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Sunday, March 2, 2008

What Characters!

Yesterday in class, my Mandarin teacher ShanghaiSweetie gave me a challenging exercise to perform. She watched while I wrote Chinese characters from memory ... I didn't remember many, perhaps twenty or thirty in all. I thought I knew many more than that ... but recognizing characters is a heck of a lot easier than recalling them.

I'm so pleased ShanghaiSweetie pushed me to do this because it led to a great lesson for the Tongginator. A few months ago, the Tongginator began showing an interest in writing her name, as well as general letters and numbers. She really wants to learn this new skill, and becomes easily frustrated with herself when she "gets it wrong."

Since I didn't perform as well as I would have liked in class, I felt motivated to practice daily for the next few weeks, even if only for ten minutes each day. I began last night. The Tongginator watched me for awhile, and soon wanted to join in the fun. She found it amazing that TongguMomma finds writing a difficult skill as well! Watching me struggle seemed to remove some of her self-imposed stress.

What stunned me is that she wrote her number characters fairly well, especially considering she'd never attempted it before. (Oh, remember she's still four-ish, so ALL of her letters, numbers and characters are works in progress!) Clockwise from the top left: TongguMomma writes characters from memory; the Tongginator practices her number characters; the Tongginator writes her blog nickname (and yes, she writes her real name much better); the Tongginator shows it off.

To count to ten in Mandarin Chinese, simply say yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba, jiu and shi. If you can count to ten in Mandarin, then you can count all the way to 99! To create the number seventeen, you would simply say "shi qi," meaning ten (plus) seven. Once you hit the twenties, you add a third number to the mix, for example saying "er sher liu" for twenty-six because it translates as two tens (plus) six. Fairly easy, yes?