

Personally I can mostly read Orange and Blue with no trouble, Green has a few words I don’t know, Purple has sentence structures I am aware of (“this is x-er than that”) but not proficient at using, Brown is challenging, and Red we haven’t bought any of yet.

Chinese Reader Green inside spread

Chinese Reader Green inside spread

These stapled glossy softcovers are sold individually, but I prefer to get them in sets of six. Each level has two sets of six, giving you a whopping 72 individual books to practice with . They are very reasonably priced, about $12 per set of six.

Green Reader text page by page

Green Reader text page by page

You could get them at Amazon.ca until I ordered two sets and several individual copies (to make up my $39 for free shipping, of course!)… they never did send me the individual books. They sent me the two sets and immediately set all these books to “not available” on their site. Sigh. It was too good to be true.

Green Reader inside back cover

Green Reader inside back cover

They ARE available on Amazon.com, but lately I have discovered that Barnes& Noble has more competitive shipping prices to Canada, and they were delivered quite quickly. (hint, look at the P3 link in the first paragraph for a proper list of the books in each set)

So, if you are looking for a kid or adult friendly way to practice your basic character reading skills, I recommend these. My son, who says “no read Chinese mommy”, actually

Chinese Reader Purple

Chinese Reader Purple

REQUESTS these books. Of course the fact that they are simple so I don’t stumble and hesitate, and quick to read, with colorful funny illustrations and stories, starring my son’s fave “Xiao Long” dragon does help a lot.

Purple Reader inside spread

Purple Reader inside spread

Purple Reader text by page #

Purple Reader text by page #

Purple Reader inside back cover

Purple Reader inside back cover

Brown Reader sample cover

Brown Reader sample cover

Brown Reader inside spread

Brown Reader inside spread

Brown Reader text by page #

Brown Reader text by page #

Brown Reader inside back cover

Brown Reader inside back cover

eReadbook Audio Pen Canadian Update!

Audio Book Starter kit 1

Starter Kit Audio Book 1

Well, I got several informative email responses today from Emily, at eReadbook’s Canadian distributor, BigReach.ca. (See previous Post on Chinese English Audio Pen and books)

Turns out that:

  • They have FREE SHIPPING WITHIN CANADA from February 1-28 for Chinese Spring Festival
  • Don’t worry if you have a Mac: The pen itself can be loaded with the audio from the cds that come with the books by putting the cds in your computer and plugging the pen in via USB: no installation of software is required for this
  • If you are worried about doing it (what with a whole load of Chinese instructions and if you have a Mac like me) they will gladly load the audio for the books you have ordered onto the pen you order at the same time before sending your order to you, as a customer service
  • They are VERY helpful on the phone or email
  • They have a starter set that includes the pen, the starter set of 8 books, the Happy Touch Reading Board (I have no idea what this does, and if it needs a PC to make it work, but it has an audio file of over 100M), 8 Touch Reading Cards for Children Radio Drama: Journey to the West (this is the classic Monkey King story), MP3 Player Card and Recording-Comparing Card, USB Cable and Charger, and a cord that attaches to the pen so it won’t fall to the floor.
eReadbook Starter Kit book 3

Starter Kit Audio Book 3

There are many other Packages available at 20-30% off.

If you wish to see the pricing, I am not sure that I am allowed to post it here, since it is not right now online at their site, but just email Emily at order @ bigreach.ca and say that you saw the pen and books on this blog, and I imagine she will send you the whole list of Starter Kit and various packages and pricing that she sent me.

What with free shipping to Canada now, it is a good time to buy if you are seriously interested.

eReadbook Touch-Reading Pen

When I was in Beijing in fall 2007, during my adoption trip to bring Big Boy home, I went into a large foreign language bookstore (which meant most books were in English!) and saw a funky electronic audio pen and books that it could read. Seeing as how at that point my knowledge of chinese was extremely limited, and I knew so few characters, AND I wanted to keep my son’s heritage language, I was quite interested. To have books in Chinese, with a wee pen that could read them out loud with proper pronunciation… what a great thing! I could learn pronunciation, he could associate sounds with characters, pinyin and images.

eReadbook Monkey King1

Ereadbook Monkey King 1

But you know how it is when you are traveling (or just shopping)… you think “that is cool, but a bit expensive. Do I really need it?” and think, “Well, I can always get it another time”.

Do NOT do this. I did this in Europe when I did a backpacking trip in 1981, and still regret not buying those soft grey suede slump boots. I thought, yeah, they’ll be EVERYWHERE in Canada in a year or two, after all they’re EVERYWHERE here now in Europe. Nah. Never happened. And they were sweet: soft, comfortable, attractive… sigh. And that was nearly 30 yrs ago!

So, did I learn my lesson? No. I went back nearly a week later, to that Beijing bookstore, and the display was taken down. I tried to explain to the staff in broken Chinese, and their broken English, what had been there (several women demonstrating, a huge table of books and pens)… they finally found ONE staff member who unlocked a wee door behind a cupboard, and found one demo pen with no price or instructions… they were like “well, um, yeah, those people aren’t working today, we’re sure to have them someplace…”… Well, I was over the Pacific ocean that time the next day. So it didn’t happen.

ereadbook piglet school

eReadbook The Piglet goes to School

Now, more than two years later, I saw on a chinese forum that someone was looking for a Leapfrog-like audiopen reading system for Chinese, and just couldn’t let it go. Much googling later, I came across this Human Pen (it seems to be a transliteration of their Chinese name: Hongwen?) and I was all excited. But they are only available in China. They were very nice and offered to ship the books and pen for about $120 (shipping only), but even my most splurgeriffic self couldn’t justify that.

And then I made a wonderful discovery at Amazon.com (yes, home of lost and forgotten items)… eReadbook. THIRTY TWO eReadbook items! A whole slew of inexpensive books (think set of 3 full color audio-enabled books for $13.99) and strangely, on offer only one pen in stock (out of three stores offering said books).

ereadbook pen in box

eReadbook Pen in box

And of course, Amazon.com and its cohorts will only ship books, cds and dvds to Canada. No toys nor other items. And apparently audio-enabled books with cds in them, despite being only books and cds, are TOYS and thus ineligible to be shipped to Canada. So the search was on.

I followed up the books’ amazing “trial pages” and “preview pages” to e-readbook.com but it is pretty much all chinese. Then I ended up at ereadbook.us, which sounded more promising. (Caution: every page on the .us site has a video ad that loads before you can see anything else=timeconsuming). Phoning them got someone who could SORT of speak SOME English… well, enough to say they can’t speak English, and gave me the cell phone # of someone who could. And SHE did answer the phone, in fluent English, while driving: “whomever gave you my cell phone #?!!” I think she stayed on the road, at least long enough to give me the Canadian distributor.

ereadbook early learning

eReadbook Early Learning cards: home

Oh, those words are like angels singing in my ears. CANADIAN DISTRIBUTOR! So, I present to you, after much research, the website of BigReach.ca. I suppose that means to reach high or somesuch? Don’t you just love English spoken by semi-fluent allophones? Thank god I don’t make up bad chinese-sounding urls… like um, “Wenjonggal”!! (yeah it comes from Zhong Wen= Chinese) LOL!

Anyways, do go check it out. If you are American, check out the Amazon.com eReadbook offerings… the prices are MUCH lower. The pen itself is $98 US plus shipping but once you have that… it holds 2G, you can upload the audio files and read the books, which mostly come in sets and are really reasonably priced.

ereadbook pen

eReadbook Touch-Reading Pen

If you are Canadian, go to the BigReach.ca site. Especially check out the Bilingual Early Learning section. Watch the videos on how the books work by clicking on the book titles, and also click on the book covers to get a flash sample of the book pages sans audio. Look through the Audio-book Library for a nice selection of books in Chinese. Some are very simple with one or two phrases per page and others are long chapterbooks or graphic novels.

Check out the Try Me! in the Audio Reading-Pen section… click not only on the English, characters and pinyin, but also the images for sounds, whole sentences and word pronunciations.

To buy in Canada, most stores seem to be in the Toronto region, but apparently one can also use Paypal to order by email… here is Where to Buy.

Now if they would only put their FAQ section in English, same with the User Manual and Upgrade information, as well as their Special Offers, it would be great. AND someplace put down their pricing for the actual pen and shipping. Please please put pricing for the PEN!

The books all have pricing in the details… again the prices are reasonable: often $30 for 6 books, $50 for 8 books etc… not as cheap as Amazon.com but in a world where a single French book can set you back $15-$30 easily we shan’t quibble.

And finally, I wish it was mac compatible: the pen runs on mp

ereadbook dictionary

eReadbook "English" (bilingual) dictionary

3s which are uploaded via USB, but appears to be Windows/Vista on PC… I guess I could live with using someone else’s computer to download 2G of audio and then just use the pen as is. The pen recharger seems to be AC, and not chargeable by USB only as is my iPod (which gets used almost never as it is always dead when I wish to use it) (*update, one can drag and drop the audio files on a mac, or, as I did, get the people at bigreach.ca to upload the files for the books you are buying onto the pen before they ship it to you)

ereadbook fruit map

eReadbook Fruit and Veg wall poster

Anyways, I hope you are as excited as I am! If anyone runs out and gets this, tell me how it went (the buying/shipping/customer service part) and how you find the actual products’ performance. We are DYING to know!

*click on all images in this post to go to book details.

*Update: we bought it and we love it! If you do order the pen, either this week or later, you can say that you were referred by me, Leanne at wenjonggal.wordpress.com, and that my pen ID # is E2003-132067. Email your order to order@bigreach.ca

They have a Happy Sharing Program (Word .doc) to encourage people to refer their friends (and complete strangers!) give the pen ID of the person who referred you and when you buy a pen and register it for warranty, you will get $10 credit off your next regular priced books, and the person referring you will also get $10 credit off THEIR next regular priced books. Win-Win. Here is the price list and package descriptions

ereadbook find good friend

eReadbook Find a good Friend

ereadbook 3 kingdoms

eReadbook 3 Kingdoms in Cartoons

ereadbook 600 words

eReadbook 600 Necessary Words age3-4

New “astore”

Well, we are in bed with the devil! I have made an “astore” of books, dvds and cds that we like and use, which is over there in the right hand menu under “All Our Fave Books”. Of course it is not ALL our fave books, but rather the ones available at Amazon.com. But I had to find some way for the “link category” to start with something alphabetical proceeding “Blogroll”, as this wordpress.com thingie doesn’t allow for manual ordering of “categories” over there.

And I DID try to imbed the astore into a page, like the “About” page, up there on the top menu, but for whatever unknown reason, anytime I pasted the iframe html into the “html” new page editing window, and saved it, WordPress just “disappeared” it all, and said “0 words”. So incredibly frustrating.

Anyways, do go and check out what we recommend in the way of adult and children’s chinese learning materials. It will be like coming home with us and browsing through our bookshelves!

I’ll try to get around to updating it soon.

And if you dislike Amazon, you can check out Childbook.com. They are good people, and my fave chinese learning materials store.