It’s Getting Serious: First Grade Mandarin

Sammy has a spelling test today. In Chinese.

It’s her first one and I’m pretty sure I’m more nervous than she. She has to write the characters from memory. There’s no sounding out. There’s no way for me to help her learn them. She has to memorize them. Her school uses traditional characters, so they can be a little complex. There’s only five, but still, her English tests are only ten words.

Honestly, it looks like a bunch of chicken scratch to me. I can’t recognize one character, let alone try to recreate one. Then there’s stroke order. There’s a correct order to make all the lines, top to bottom, left to right, but what about half lines? I don’t get it.

I had my neighbor over this weekend to help Samantha learn the stroke order. It seems to have taken. She can write them all with correct stroke order now. I still don’t get it.

She also has eight additional characters she needs to recognize, not write. She’s got all the fingers down, but has a hard time with palm, wrist, and elbow.  The first half of each of those is the character for “hand”, so I think that’s confusing her. But maybe not. I have no idea.

This school year, it’s become very apparent that this is going to be an academically rigorous program. And I knew it was, but I didn’t get it. Until now. They need to learn the California standards in both languages. Basically, they have twice as much to learn and half as much instructional time in each language. It’s intense.

I’m not the only one. We parents talk. Those of us who don’t speak Mandarin. And we’re worried. There’s a lot of homework. Each day they get the same amount of work they got each week in kindergarten.  We’re in the swing of things now, so it’s taking the 20-30 minutes it’s supposed to. That first month was rough. It was taking an hour a night. Plus there’s supplementary Chinese material.  And we don’t understand it.

We can do the English and the math. We can see if there are mistakes where they are and can help clarify the concepts. Not in Chinese. I can’t provide any hints or tips to help her learn. To help her retain. I can’t even read the directions. They started sending home cheat sheets for us. Thank God. Last week they were learning about herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. In Mandarin. I’m not even sure she knows those words in English.

This week, the instructions say to look at the characters in the quotation marks. It took me a few minutes to find them. In Chinese, quotation marks are apparently brackets [ ]. At least I’m assuming that’s what they are, I can’t find anything else. But it took me a bit to recognize that wasn’t part of the character.

Chinese is hard. Sammy seems to be holding her own, but I’m freaking out a bit. I guess this is on of those lessons where I have to learn to let go a little, trust her, and remember kids are sponges. This isn’t as hard for her as it is for me. But I don’t have to like it.


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2 Responses to “It’s Getting Serious: First Grade Mandarin”

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  1. Kristin says:

    Intense is a good word. There’s a lot of material to cover.

    I say take your lead from her.
    Kristin´s last post ..How Much Internet Do I Need?