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How we teach western kids to write Chinese characters

Like many families that move to China, we have tried different ways to help your lad to learn Chinese. Through trial and error, we have found a few ways that make a difference. This is the approach that works that best. After 9 months here, this learning ‘game’ we use has proved a huge success. He got 94% in his exam last month.

Remember, the tests are all in Chinese. 9 months ago he had almost no Chinese. Here’s how we (well, my wife) does it.

We write the words on the floor with a felt tipped pen using pinyin. This is the phonetic spelling of the word. Learning pinyin is fairly straightforward, though you need to understand the tones: 1,2,3,4 all of which have different means.

So,

Ma with tone #1 means Mother

Ma with tone #2 means Pig

and so on...

The trick is to pronounce the words with the right tone, otherwise…

To learn the Chinese characters, we write the pinyin on the floor (it works like a giant white board) and then ask junior to write in the characters.

This ‘game’ works with kids. They like the idea of filling in the gaps and working towards completion. I guess it’s like completing a jigsaw.

If you want more photos, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

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Taken on November 22, 2009