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I taught my daughter 500+ Chinese characters!

We did it! 🥳 Last month big sister and I finished Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500! It has been an amazing journey (2.5 years) learning to read Chinese together. I am not literate in Chinese and I am not a native speaker. There were definitely many challenges along the way. I wanted to just share a few things that has worked for us.

#1 Use the FREE audio! Download it! This saved us when the characters were getting harder. I recommend dividing the audio into chapters or pages and having it easily accessible on a device or c pen. I had each chapter sticker and my children are able to read them independently. This is empowering for my children! They can be in charged of their own learning, especially when I’m not around. Here’s a secret, I can add audio to my books much faster by splitting the audio file than reading it out loud and recording it. It’s also important for me for the kids to get native speaking audio (I am very tone deaf). It takes me less than 5 minutes to sticker one book. I have all the chapter audio for orange, pink and red. Send me a dm if you need this. 

#2 Read lots and lots of fun books! Level books should not be your child’s first books. These are NOT story books. Read fun picture books first. Let them love reading. Once they start or finish level books, continue to read those fun picture books. It will supplement what they have learned. I made the mistake of treating these like picture books at the beginning and after a year of reading them, they did not learn much and we had to start over again. We now have a Chinese home library and have access to books at our local library. It’s definitely a blessing and privilege to have all of these. These books really helped us connect the meaning of the words and helped us to remember them.

If you do not have access to books, there are many YouTube stories available that you can use for reading. Although since Cantonese is a complex language, there may be some disconnect. I recommend Cantonese Mommy and Rhythm ‘N’ Rhyme read alouds as they do read in written and spoken form.

#3 Go at a pace that suits your child. For our family, that was one chapter/character per day. No revision. My daughter had various strategies for reading each chapter. Read all on her own if she knew all the characters. Repeat after me (using the audio). Listen to the whole chapter (audio) and attempt to read it all on her own. I let her decide how she will attempt each chapter and how many she would do. Occasionally she will be up for 3 chapters. It was important for her to be in charged of her own learning and her own intrinsic motivation kept her going. 

#4 Start at a time when your child is ready. Most importantly, none of these will matter if your child is not developmentally ready. Every child is different. I started noticing my child could recognized characters at 2. We started at 3, but we were unsuccessful the first year. She may not have been fully ready and I didn’t approach these books correctly. We tried again at 4 and experienced much more success. We also took a 2.5 month break after half a year. We weren’t using the audio at the time and it became increasingly difficult by the orange (3rd set). When we started again, I introduced the audio and it was more manageable for us to follow along and get through. We read a lot of other books and my daughter is able to point out words she had learned through Sage. 

These were special moments between my child and I. After each set of books, we found ourselves becoming more confident in reading. We were able to point out characters that we learned together with Sage. My youngest who is now 4, started Sage at 2. She zoomed through the first two books so fast. She wanted to mimic her older sister. However, she was not ready to read. She has taken 1.5 year break from Sage. She is just starting to show signs she is ready to read again. It’s hard but you really got to follow the pace of your child. Let them show you when they are ready. And lots of encouragement and praises go along way.

Throughout our journey, we read a lot of books and we did a lot of activities. There really is no one way to learn a language. A good combination of things will really help a child to understand the language.

Here are more FREE resources.

  • Cantonese for Families has a word list printable with all the characters and its jyutping. I used these before I switched to audio. Audio is very important for the children to hear. I found the jyutping helpful as an adult.
  • Guavarama has a hundred chart, games and other resources on her page as well. We used her hundred chart to track the characters my girls had learned.
  • Mama Baby Mandarin has tracing sheets, character search and many more resources on her page. I did not do any Sagebook worksheets with my kids. My kids traced the main character each lesson with their finger or c pen.

I have CHALK Academy to thank for introducing these books to me. She’s also another mom who was illiterate and non native in Chinese, and she inspired me to do this. I also have to thank Eveline from Rhythm ‘N’ Rhyme for bringing these books to Canada, sharing tips with me and encouraging my family along the way. I love her.

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Cantonese Songs to Get Your Kids Moving

Music is a great way to learn a language. Pair it with actions, and the words and songs are more likely to get stuck in your head. Think “Baby Shark”. Below is a list of YouTube videos for songs that encourage movement. It’s also good exercise for the little ones. Enjoy!

TVB Hands Up Music

miss Ka Foo 嘉芙姐姐

Red Nature’s Play PARTY

Zeon gogo 志安歌歌

The first two songs do not have actions displayed on the screen. You can make up your own to follow the song. There are English translation if you are not fluent.

HK Department of Health

Locy Lee Learning

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Cantonese Children YouTube Channels

Below is a list of Cantonese videos that can be used to teach Cantonese, reinforce the language or use for entertainment. I have written a very brief summary of each videos indicating what kind of videos the channel produces and what level I believe is appropriate to engage with the video. I do encourage families to try videos above their language level to give your child a challenge and a chance to learn and improve more. You can also find these videos sorted in my Additional Resources section in the menu above.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsed or affiliated with any of the creators below. Please prescreen videos first to make sure they align with your learning goals, age of your child and values of your family. Captions are written by me. If there are any errors, please feel free to comment or send me a message.

Quick Links

vocabulary-based videos

Beginner video: introduce a variety of vocabulary one at a time (traditional chinese, jyutping, English caption, audio for Chinese and English)
https://youtu.be/pPjTVa2spzA
Beginner video: introduce a variety of vocabulary one at a time (traditional chinese, jyutping, English caption, audio for Chinese and English)
Beginner video: introduce a variety of vocabulary one at a time (traditional chinese, jyutping, English caption, audio for Chinese, no English audio)
Beginner video: introduce vocabulary at slow pace with description, easy to follow along, very clear pronuciation (traditional Chinese, jyutping, English or colloquial Cantonese captions)
Beginner to intermediate video: speaks at a slight slower pace, introduce several vocabulary throughout video, shows real life examples of vocabulary (no subtitles, includes large font Chinese and English words throughout video for vocab)

art-based videos

Beginner to intermediate video: short story, drawing tutorial
Intermediate to advanced: clay art tutorials (Cantonese instruction, traditional Chinese subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: art tutorials including drawing, pastel, and paint (no subtitles, Cantonese instruction)
Intermediate to advance video: art tutorials including drawing, pastel, and paint (no subtitles, Cantonese instruction, some video have no verbal instructions)

Science-based Videos

Intermediate video: covers a variety of science topics in animation form, main vocabulary includes Chinese character and English word, (traditional Chinese subtitles)
Intermediate video: learn about different animals at HK Ocean Park (traditional Chinese and English subtitles)
Intermediate video: western country-born children talk in Cantonese about science topics and do crafts (no subtitles or text)
Intermediate to advanced video: covers a variety of science topics and experiments (traditional Chinese subtitles)

Cantonese TV shows/programs

Intermediate video: short animated videos of animal friends and their adventures
(no subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: Mcdull videos
(traditional Chinese subtitles)
Intermediate video: animated video covers a variety of topics and stories aimed at kindergarten age children, 3-6 years old
(traditional Chinese subtitle)
Intermediate to advance video: Hands Up features adult host with children in a studio set talking, doing games, and singing songs, speech more natural pace, suitable for 0-6 years old
(no subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: Think Big features adult host drawing, answering questions, cover math topics, and do crafts, speech more natural pace, suitable for 6+ years old
(traditional Chinese subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: game show for older children
(traditional Chinese subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: I haven’t watched these yet but I believe it’s a famous show
(no subtitles)
Intermediate to advance video: videos to make being in the hospital a more enjoyable experience for children, crafts and stories
(no subtitles)

Other Famous Children’s Cartoon

Doraemon/Ding Dong

Hello Kitty

Lego Country Girls

Lego Ninjago

Peppa Pig

PJ Mask

Thomas and Friends

Robocar Poli

Robot Trains

*Cantonese children show options are also available on Netflix and Disney+. Shows available will vary by region.

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Float or sink

I am always amazed at the ideas that Eveline (Rhythm ‘N’ Rhyme) and Dorothy (Locy Lee Learning) come up with for their music program, Roundabout. Last week, they taught us a fun bath time song which involved vocabulary like float and sink. This is such a fun topic that children are naturally curious about. It inspired me to create these worksheets to extend our learning.

The first page is to introduce the characters with stroke order for the words float and sink. The second page is an experiment page to record our prediction and results of objects that float or sink. The second page is not necessary for younger kids. My kids had a lot of fun with the experiment and looking for different objects that might sink or float. Another inquiry you can try is the object position in the water. For example, we found that the cup with the open end at the top floated, but if we turned it so that the open end was facing towards the bottom, the cup sank slowly into the water. You can find the worksheet here.

We tested each object one by one. At the end, my daughter wanted to test if they were all in the bowl at the same time, would it affect their ability to sink or float.

To extend our knowledge further, you can watch the youtube video below. They discuss buoyancy and density in Cantonese. It also shows how an object (playdoh) with the same weight but different shape can affect if it will sink or float. That is also another fun experiment that we plan to try out next.

浮 (fau4) float

沉 (cam4) sink

浮力 (fau4 lik6) buoyancy

密度 (mat6 dou6) density

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Digestive System 消化系統️

This week the kids and I are learning about the digestive system. I want the kids to learn more about their body and how it works. I thought the digestive system would be a great start. I originally only planned to teach the English terminology but since we are still home, I decided to throw in the Cantonese vocabulary as well.

I originally had a paper activity planned. However, I changed plans and decided to do a cardboard activity instead. You will still find a printable diagram with jyutping vocabulary in the printables section since I already made it before changing plans. This activity is more like a path than a maze.

How I made the Cardboard Digestive System Maze

  • Draw the digestive system on a large piece of cardboard. I outlined and labeled everything using markers.
  • Cut 0.75 in strips of cereal boxes for the path walls.
  • Glue the strips down using hot glue gun.
  • Glue a strip of cardboard over the small intestine so the large intestine path can continue over it.
  • Optional: I used another piece of cardboard to draw the head and mouth so the kids can drop the “food” into it. I also added a little poop slider they can pull out when the “food” reaches the end.

Supplement Material in Cantonese