Magic Tree House #40

Yeah, “Georgia” has gone through the 4th book (#40) in the fourth box of the Magic Tree House series, with a dozen book to each box.  I estimate that the number of characters in the fourth box (book #37-48) is about twice that of the books from the first box.  She finished reading book #40 within the 15-20 minutes that I previously predicted, or 18 minutes to be exact.   By my rough estimation after counting the number of characters on a couple of typical pages, that would be about 1,000 characters a minute.  If not for the fact that she scores 98% in her reading comprehension exercises consistently despite doing it fast, I would have said that she was faking it.  Though there are online English quizzes for these books, that may put undue stress on her.  The point is to encourage reading at this point, not to discourage them.  That’s what the reading comprehension exercises are for and she’s got that down pat.

I think she really can read short novels without zhuyin these days just fine.  Yesterday, she started studying the the first chapter of third-grade second-semester textbook from Taiwan.  After looking over the text once, she read it aloud decently well (say, 70%).  She simply may not have the patience to read novels yet.  I may need to remind her that her next trip to Orlando rests on reaching this next target, LOL.



Tiger cub of Amy Chua

I am sure you know who Amy Chua is, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother from a few years back. She hired Chinese nannies when her daughters were young.  My understanding is that Amy agreed to raise their children Jewish (her husband’s religion) but they had to learn Chinese.  Sophia, the elder daughter, just graduated from Harvard and should be attending law school at Yale, where her parents teach.  You can listen to Sophia’s Chinese in this video.  Though Sophia had a script and likely practiced her part beforehand, Amy did a good job, considering their circumstance.  It took me sometime to find this video back then.

Click on 7:20 and 16:00 mark for Sophia’s part.

 Interview of tiger mom and cub

Subject vocabulary

This is my list of what I am going over with my daughters while driving them to the bus stop.  A few simple terms are all that’s needed for daily conversation and reading.

  • Week of 10/5:  頭,眼睛,耳朵,臉頰,下巴,鼻子,眉毛,睫毛,脖子,背部,脊椎,手臂,手,手腕,肚子,腿,膝蓋,腳,腳趾,手指,胃,心臟,肺,肝臟,腎臟,胰臟
  • Week of 10/12: Cells. Cell, cell wall, cell membrane, nucleus, chloroplast, photosynthesis, carbon dioxide, oxygen, carbohydrates. 細胞,細胞壁,細胞膜,細胞核,葉綠體,光合作用,二氧化碳, 氧, 碳水化合物.
  • Week of 10/19: 氣體 (gas), 固體 (Solid). 液體(Liquid), 凝結 (Condensation), 凝華(Deposition), 昇華 (Sublimation), 沸騰 (Boiling), 融化 (Melting), 凝固 (Freezing)
  • Week of 10/26: 行星(planet),恆星(star),星座(constellation),隕石(meteorite),流星(meteor),彗星(comet). 
  • Week of 11/2: president 總統, vice president 副總統, governor 州長, prime minister 總理, mayor市長
  • Week of 11/9: doctor 醫師, lawyer 律師,judge 法官,engineer 工程師,dentist 牙醫,veterinarian 獸醫,optometrist 驗光師,diplomat 外交官,professor 教授,reporter 記者,secretary 秘書,accountant 會計師
  • Week of 11/16: 英國 United Kingdom,西班牙 Spain,法國France,德國Germany,意大利Italy,希臘Greece,波蘭Poland,丹麥Denmark,俄羅斯Russia,埃及Egyt,日本Japan,韓國Korea,越南Vietnam,菲律賓Philippine,泰國Thailand,柬埔寨Cambodia,印尼 Indonesia,印度India,墨西哥Mexico,加拿大Canada


“免費”電影線上看-我的少女時代…… totally not saying anything about the legitimacy and quality of the video. But you will love it! My girls surely did.  Another hit for our CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem)!  Sorry, boys may not be interested in this.

Go toward the bottom of the post where it says:

Magic Tree House & The Selection

Yeah, “Georgia” is done reading the first 24 Chinese-edition books of Magic Tree House!  She will now move onto book #37-48, which probably has twice the number of characters as the first few books.  I estimate that she can finish reading one book in 15-20 minutes, but we will see if her attention span holds.

As for “Charlotte”, we finally receive in mail the Chinese edition of The Heir, which is book #4 of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass!  It will be another good ~ 4 hours of Chinese reading time for her.  The Heir’s book movie trailer.  It looks like book #5, The Crown, will come out next May.  I expect the Chinese edition to hit the bookstore two months later.

At the mean time, I spotted a couple of catchy but simple songs by Malaysian singer Joyce Chu: 好想你 and 伸出圓手.  My girls should like it.   These would be another score for CLE!

Harry Potter

Finally I am able to get 9 year old “Georgia” to start reading more Harry Potter in English.  She is now working on the third book and read a chapter on Kindle every few days.  That’s not fast by any means but she will pick up more speed over the next year to two.  It’s a balancing act, to advance both Chinese and English reading at decent enough pace concurrently.  Georgia is able to do it decently well, since we have a solid CLE (Chinese language ecosystem) already set up, thanks to her elder sister, and a solid ELE from school plus my tutoring.  She finished reading the 21st book of Magic Tree House in Chinese in 8 minutes or so.  It’s ~ 100 pages but doesn’t seem to have many characters.  She has three more books to go before I had her skip the next dozen (book 25-36, which I did not buy) and move onto book 37, which is longer.  Hopefully, she will be one step closer to reading Chinese chapter books without zhuyin by the time she finishes reading Magic Tree House book #48.  Her sister “Charlotte” started reading chapter books without zhuyin at 10.5 years old; I hope “Georgia” get to do it at 10.


Rate limiting factor: Time

With YouTube, internet, mail-order books, etc., gone are the days when learning materials and pedagogy are some of the major limiting factors for kids to learn Chinese well, particularly for families with resource and/or Chinese-speaking heritage families.  Time management, learning efficiency, competent bilingual-biliterate instructor at home (usually one of the parents), and priorities are.

We simply can’t get around the fact that there are only 24 hours a day.  Speaking proficiency depend largely on having the chance to practice speaking with others who have at least equivalent proficiency.  Certainly, read-aloud of conversational or more colloquial text certainly help.  Listening to lots of TV shows, like what “哈佛妹 Harvard Girl” Avalon and many others suggested, certainly help but requires the chance to practice speaking also.  Reading proficiency comes from having the chance to do plenty of reading.  All these require one thing – TIME!

Parents, once again, have to choose their priorities.  How important is Chinese and how much time should the children devote to Chinese, instead of other activities, whether they are academic or extracurricular pursuit?  To this end, time management and learning efficiency become ever so important, and having a competent bilingual-biliterate instructor available at home help tremendously.  How much “gap” to open and know-how of “closing the gap” in a timely fashion can therefore be of primary importance.

First vs. second language learning

Though many families do not set native-like proficiency as the goal and don’t need to, the statements below once again emphasize the importance of listening and speaking proficiency by 5 and then by 8.

Wikipedia: second language learning

“…..children by around the age of 5 have more or less mastered their first language, with the exception of vocabulary and a few grammatical structures.”

“In acquiring an L2, Hyltenstam (1992) found that around the age of six or seven seemed to be a cut-off point for bilinguals to achieve native-like proficiency. After that age, L2 learners could get near-native-like-ness but their language would, while consisting of few actual errors, have enough errors to set them apart from the L1 group. The inability of some subjects to achieve native-like proficiency must be seen in relation to the age of onset (AO). “The age of 6 or 8 does seem to be an important period in distinguishing between near-native and native-like ultimate attainment. More specifically, it may be suggested that AO interacts with frequency and intensity of language use” (Hyltenstam, 1992, p. 364).”