A good children’s story is great for learning Chinese
My Chinese tutor has sometimes used children’s books to help me study the Chinese language. I think this has worked well for a few reasons.
- She has chosen many of the books for their common language usage.
- She has found books with themes that have some overlap with my interests or activities.
- The books frequently have bopomofo in them. My tutor and I made an easy to read bopomofo chart that I think you will like.
- We allow the lesson conversation to grow around the books, not be confined by them.
Looking for Chinese children’s books
I have made attempts at buying children’s books myself, both while in Taiwan and via internet with mixed results. Sometimes, she has to point out to me that the language being used is somewhat archaic or in other ways stiff and not used conversationally. However, I am getting better at making discerning purchases and we have used several of the books I have bought with much success.
Only one of the books has an English translation in it alongside the Chinese, and that was only because it didn’t come any other way. In my experience it is best to only be visually presented with the Chinese. At least make a good first effort to read and think directly from the Chinese, or else the brain can’t engage in the Chinese as well. Besides that, the translation does not explain the Chinese, it just tells the story in English. I could buy an English version for that!
Insights into reading Chinese written for Chinese speakers
Most of the children’s books are now published with the left to right horizontal alignment of words, like in English. This also includes them opening from the direction English speakers are used to. It is easy to tell from the spacing of things if the traditional Chinese right to left vertical alignment is being used. And, really, once you get in the flow of reading, it doesn’t matter.
For me, the biggest challenge in readying Chinese is usually figuring out which character combinations go together. This has been getting easier as I become more familiar with the language, but can be particularly frustrating in the beginning. When I begin to recognize combinations without being told what they are, I can tell I am making good progress in overall comprehension.
I have found that the children’s stories that have only one or two sentences per page or illustration use the most conversational form of the language. In Chinese, just like English, there is some difference in how things are written and how they are spoken in every day usage. More short cuts tend to be taken when it is spoken, plus there are a few words that are distinctly for the written form, but are no used verbally.
Some of my suggestions for children’s books
Here is a list of several of the books I have enjoyed studying. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them on amazon or any English website, but there might be a way to special order them, as I see the English versions on amazon, which I will link to alongside, if I can find it. (I have never ordered from the sites where I found the Chinese books, but I am going to contact them and try. I will let you know how it goes!)
I am intrigued by the company I found for the last book listed, Read with Mommy, since they are particularly catering to children learning both English and Chinese. Their website is in English.
Designing my best Chinese-English children’s books
I am going to I have collaborated with my Chinese tutor to write some children’s books in Chinese. In fact, two of them are done.
The Blue Fish (in Chinese) paperback (as of 3.22.2018 is not showing the new cover on the amazon listing, but it does show correctly on CreateSpace.com)
They are available on Kindle and via amazon. My books go through the translation with explanation in both bopomofo and pinyin, which is then shown exactly how it translates to English.
I hope you can find some of these books to enjoy. If you have your own suggestions, please share them and links to them in the comments!