Friday, March 27, 2009

Fun Chinese reading, thanks to Xiao Ding Dang

If you think Andre's English reading is dismal, wait till you hear about his Chinese. It's practically non-existent - limited to his school textbooks and assessment books. Once in three weeks, we go to the library and we'll borrow a whole armful of English books, plus the cursory Chinese book thrown in for good measure (and out of guilt). By the time the books are due, we'll be lucky if he even picked up the Chinese book, let alone read it.

Of course we parents are at fault too, Chinese is Kenneth's duty and he has so far only focused on getting homework and tuition work done. You probably can tell the lack of priority by the fact that this is the first and only post on Chinese since I started my blog half a year ago.

Chinese is just not my favourite topic - it's like a foreign language to me. This is despite having scored B grades at 'O' and 'AO' level Chinese, which only reinforces my belief that the Singapore system rewards those with exam skills because I say this in all honesty - that my pathetic standard of Chinese is somewhere between the p2 and p3 levels. I am a living example that the old methods of teaching Chinese HAVE FAILED. I sometimes hear people who complain about the new methods, that they place too much emphasis on hanyu pinyin or rely too much on English, yadda yadda. I think it's just the usual rejection of anything new and inclinations to hang on to tradition. To me, anything is an improvement on past methods which relied purely on rote learning, memorising and killed any love of the language. Kenneth took Chinese as a first language for 10 years, he was from a SAP school. Now, he communicates haltingly with the tuition teacher and his conversations are sprinkled with English. FAIL!

Just as I'm keen to improve Andre's standard of English through reading, I think it's important to foster his love of Chinese via reading Chinese books. The problem is Andre views this as work - reading + Chinese = double whammy. So when Adeline told me about the Xiao Ding Dang comics, I immediately grabbed at the opportunity to ask her to buy them for me.

Here they are, six volumes of Xiao Ding Dang comics for only about $4.80 each (why is it that Chinese books are generally so much cheaper than English books?) When I first showed them to Andre, he went "yay!" and then, "hah? why not in English?" At first, he only looked at the pictures, then later I made him read the Chinese and it wasn't too painful (after he'd gotten the hang of reading up and down, from right to left). The Chinese is pitched at just the right level - for lower primary so he knows most of the words (more than me *blush*). Plus the comics are in full colour and the stories are so funny. Here's one where everything from a book comes alive and Xiao Ding Dang and Da Xiong have to deal with a giant mammoth.


Of course I know that he can't just rely on reading comics forever but this is one small step towards cultivating an interest in the Chinese language. Thanks a million, Ad!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

小叮噹是我最喜欢的卡通!!

I love reading the comic & watching the TV series till now. Channel 8 are showing it on Sat & Sun morning at 9.30am, in chinese!

Chris

Anonymous said...

Yes we bought the dvds for 小叮当 too! It's my kid's favourite chinese cartoon character since 18 months old. And I agree reading the comics is one of the good ways to develop interest in Chinese.

qx

KJJ said...

xiao ding dang's not bad. i started with Lao Fu Zhi comics...

Alcovelet said...

Tee hee, Mon! Glad Andre likes it and CAN read it, cos that's better than me too! I have to say I had a blast translating the books for my son. They're so whimsical and so full of childhood fun. I definitely learnt a thing or two. Hurray for comics!

petite fleur said...

It's a great idea & if they work why not. In fact that's how I'm trying to improve my French as well. The French calls them BD (bande desinee) & I just started on some myself.

monlim said...

Hurray for comics indeed! I wonder how many kids have learned languages through Tintin, Xiao Ding Dang, Lao Fu Zhi, etc...

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica

I would like to recommend a comic series by Singaporean ex-Chinese teacher Wu Guoxiong (Gary Goh) called The Little White Dragon (aka xiao bai long). This series is more suited for upper primary kids in terms of the language and the topics covered. The author introduces Chinese history and culture in a very engaging way, even I enjoy it tremendously. My kids learn about Yue Fei, Qin Shi Huang, the terracotta warriors, Chinese calligraphy masters, women's bound feet, acupuncture, Chinese martial arts, acrobatics, Chinese la mian (handspun noodles) etc etc, all from this series. Amazing range of subjects indeed!

This series has been endorsed and supported by Huayu Cool! You can find them in Popular bookshop.

Happy Reading!

LL

monlim said...

LL: I asked Lesley-Anne, she knows of the series but she prefers this one 这一班 which is about the funny exploits of students in school. There's also 阿凡提 (Effendi) which is good for upper pri kids. I've personally never seen or read any of them, I'm just taking L-A's word for it! But thanks for the rec, sounds like the series is interesting esp to get to know Chinese culture and legends better.

Lilian said...

I have quite a few XiaoDingDang comics which I bought a few years back but they were the smallish version, and the words were too small. I definitely wanna get hold of this big version next time I'm back, unless it's sold out cos your blog readers made a stampede for the shop :) Btw, I also have a VCD series of XiaoDingDang which the boys liked, but they like another inane series more, called CrayonShinChan, where the little boy is really naughty but quite hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Yes 蜡笔小新 is truly hilarious....he is like 小雄 in 小叮当. If only all textbooks are made this way!! hahaha Brings back fond memories of childhood for me actually....:D I think it is important to have HQ too... Something most people lack.

qx

monlim said...

I love all the cartoons too, they're so funny and imaginative! Lilian, these big comics are super, paper quality is quite good too. Maybe you can ask Ad to help you, she is a regular there, got *ahem* discount some more! Hope you don't mind me promoting you, Ad!!

Anonymous said...

Hihi, finally see some 'colours', where can these coloured xiao ding dang be bought please. Thanks in advance!!!

monlim said...

Anon: I believe you can get them from Bras Basah Complex.

Jo said...

Hee...after 10 years in a SAP school...am still totally pathetic ! Reading is one thing but apparently my daughter's oral skills are very weak :(

Tried the "speak chinese day" with them but it fizzled out within a few weeks...sigh...if anyone has any tips on how to improve our kids chinese oral skills please share.

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