11/30/16

How to remember Chinese words

After starting Chinese lessons with full energy, you will soon notice that it keeps getting harder and harder to remember the words you have learned as new words are coming your way every lesson. It’s time to create a system for reviewing and remembering words!

Chinese textbook

Chinese textbook

Reading textbook dialogues

One easy way to review is to read the textbook dialogues out loud, even better if you do it as listen and repeat after the textbook mp3. By listening you will hear the correct model audio and by repeating you will practise pronouncing the words in a correct way and review vocabulary at the same time.

Tips: Read out one dialogue per day. At first you’ll be reading the same dialogue between your first lessons. Later when you progress you can choose which dialogue to read out loud as you have many to choose from those you have studied already.

Chinese flashcards

Chinese flashcards

Making paper flaschards

Flashcards are a great way to memorize and review vocabulary. By making your own flashcards you will get an extra strong review while you create your cards and a second review when you go over them. Put your cards in two piles, answered correctly -pile and answered incorrectly -pile.

Tips: Review the correctly -pile once per week and incorrectly -pile once per day.

Skritter

Skritter

Using Skritter app to review

You can also go modern and use Skritter electronic flashcards (affiliate link) on your phone, tablet or laptop. After you have purcharged a subsription (totally worth the investment!) browse word lists and find your textbook. For example for most of my students you should go to browse published lists and find Our Chinese Classroom 1 made by xuefang.

Tips: Use Skritter for 5 minutes every day. It will choose for you what you need to review so your job is to make the time for it.

11/12/16

12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of raising a child in China

Carrying a baby is a necessity in China

Carrying a baby is a necessity in China

1 The whole village wants to parents your kid. You get lots of parenting advice every time you dare to leave the door with your precious baby. She should wear more clothes! Where are her socks? She must be hungry! Everyone wants to lend their best piece of advice for free.

2 You become the center of attention. Like being a white foreigner wasnt enough, now I get even more attention when I go out with our daughter as Chinese think mixed kids are the cutest and want to drown her in pleasant small talk. They usually mention her big eyes and white skin, or how cute and chubby she looks.

3 Formula companies are winning in China. Unfortunately the baby milk formula companies are doing such a great job in lobbying their products and making money, that they make Chinese women insecure with breastfeeding. Relatives give cans of formula as a gift for new mother, expecting that they need it. Along this comes the scams related to milk powder, making Chinese purchasing formula abroad for big bucks.

4 Too many cooks spoils the soup definitely fits the Chinese way of parenting where a baby has parents and grandparents going circles around him. If they all share common views on child raising, great, but more often than not, four people means four different ways of raising a child. My parents-in-law took their grandson (our daughter’s cousin) for a haircut in secret because their daughter and the mother of the son, had refused it.

5 Everyone is willing to help you. No matter where I go with a baby, other people jump of from their seats on public transport to give us a seat. Restaurant staff will entertain babies and toddlers while you eat your lunch. Once I even had a customer sitting next to me playing with Anna while I was eating out alone with her. Chinese people love babies and are really willing to help!

6 Baby carrier like Manduca or Ergo is a life savior in China. Many Chinese cities aren’t built for strollers or prams, making it difficult to go around with a baby, unless you have a nice baby carrier and then you are free to explore everywhere! My Manduca carrier is one of the best, if not the best, baby product I got this year and I can’t imagine how I could have managed the baby year without it.

7 The belly button is an open port for illness to enter the body. No matter hot or cold, the Chinese want to keep the baby’s belly button covered so they won’t catch a cold. When ever I was changing diapers, my mother-in-law would remind me to cover the belly with a small towel.

8 Shopping craziness starts with a baby. For many mothers, Chinese mothers too, it’s a transition time in shopping habits when a baby is about to be born. In China online shopping and Taobao makes it super easy to buy anything you need, fast and easy, which makes for many unnecessary purchases. My sister-in-law is a prime example of a shopaholic mom who isn’t afraid on spending money on her son.

9 Educational companies are making big bucks with courses for babies. Speaking of spending, parents are the most likely to spend money and it’s all for the best of their kids. Educational companies have noticed this and are offering a variety of courses starting from as small as 6 months. International or “international” day cares are doing good business in China at the moment and monthly fees can go to 7000rmb per month or higher!

10 Cantonese babies bathe daily. Here in the south it’s hot most of the year so it’s quite natural that everyone bathes or showers daily. But during our baby’s  first Winter I was following the Finnish custom of giving a bath just a few times per week. My Chinese family thought it was really weird not to give her daily baths! After she started eating solids at 6 months she started daily showers too as it was, and is, way too messy!

11 A sick baby is rushed to a hospital right away. No matter if it’s just a little fever or a running nose, Chinese parents or grand parents often rush the precious kids to a hospital for remedies. As the weather is changing, Anna is having a running nose and our nanny is really worried already and bundling her up in layers of clothing. I bet if grand parents were taking care of her they would have been to the hospital already!

12 A baby is the center of your life. This I totally agree with the Chinese though out methods are different, after you become a parents your baby is the center of your life. No matter which culture, we all want whats best for them and use the best of our abilities to provide them a happy and healthy life.

11/5/16

Chinese group lessons in Guangzhou

Sharing useful phrases with my students

Sharing useful phrases with my students

While working as a private Chinese teaching in Guangzhou I’ve noticed the good effect of small group lessons, especially for spoken Chinese. At the moment I have two groups, one for complete beginners and other for elementary level students who have passed the survival level already.

My beginner Chinese group class just started last week and I was super excited to see how my students were speaking in Chinese with each other! Learning a new language as an adult can feel like an impossible task at times and I very well understand the nervousness of using your language skills to converse with the locals.

I have students who are afraid to speak Chinese cause they are worried not being understood or they have been discouraged with too many corrections while trying to use their newly learned Mandarin. I’m actually in the same boat with my Cantonese! I can understand a bit and speak even less, so I have been too shy to actually use it in real life.

This is the reason why I started beginner Chinese group class, to work as a stepping stone between classroom and the real world. Offering a friendly and encouraging environment to try out your Mandarin and get more confidence. And even in one hour we saw huge breakthroughs and everyone was so excited to be speaking Chinese no matter how many phrases they know.

My other group is for elementary students and there we dive into more complex topics like discussing hobbies, sharing travel memories or playing verbal games to get our Chinese to the next level. After learning words and grammar, it’s time for these students to experiment with their skills and increase their spoken vocabulary. After practising at class, they feel more ready to have a real conversation with locals.

If you are interested in these Chinese group lessons in Guangzhou, just send me an email!

11/3/16

What to do when you get into a traffic accident in China?

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

Getting into a traffic accident in China is a topic I wish I knew nothing about, but based on my quite resent experiences, I wrote a step by step guide for you. So here’s what to do if you are in a car crash in Guangzhou.

  1. Stop right there where the accident happened, don’t move your car or allow the other person to move theirs. Safely get out of your car and take photos of both of the cars and your surroundings. As changing lanes is when many accidents happen, take photos which show the location of both cars and the road markings. Is you car over a line or is theirs?
  2. If it was a major accident or there is any dispute between you two, don’t move the cards. Call a traffic police at 122 to come and settle it.
  3. If it was just a small crash and nothing too serious, head to the side of a road in a safe place to discuss it with the other person. Was it your fault? Then no need to call the police if you can settle the matter calmly. Was it their fault or not sure? Is the other person angry or trying to argue with you? Call the traffic police at 122 and let them decide whose fault it was. If you moved the cars, they will want to see the photos you took.
  4. Follow the traffic police’s instructions on how to continue. Call you insurance company and explain the situation to them. In small crashes or bumps where both cars can still continue driving, you can drive to a 快速理赔 (Quick claim settling station) to report the incident and get the correct documents for your insurance company.
  5. At the small station (just a hut usually) they will take photos of cars, you and your papers, then they will fill in report forms and give them to you for insurance purposes. You will also need those papers when you go and get your cars fixed.
  6. When both cars are fixed, all the documents has to be given to the one responsible so their insurance company can handle the paperwork. In my case the crash was my fault, so the other person sent their documents, I paid her and the insurance company will pay me back. Our car dealer shop, where we bought and fixed our car, will help us with all the paperwork.

Have you been in a traffic accident in China? Share your stories in the comments!

11/1/16

Training your ayi

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime work

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime job

Last time I wrote how we found a new ayi to take care our daughter while we work, little did I know that inviting a nanny to your home would mean a lot of extra work for you too!

I started with a list of things to keep in mind when taking care of our baby, even my husband thought it was a very detailed list, but actually I left out a lot of little things that might scare the new nanny away before starting! I don’t wish to be a parent who micro-manages everything, but it’s hard to relax and let someone else to care for your child.

Luckily our ayi seems to be great with Anna and after two weeks of getting to know each other I don’t worry at all while I work almost full time as a private teacher. Coming home to my smiling daughter reassures me, that we made the right decision.

But like in a marriage, in a employer-ayi relationship nothing is perfect of course. In our case she has been doing some sloppy job cleaning our house and I’m not sure if she doesn’t know how to or just would prefer not cleaning at all. My husband has always been complaining that he can’t get used to the food she cooks.

For me as Finn it’s quite awkward to tell our ayi what to do and to point out things she has done poorly. My husband Alan says that I was way too nice in the beginning and it ended up our ayi being a lazy cleaner. Now that I think of it, I probably should have been more direct and clear with cleaning instructions in the beginning.

Tips I’m trying to follow with our ayi now:

  • Make a list of daily and weekly tasks
  • First week clean together with her and show how you prefer things to be done
  • Observe her cleaning or taking care of your children, see how she is used to doing things
  • Be friendly but strict from the beginning so the ayi will respect your rules

Even with these hiccups, I hope that she will work with us for the next few years so we can all get used to each other and our daughter would have a constant good caretaker while me and her dad are working. I’ll keep you posted how things go!