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The Words of the Day for today is 油桃, yóu táo (nectarine). 油 means oily, and 桃 means peach.

Even though nectarines are originally from China, I do not remember eating one growing up. Guangzhou is known for its abundance of fruits. I remember eating pineapples, coconuts, star fruits, papayas, litchis, and other exotic fruits. Nectarines, however, didn't seem very popular. So when I first saw it here in the US markets, I didn't know the name of it. Upon doing a little research, I found out its name is 油桃.

This name is interesting because 油 means oil, oily. Since nectarines have smooth skin, unlike the fuzzy peaches, they look shinny like they are oily. 桃, because nectarines are technically peaches. They grow from peach trees.

This is a name that's easy to remember because it makes perfect sense. Summer is coming, enjoy the 油桃, and tell your kids its Chinese name!

Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 九层塔, jiǔ céng tǎ (basil). 九层塔 literally means nine level pagoda.

I did not learn to cook when I lived in China, so I don't know how to say a lot of cooking related things in Chinese. One of these things that I have troubles with is herbs. Whenever I bring a non-Chinese dish to a potluck with Chinese friends, if the dish is good, people ask me what's in the dish. I usually have problems telling them the herbs I put in, especially the herb basil.

To improve my own Chinese, I looked up the word basil in an online dictionary, and found that it is 九层塔 (jiǔ céng tǎ). Why is it named nine-level pagoda. One story goes that a Chinese emperor was out sightseeing and a sudden flood forced him to be trapped in a nine-level pagoda for a few days. He found this plant growing on the roofs of the pagoda. It not only tasted quite good but literally saved his life. When the flood receded, upon safely returning to the palace, he named this plant 九层塔.

I love these kinds of stories because they are so Chinese. While reading about 九层塔, I found a very famous Chinese dish using basil. 三杯鸡, sān bēi jī (three-cups chicken). Chicken is stewed in oil, soy sauce and cooking wine, with basil added in the end. This dish originated from 江苏 province, and has become popular in Taiwan. I can't wait to cook up this dish and watch the family eat it up.

Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011 Updated: Saturday, October 22, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

I'm so excited about all the new products becoming available now and in the near future on Ni Hao Books. When I was in China on vacation three years ago, I was browsing through a bookstore in Guangzhou. Bookstore is an understatement, because it was a whole multi-story building devoted to books. It was a "Book City". I wish we had those things here!

Anyway, while looking around in the children's section, I came across "My Reader Pen" by Hongen. I was really impressed by the quality of the pen and the books. It's very similar to the Leapfrog pens we have here in US. One simply has to touch the pen to the words printed in the book and the pen reads them. I thought to myself, what a perfect way to learn Chinese! It's a great way for both children and adults to learn the correct pronunciation of Chinese words. Ever since then, I have been trying to bring this product to Ni Hao Books. Well, their products are finally here and available through us. The first books available are Hello Teddy Pocket Books, Chinese Reading House for Kids (Beginner Level), and My First Books. Imagine your child using the pen and books to listen to Chinese words, sentences and stories. How exciting! You don't even need to know Chinese yourself. Click below to learn more!

Hong En My Reader Pen and Starter Set.



Another awesome product is coming from down under-New Zealand, the Magic Story Box. They are very popular in New Zealand schools for learning Chinese. The Magic Story Box consist of six-level sets of readers for learners who have little knowledge of Chinese. The complete series consists of 72 readers, big books and audio CDs. 32 titles in Set A, and 32 titles in Set B. The first two levels will be available through Ni Hao Books shortly. Please contact us if you are interested in the big books and CDs, which are perfect for school settings. The stories contain sentences and funny stories. I have been looking for such books for my 6 year old who can recognize some Chinese characters. These books will motivate him to read more himself.

The next two books have become my absolute favorites because I identify with them completely. These two rhyming bilingual Chinese-English picture books about a girl who loves junk food and another girl who won't go to sleep will most certainly help your children learn Chinese through seeing a little of themselves in the characters. I, as a mom, laughed out loud while reading them. They are also beautifully illustrated.

Sasha the Stubborn Sleeper Sasha The Stubborn Sleeper

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 Updated: Saturday, September 3, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 小孩, xiǎo hái (children). 小 means small, and 孩 means kids. Both of my kids have found this word hard to remember, even though they are both 小孩, and it's an easy word. What confuse them is because of the word for adults is 大人,(dà rén). Since adults are 大人, the children, who are smaller version of adults, should be 小人 (xiǎo rén). I can see this logic going through my kids' heads whenever this topic comes up. It's very logical, however, the Chinese language sometimes doesn't work like that. It works in examples such as a big apple is 大苹果 (dà píng guǒ), a small apple is 小苹果 (xiǎo píng guǒ). But if you call anyone a 小人, he/she will be very upset. 小人 is someone who is tricky, cheap, and who stabs others in the back. Just not a good person. Hence, I correct my kids every time they call themselves 小人, because they are not. They are 可爱的小孩, kě ài de xiǎo hái (cute kids).

Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 中国, zhōng guó (China). 中 means middle, and 国 means country. Chinese have always thought they live in the Middle Kingdom, the center of the world.

母亲节, mǔ qīn jié (Mother's day) is coming up, so my 6 year old son had to do a project for school related to me, the mom. He has to find out a few things about me. One of the question is my favorite spot of vacationing. I asked him first and see what he thought, thinking he would say Yosemite, since I talk about it all the time. To my surprise, he said 中国, in Mandarin and all. I then realized I do talk about taking him to China even more than Yosemite. It's more than my favorite vacation spot, it's my roots, my mother-land. I hope my kids will come to appreciate their roots, and find 中国 to be their favorite vacation spot, too.

母亲节快乐,(mǔ qīn jié kuài le) Happy Mother's Day!

Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The word of today is 坏了, huài le (broken). I have never thought of how this word can be confusing until my 2.5 year old kept calling his milk "broken". I then realized when I tell him his food has gone bad, I usually say 坏了, such as 牛奶坏了,niú nǎi huài le (milk has gone bad). I also use the same words for when lamps are broken, 灯坏了,dēng huài le. After listening to 坏了 being used in many different settings and situations, my son naturally started translating it in his head to English, and use "broken" for food or furniture. This again made me realize how difficult it can be to learn Chinese.

Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 日本,rì běn (Japan).

When I visited Hilo, Hawaii last year, I saw a very large and nicely landscaped park in downtown Hilo. The park has lots of large green lawns, a few ponds, some bridges and a small museum. I thought how odd that there's such a large open space in the middle of downtown. It turned out it was a memorial to the people who died during the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis. In the museum there are pictures taken during and after the 1960 tsunami. I will never forget one picture showing a man riding his bicycle on the road, next to him was a tsunami wave three, four times higher than him. I don't want to imagine what happened next.

For the past few weeks, as I watched more and more videos of the 地震 (dì zhèn, earthquake),and 海 啸 that happened in Japan, my heart goes out to all those who are suffering there. Please consider making a donation to the Salvation Army for relief efforts.

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 海 啸,hǎi xiào (tsunami). 海 means ocean or sea, 啸 means roar.

When I visited Hilo, Hawaii last year, I saw a very large and nicely landscaped park in downtown Hilo. The park has lots of large green lawns, a few ponds, some bridges and a small museum. I thought how odd that there's such a large open space in the middle of downtown. It turned out it was a memorial to the people who died during the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis. In the museum there are pictures taken during and after the 1960 tsunami. I will never forget one picture showing a man riding his bicycle on the road, next to him was a tsunami wave three, four times higher than him. I don't want to imagine what happened next.

For the past few days, as I watched more and more videos of the 地震 (dì zhèn, earthquake),and 海 啸 that happened in Japan, my heart goes out to all those who are suffering there. Please consider making a donation to the Salvation Army for relief efforts.

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 妇女,fù nǚ (women). Today is the International Women's Day. International is 国际(guó jì), so today is 国际妇女节. I'm very surprised that women don't get a day off here in the US. According to my mom, when we lived in China, she got this day off every year. Sometimes the place she was working at even organized all the women there to watch a movie together to celebrate. But here in the US, I haven't experienced such a thing. As a stay home mom, I will certainly like to use any excuse to get a day off from taking care of my kids.

Happy International Women's Day

国际妇女节快乐!

Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 牛油果,niú yóu guǒ (avocado). I have been very confused as to what Avocado is in Chinese for a very long time. It doesn't help that I have never seen one growing up in China. In my Chinese dictionary, avocado is 鳄梨 (è lí), 鳄 means crocodile, and 梨 means pear. It's so named probably because the skin of an avocado looks like crocodile skin, and the shape looks like a pear. However, when I read a Chinese picture dictionary from Taiwan to my kids, it claims avocado is 酪梨 (lào lí). Further research led to the conclusion that avocado has many names in Chinese. All three above can be used. The question is which one does a Chinese person use on a daily basis in China. After consulting with friends who just moved here from China, I've decided I will teach my kids avocado is 牛油果. However, if I happen to be in dire need of avocados while traveling in China, I will certainly remember all three names just in case.

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 开,kāi (open). Just like the English language, a lot of words in Chinese have more than one meanings, or more appropriately, can be used in more than one situation/setting. One of these words that confuses both my kids is 开 (kāi). Both kids were exposed to Chinese first before English. They both knew 开门 (kāi mén) means "opening the door", 开灯(kāi dēng) means "turning on the light". Note 开 is used for both "open" and "turn on". So when their little minds started translating Chinese to English, they naturally would say things like "open the light". The same goes for 关灯 (guān dēng), which means "turn off the light". 关 can also be used in 关门 (guān mén), which means "close the door". So again, my kids would say things like "close the light". It was very funny hearing them talking like bad translators. But it was very interesting to see how their minds work.

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Here is a great rhyme I learned from the Chinese Story Time at North University Community Library. Winnie taught all of us this rhyme perfect for learning the days of the week.

xīng qī yī hóu zi chuān xīn yī

星期一 猴子穿新衣 (Monday the monkey wears new clothes)

xīng qī èr hóu zi dù zi è

星期二 猴子肚子饿 (Tuesday the monkey is hungry)

xīng qī sān hóu zi qù pá shān

星期三 猴子去爬山 (Wednesday the monkey goes hiking)

xīng qī sì hóu zi qù kǎo shì

星期四 猴子去考试 (Thursday the monkey takes a test)

xīng qī wǔ hóu zi qù tiào wǔ

星期五 猴子去跳舞 (Friday the monkey goes dancing)

xīng qī liù hóu zi chē shí liū

星期六 猴子吃石塯 (Saturday the monkey eats pomegranate)

xīng qī rì hóu zi guò shēng rì

星期日 猴子过生日 (Sunday the monkey celebrates his birthday) 或 (or)

xīng qī qī hóu zi shuā yóu qī

星期七 猴子刷油漆 (Sunday the monkey paints)

Posted: Monday, January 17, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 新年,xīn nián (New Year). 新 means new, and 年 means year. Chinese New Year will be on Feb. 3rd this year. It will be the year of the Rabbit. If you are in the San Diego area during the weekend of Feb. 12th and 13th, the San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Culture Fair will be in Downtown San Diego on 3rd Ave. http://sdcny.weebly.com/

Chinese New Year is also called 春节, chūn jié, (Spring Festival) and 过年,guò nián. The word 过年 came from the legend of 年, a monster who came up from the ocean once a year to destroy everything. Once 年 passed (过), then people could celebrate. According to the Legends of Ten Chinese Traditional Festivals, 年 was afraid of loud noises and red color things, hence firecrackers and red banners are a great part of Chinese New Year celebration to this day.

My favorite parts of the celebration are the big feast (mostly dumplings for us northern Chinese) the night before, the firecrackers, and the red envelops with money. As a child, I was allowed to stay up to watch the 4-5 hour long variety show the whole country watches, till midnight came and the firecrackers went off. The next day, new year's day, I wore brand new clothes, and we would go to friends' houses to visit (拜年,bài nián). It was during those visits that my parent's friends would give me red envelops with money. Because we were never given allowances, so these money was a big deal. I would collect the money to buy toys, candies, snacks. I hope my kids will one day celebrate the new year in China, so they can fully experience the great fun.

I hope you will be able to find some fun activities in the cities, towns you are living at. Happy Chinese New Year!

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 圣诞节,shèng dàn jié (Christmas). 圣 (shèng) means holy, while 诞 (dàn) means birth. 节 (jié ) means holiday. So 圣诞节 means the holiday (celebrating) of the holy birth.

Since most Chinese in China are not Christians, Christmas is not a holiday widely celebrated. When I was young, I read about people in the US celebrating Christmas , with Christmas trees all decorated, beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, and quiet white snow falling outside the window. I thought it was such a beautiful and peaceful scene. Now I know a lot of people here in the US don't quite have that scene. Here in San Diego, we are having a rainy Christmas. But the important thing is, we get to spend time with family and friends, which is like our Chinese New Year time in China.

圣诞快乐,shèng dàn kuài lè (Merry Christmas, everyone!)

Posted: Saturday, December 4, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 冬天, dōng tiān (winter). 冬天 has finally come to San Diego. The weather is cold, rainy and windy. But it's nothing comparing to the city of 哈尔滨 (hā ěr bīn), which is the most northern major city in China. An ice festival is held every winter, where ice sculptures are lighted with various colors at night. I've heard so much about the ice festival, but have never been. I did found some beautiful pictures on worldisround.com, " prepared to be amazed.

Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 感恩节,gǎn ēn jié (Thanksgiving). 感恩, gǎn ēn, means giving thanks. 节, jié, means holiday. When talking about a particular holiday, 节 is always the last word.

Most Chinese living in the US are not used to eating turkey (火鸡,huǒ jī). First of all, we've never eaten turkeys growing up. It's not part of the Chinese cuisine. Secondly, 火鸡 tend to be quite dry, and Chinese like their meat moist.. A lot of my Chinese friends cook chicken instead on Thanksgiving. Then a few years ago, the Sam Woo Chinese restaurant here in San Diego started offering turkey cooked Chinese style. The 火鸡 is cooked using recipes for Chinese fried chicken. The meat remain moist, and the skin is crispy. Needless to say, my Chinese friends who cook, eat and breath only Chinese food, now include 火鸡 in their Thanksgiving menu.

感恩节快乐,gǎn ēn jié kuài lè (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 万圣节,wàn shèng jié (Halloween). 万 is the number 10,000, which can signifies a lot. 圣 means saints. 节 means holiday. So 万圣节 is almost a direct translation of "All Saints Day".

Even though Halloween just passed a few days ago, I'm still shocked by how big a day it has become. When I first came to this country almost 20 years ago, I don't remember anyone in my neighborhood trick or treating, let alone any houses fully decorated. Nowadays, at least fifty kids knocked on our doors. Halloween celebration is catching up in China, too. It was nonexistent when I was kid there. However, the Chinese who celebrate Halloween today are mostly young people, all dressed up and hanging out at bars and clubs, which are decorated with spooky things. Certainly no kids are running around on streets in China trick or treating. What a sight that will be?! I don't know if I will laugh or cry.

Posted: Thursday, November 4, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 秋天, qiū tiān (autumn). The four seasons in San Diego are all quite similar. The temperatures vary, but the scenery is quite green, or a more brownish green all year round. Some trees do lose their leaves (树叶,shù yè) in autumn, but there are just not much changes of color. This is probably the only time I miss the two years I spent in Michigan. Those beautiful leaves, in colors of various shades of yellow, orange, and red are just so breathtaking. My mother-in-law just came back from a trip to Canada, and brought back maple leaves for my son. He was so happy to see real maple leaves. I guess it's time to take him to visit the mid-west, before the long winter comes.

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 菠萝, bō luó (pineapple). I've mentioned in a previous blog how Chinese from Taiwan and Chinese from mainland China use different words to describe the same things sometimes. The case I mentioned was oranges, 橙子, chéng zi (mainland Chinese), versus 柳丁, liǔ dīng (Taiwan Chinese). Another example is pineapple, 菠萝,(bō luó) is used by mainland Chinese, and Chinese in Taiwan use the word 凤梨, (fèng lí). So if you ever see kids eating this popular and yummy snack from Taiwan named 凤梨酥 (fèng lí sū), you will know it's made of pineapples.

Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 月饼,yuè bǐng (moon cake). Even though the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节) passed last week, we are still trying to finish the 月饼 (moon cake) at home. It's so sweet that I can only eat one small slice at a time. Moon cakes were traditionally made with lard, that's why they melted in your mouth. Yummy but bad for you. Nowadays the lard has been replaced with vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc. But imagine if you make it yourself, with ingredients that you can control. It's actually not that hard. You do need a mold though. The recipe I followed is from Chinatown Merchants Association in SF, Moon Cake Recipes . I made several moon cakes following this recipe when I taught Chinese at a preschool. The preschoolers enjoyed making the moon cakes and eating them, too. Give it a try. (Lotus seed paste can be purchased from Asian Markets such as Ranch 99)

Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节,zhōng qiū jié ) will fall on Sept. 22nd this year. The roundness of the full moon symbolizes the reunion of family members. It's a time for family to get together, enjoy a meal, gaze upon the moon, and share some yummy snacks.

The most well known snack associated with this holiday is moon cake. Moon cakes are only available around Mid Autumn Festival, so for people who love moon cakes like myself, this is the only time of the year to gorge on these yummy desserts. Moon cakes come with different fillings. The most popular ones are made with lotus seeds and salted egg yokes. It always amazes me how the sweetness of the moon cakes and the saltiness of the egg yoke pair so well together. Another popular version of moon cakes come with red bean filling. Red bean is very commonly used in Chinese deserts, so moon cakes with it are simply delicious. Another traditional filling is various nuts, so it's a salty version. I've never gotten used to them. Moon cakes, to me, should always be sweet.

Besides moon cakes, other traditional snacks are pomelo, star fruit, persimmon, taro and water caltrop. All of these can be found in Asian markets here in the US. Taro and water caltrop are boiled in water before consumption.

My favorite part of the Mid Autumn Festival is the lanterns. Parents will buy their children beautiful lanterns made in the shapes of animals, planes, cars, flowers and many other things. After dinner, the kids are allowed to light their lanterns with candles inside, and take walks outside with their parents or friends. Even my school would ask students to come to school at night, and we would all take a walk with our classmates through the streets and apartment buildings with our lanterns brightly lit.

Another fun activity besides lighting lanterns is guessing riddles. Pieces of paper with riddles, usually in the form of a poem, are hung up during celebrations, for people to guess. The answers can be a Chinese character or a thing (animal, object, etc.)

If you live in the San Diego area, you may be interested in attending the Family Moon Festival celebration at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum on Oct. 2nd, 2010 from 1pm to 3pm. For detail information, you can email info@sdchm.org, or by calling the museum at 619-338-9888.

The North University Community Branch Library is also having a concert on Sept. 21st at 6:30pm to celebrate.

Whatever you decide on to do on Sept. 22nd, whether going to a festival to celebrate, eating a moon cake, or gaze upon the moon, or lighting a beautiful lantern, we here at Ni Hao Books wish you a Happy Mid Autumn Festival!

To celebrate, Ni Hao Books is offering 10% off your entire order. No coupon code is required, and the discount will be shown in your cart. Of course, shipping is still free for orders over $20! Show now for Chinese children's books! This offer expires September 30, 2010.

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 学校,xué xiào (school). In my previous blog I mentioned as my son started kindergarten, I've noticed quite a bit of differences between schools here and the schools in China. One very interesting thing is, classes here get shuffled every year. When my son goes to 1st grade next year, his classmates will be all shuffled and he might not see anyone from his kindergarten class in his 1st grade class. This always perplexes me. The reason is, we stay with the same group of classmates from 1st grade to 6th grade in China. Then we are with another group of classmates from 7th to 9th grade, then with another group from 10th to 12th grade. This really allows great friendships to develop. Some of my closest friends today are the ones I've spent quite a few years being in the same class with. I've been told the shuffling of students here in the US allows students to develop better social skills, since they have to face new groups of students every year. We will definitely have to wait and see how my son adjusts next year.

Posted: Saturday, September 11, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 学前班,xué qián bān (kindergarten). My son started kindergarten a couple of weeks ago, and I've been thinking about the differences between schools in China vs. schools here in the US. There's no such thing as kindergarten in China. I was in preschool from the age 3 to age 6, then entered 1st grade. Preschool can be 幼儿园,yòu ér yuán , or 托儿所, tuō ér suǒ. So when I first moved to the US, I was confused to as what kindergarten is. Eventually I learned what it is in Chinese, 学前班,xué qián bān, which literally means "the class before studies begin". It's a good translation because all I see my son doing at school is play. What a wonderful life he has.

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 热,rè (hot). As we just traveled to Arizona, we truly experienced HOT weather. The temperature in Phoenix reached more than 100 F during the day. It was 很热 (very hot). This made me think of the two different words we use in Mandarin Chinese to describe "hot". In English, "hot" can mean weather is hot, soup is hot, and even when something is spicy. In Mandarin, when the weather is hot, we say 热,rè. So for "the weather is hot", in Chinese is 天气很热, tiān qì hěn rè. But when something like soup is hot, we use 烫 tàng. 汤很 烫, tāng hěn tàng (soup is very hot).

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 夏天, xià tiān (summer). Southern California is a very dry place, even when it rains, it mostly only drizzles. When I first arrived in San Diego, there was a forecast for storms, but the only thing that came down was just drizzles that damped the windshield of my the car. The summers in Guangzhou (in southern China) are always full of thunderstorms, which bring reliefs to the intense heat. I remember taking showers during the day just to cool off and wash off the sweat. Once I got out of the shower, the heat made me sweat so much instantly, that I just wanted to get back into the shower right away. The summers are definitely getting hotter and hotter there, probably with the pollution bringing the green house effect, keeping the city hot and humid. I do not recommend traveling to China in the summer months, especially to southern China.

Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 数字, shù zì (numbers). Chinese people value certain numbers greatly, such as the numbers 8 and 9. The number 8, 八,bā, sounds like 发, fā (prosperous), and the number 9, 九,jiǔ, has the same sound as 久,jiǔ (longevity, lasting a long time). It's very common for Chinese people to have a phone number with lots of number 8 and 9 in it. Imagine a Chinese person living on 8th street with a house number of 8, can't get better than that. One restaurant here in San Diego has a name 168, yī liù bā, sounds a lot like 一路发,yī lù fā, which means prosperous all the way. And yes, it's a Chinese restaurant.

Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Word of the Day is 端午节,duān wǔ jié (Dragon Boat Festival). It falls on June 16th this year.

This festival originated from the story related to the poet Qu Yuan. He was a loyal minister to the emperor of the Chu state during the Warring States period, before the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang. Due of jealousy stemming from others in the court, Qu Yuan was sent to exile. While on exile, he wrote great poetries expressing his love for his country and concerns of its future. When his country, the state of Chu, was about to be conquered by other states, Qu Yuan committed suicide by jumping into the river. Once people heard of his suicide, they rushed to the river on boats trying to look for him. They drummed and splashed water trying to keep the fish from eating his body. They also threw in rice for the fish to eat. The food they threw into the water eventually became 粽子, zòng zi, which is sticky rice with various fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

There are salted 粽子 with pork, salted eggs, beans fillings, and sweet 粽子 with red bean filling. When I was young, 粽子 were only sold during 端午节, but nowadays, I can find them sold everyday at any Asian supermarket. The boats racing to save the poet with drums and paddles became the "Dragon Boat Race", which has become an international sport in recent years. In the US you can find it at many cities, such as San Francisco, Miami, and Houston.

In San Diego, there will be a small celebration at the North University Community Library on June 12th, with dancing, poetry readings, and other fun activities.

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 橙子, chéng zi (orange). After moving to the US from mainland China, I started to make friends with people from Taiwan. It's very interesting how they use different words to describe things sometimes. One example is the fruit orange. In mainland China, it's called 橙子, chéng zi. But people from Taiwan call it 柳丁, liǔ dīng. So even though we all speak the language Mandarin, but there are still differences.

Posted: Saturday, May 29, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 六月, liù yuè (June). Today is June 1st, 六月一日,liù yuè yī rì, which is Children's Day in Mainland China. I remember the day was full of fun. The children had a half day off. But we usually spent the half day off going back to school to play games and win prizes. The games could be relay races, trying to hit a gong while blind folded, etc. The best part, the prizes, were usually candies. It seems Americans don't have a Children's day. Then again, when I look at what my kids do everyday, everyday seems like a Children's Day to them.

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 五月, wǔ yuè (May). 五 means five, and 月 means month. For someone learning Mandarin Chinese, it's pretty easy for say all the months. As long as the learner knows how to count in Chinese from one to twelve, each month is simply the "number" and the word "月". For example, January is 一月,February is 二月,March is 三月 and so on.

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 荔枝, lì zhī (Litchi, or Lychee). It's a type of fruit with red skin, a big seed in the middle, but its flesh is super sweet. Lychee was grown in Asia, mostly China in the old days. It wasn't grown outside of Asia until the 1700s. The best Lychee come from the Guangdong province. When I was growing up in Canton (Guangzhou), which is the capital of Guangdong, I remembered eating sweet sweet Lychee late Springs, early Summers. I was always told not to eat too many of it in one setting. The old Cantonese saying is that one Lychee equals to three sticks of fire. Eating too many might give you acne, or sore throat. So three Lychees were all I was brave enough to eat in in setting. Those old Cantonese sayings really brainwashed me.

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 苦瓜, kǔ guā (bitter melon). 苦 means bitter, and 瓜 means melon. Chinese people eat a lot of interesting things, and bitter melon is definitely one of more interesting vegetables Chinese put on their plates. It has a bumpy skin, plus the seeds inside are bright red in color. The seeds are not edible, so one has to remove them before cooking. Hence, my husband, who is an ABC (American Born Chinese), always thinks bitter melon shouldn't be eaten, since nature makes it so unappealing. He believes the bitterness is nature's way of saying "don't eat me"!

I, however, grew up eating bitter melon. I definitely didn't enjoy it when I was a kid. But years of brainwashing by my parents worked, whose opinions are opposite to my husband, thinking bitter melon is healthy. So I enjoy it now, and try to feed it to my kids. Unfortunately, the name itself is already a turn off. What kid would want to eat something named "bitter"?

Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 母亲, mǔ qīn (mother). We just celebrated 母亲节, mǔ qīn jié (Mother's day) a week ago. It's a little interesting that Mother's Day is not 妈妈节, mā ma jié, even though in our previous blog, we've mentioned mom in Chinese is 妈妈, mā ma. That's because 母亲 is a more respectful term for mom. 母亲 translates better as mother. The same situation applies to "Father/Dad", which can be 父亲,fù qīn, or 爸爸,bà ba.

Posted: Saturday, May 8, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 哥哥, gē ge (big brother). When it comes to names of various family members, Chinese can be really confusing. There is pretty much a word for every one members. For example, brothers are used in English to describe older or younger brothers. One simply say older or younger brother. In Mandarin Chinese, older brother is 哥哥, while the younger brother is 弟弟, dì di. The same applies for sisters, grandparents from both sides, aunts and uncles from both sides, all different. And depending on the region one lives in China, there are different ways to call the grandparents as well.

Some of the books that will help to clarify are Little Pocket Book-Learning Words (2), and My First Learning Book-100 Words.

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 清明, qīng míng (clear and bright). 清明节, the Clear and Bright festival, falls on April 5th this year. This is a day marked by tomb sweeping and spring outings. People spent the day visiting their ancestors' graves, pulling up the weeds around the grave, and bringing fresh flowers to the graves. In recent years, people mostly spend the day going hiking, walking and be out of the crowded city.

You can read about the origin of the Clear and Bright Festival in Legends of Ten Chinese Traditional Festivals

Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 二, èr (two). When children learn Chinese, numbers are the usually first ones they learn. One of the really interesting number is 二, èr (two). It's interesting because when one counts numbers, one always says 一 (yī, one),二,三 (sān, three), etc. But when it comes to saying two of something, such as two tigers, it's not 二只老虎, it's 两只老虎. 两(liǎng) replaces 二. This only happens when we try to say two of something. Two flowers is 两朵花(flowers),not 二朵花。And this only happens to the number two. This has always confused my son, who counted as 一,二,两,三,for a while, thinking 两 is a number as well.

To hear how 二只老虎 (two tigers) is used in a popular Chinese children song, you can listen to the VCD that comes with My First Chinese Song Book

Posted: Friday, April 2, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 四月, sì yuè (April). April 1st is April Fool's Day. In China, we call it 愚人节, yú rén jié. I remember just hearing about it when I was in Middle School in China. People just started playing tricks on each other, at least my friends did play tricks on me. I would never forget that! Haha. As China becomes more modernized, more and more Western traditions and holidays are introduced to the Chinese. Some people do celebrate Christmas nowadays. But Chinese New Year remains the biggest and most important holiday season in China.

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is谢谢, xiè xie (thank you). Contrary to 你好,nǐ hǎo (hello), probably the most spoken Mandarin words, 谢谢 seems to be well known, but not as widely spoken. It might be because it's very hard to pronounce. The "X" in English mostly make the sound of "ks", but in Chinese, it sounds like "s", which can be quite confusing. Hope this blogs helps.

Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 饺子,jiǎo zi (dumplings). When fried, they are called potsticker or gyoza. It's a very important and commonly seen food during celebrations in Northern China, such as during Chinese New Year, birthdays, guest visiting, and such. My parents are from Northern China, so making dumplings are their specialty. The fillings are usually pork with napa cabbage or pork with chives. I remember visiting relatives in the poor villages in China, and they always made dumplings to welcome us. Being so poor, they couldn't afford to buy meat, so the fillings sometimes are just chives with a little oil. It didn't taste very good. Nowadays, chicken fillings are more common here in the US, because people are more health conscious, and chicken is healthier than pork. I'm glad my kids love dumplings, and can sometimes eat 8 or more in one setting. That's the Northern Chinese blood in them.

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 妈妈,mā ma (mom). It's probably the most used word in all cultures. It's the first word of most kids. My son started calling me 妈妈,then changed to mommy when he started to speak more English. I miss the 妈妈. It's interesting how in most languages, the sounds for Mom and Dad are very similar. To learn more family members in Chinese, Children's World-Family Members is good book to have. More about 妈妈 when Mother's Day gets here.

Posted: Friday, March 26, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 紫色,zǐ sè (purple). It's one of my son's favorite colors. In order to help him remember his colors in Chinese, we started to play the Max and Mei card games. It contains twelve of the common colors. Each color comes in two cards, one with the color, Chinese character and Pinyin, one with just the Chinese character. Four games can be played, Happy Couples, Snap, Pig and Memory.

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 节节高,jié jié gāo (rising steadily). It's a part of a very popular Chinese idiom. The first part of the idiom is 芝麻开花, zhī má kāi huā (sesame flower in bloom). This idiom is mostly used when people encourage each other to achieve high standards. It can also be a nice greeting, especially during Chinese New Year, when people wish each other to achieve more in the new year.

According to the book 100 Chinese-Two-Part Allegorical Sayings, "when sesame is in bloom, each flower grows higher than the last, and the stem rises joint by joint. The flowers grow continuously as the stem rises. This idiom thus is used to describe either ever-rising living standards or making steady progress in thoughts, studies, or skills."

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 老虎,lǎo hǔ (tiger). The pinyin lǎo hǔ goes by the same rule as nǐ hǎo (hello), where the first word sounds like the second tone, but is written as the third tone.

This year is the year of the tiger. Tigers are greatly feared and respected in the Chinese culture. In ancient China, wild tigers abound. Lots of classic Chinese novels contain stories of heroes fighting wild tigers. Wu Song (武松)from the famous Chinese novel 'Outlaws of the Marsh" killed a tiger with his bare hands.

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Words of the Day for today is 爸爸 , bà ba (daddy). The second ba has a neutral tone, which means it is toneless. Each character 爸 has a fourth tone when separated. But when these two 爸 are put together, the second 爸 loses its tone. It's another interesting rule in Pinyin.

If though I tried to raise my older son bilingual, he's never taken to the words 爸爸 . As soon as he started to make the dada sound at the age of one, my husband started to identify himself as Dada. So my son always called his Dad dada, never Baba. Then one day, a friend of mine came to visit for a few days. She was talking to my son in Chinese, and I suddenly heard my son said "my 爸爸 loves to garden" in Chinese. I then realized he does know what 爸爸 means. It's interesting whom he chose to speak Chinese with.

To learn more about Pinyin, check out the Pin Yin book created by Yes!Chinese. The included CD-ROM contains interactive material to supplement the book and includes colorful and fun graphics to engage children. And better yet, it's currently on sale for $10.95!

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Words of the Day is 你好, nǐhǎo, which means hello in Mandarin. It's also the name of our bookstore, plus the name of many Chinese learning products for children.

When I recently attended the CLTA (California Language Teacher's Association) conference, many people asked me if I'm associated with the children show "Ni Hao Kai Lan", or the "Ni Hao" textbooks. No, we are not. We chose the name Ni Hao Books for our bookstore, because 你好 is probably the most well known and most spoken Chinese words. When people founds out I'm Chinese, regardless of their ethnicity, the first words out of most of them is 你好! If they are not Chinese, then chances are, those are the only two Chinese words they know. But it's a great ice breaker, and I wish I know how to say hello is many languages.

One interesting thing about the words 你好, nǐhǎo, is its pronunciation. As you notice, both words have the third tones. But when spoken, 你 actually sounds like the second tone, ní. The reason is because in Pinyin, the rule is that when two words together both have the third tone, the first word is sounded in the second tone, but still written as the third tone.

 

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

I thought I should start a blog series named "word of the day", and since spring is officially here today, 春天 (spring) will be our first word of the day. 春天 is pronounced chūn tiān. The spring weather in San Diego is very nice and warm, with some rainy days here and there. When heat waves arrive, the temperature can reach into the 80s. But in Guangzhou, where I grew up, spring is full of rains, lots of lots of it. It rains so much things inside the house will start to get moldy. I especially remember the walls getting moldy. It couldn't be too healthy to live in those houses. We always try to take things out to get some sun if there are sunny days. But the nice thing is flowers start to bloom. Guangzhou's nickname is "the flower city", so all kinds of flowers are in bloom in the spring, many of which I've never seen anywhere else I've been to. The Chinese national flower, the peonies, however, only grow in northern China. It symbolizes richness, distinction and good fortunes. Paintings of peonies are often hung in homes to bring good luck. As my family traveled to China a couple of years ago during spring time, we visited the ZhongShan Park, which is right outside of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Tulips and peonies were showcased in various colors with the beautiful Chinese ancient structures in the background. It was breathtaking.

 

Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

The Berenstain Bears

Even though I speak to my 5 year old son in Mandarin only, I do read a lot of books in English to him. When he was little, I used to translate all the books into Chinese as I read to him. But as he gets older and speaks more English from talking to his dad and his friends, I thought it will be a good idea to read books in English to him since it's hard to translate words that rhyme, especially those Dr. Seuss books. Before long, my son felt in love with the Berenstain Bear family. Every time we go to the library, we have to look for the ones he hasn't read, by now, he has read every single one of the books. So I'm very excited that our bookstore now carries the Berenstain Bears books in Chinese. I no longer have to try to translate them myself, and he enjoys them as much as the ones in English. What a great way to get him listening to more Chinese words and sentences.

Check out the Berenstain Bears Books in Chinese!

More books will be available soon.

Posted: Friday, February 5, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Year of the Tiger

As we approach the Chinese New Year, let us from Ni Hao Books wish you a healthy and prosperous year! New Year’s Day will be on Sunday, Feburary 14th this year, and it will be the year of the Tiger.

As an ABC (American Born Chinese), my Chinese New Year's experiences were different from my wife's in some ways. We didn't have any days off and it wasn't as big of a deal for most of my non-Chinese friends, so there weren't the type of celebrations she experienced in China. However, there were many similarities: Good food, and lots of it, and the greatly anticipated "red pockets". Chinese New Year, to me, was more about getting "lucky money" more than anything else. Of course, now that I have kids of my own, I get to experience the other side, since traditionally, as a parent myself, and with friends and relatives also with children, it is our responsibilities to give out the lucky money. The experience is different in other ways as well. Today, Chinese New Year is more widely celebrated in the U.S., and many cities hold parades and festivals. There are more opportunities to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of a traditional New Year's celebration, from the drumming of lion dances and the popping of firecrackers to the sweet cakes that I remember from my youth.

Ni Hao Books is offering all a special 5% off any purchase. Use discount code "roar" at checkout. (Expires February 28. 2010) And remember, all orders over $20 (after discount) ship free! Think of it as our "red pocket" to you. Shop Now!

Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2010 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Happy Chinese Valentine's Day

Chinese Valentine's Day falls on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it is August 26th. The legend surrounding this day is the story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu.

Niu Lang was a young cow herder, who fell in love with a beautiful fairy girl from heaven. They married and had two children. However, the Goddess of heaven did not allow a fairy girl to marry a mortal man. She forced Zhi Nu to return to heaven. Nu Lang was heart broken, and decided to fly to heaven to find his wife, carrying his children.The Goddess was so angry she created a river in the sky to separate the two lovers, thus creating the milky way. Nu Lang and Zhi Nu became the stars Altair and Vega.

But on the seventh day of the seventh month, all the magpies in the world would fly up into heaven to form a bridge so the lovers may be together for a single night.

I don't remember much of celebrating this holiday while growing up in China. I was pretty young back then and probably didn't pay much attention to it. But thinking back, I do realize people in China didn't celebrate this day like how people here celebrate Valentine's Day. The Valentine's Day here is such a happy occasion with flowers and candies. The legend of the Chinese Valentine's Day is much more bittersweet, even though Nu Lang and Zhi Nu get to meet today, but they will spend the rest of the year in a life alone.

Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Chinese Spring Festivals

There are two major festivals during spring time in China. The first is the Qingming festival, which happens on the 12th of the 3rd lunar month. Chinese people spend the day visiting the graves of their ancestors. They clean the graves, offer food which include fruit and wine to their ancestors, and burn paper money which is believed to allow the dead to buy things on the other side. Chinese people place a great emphasis on showing respect to their ancestors. Most Chinese believe their ancestors can bestow blessings or curses from the other side.

Because I grew up in the communist regime, most people in the city tried to do away with old traditions like this. The mostly atheist population don't believe the ancestors might still be present as spirits or can affect us in any ways. So during this holiday, many people choose to go hiking instead, which for city dwellers is a rare opportunity to enjoy nature. The higher the mountain one can climb, the better.

When I was in school, we were organized by the school to bring flowers to veterans' graves. It was a nice fieldtrip for us little kids and while we didn't understand much of the meaning of visiting graves, we were able to enjoy the nice spring weather and a day out instead of attending school.

Another major holiday during the spring time is the Dragon Boat festival (DuanWu Festival). This festival originated from the story related to the poet Qu Yuan. He was a loyal minister to the emperor of the Chu state during the Warring States period, before the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang. Due of jealousy stemming from others in the court, Qu Yuan was sent to exile. While on exile, he wrote great poetries expressing his love for his country and concerns of its future. When his country, the state of Chu, was about to be conquered by other states, Qu Yuan committed suicide by jumping into the river. Once people heard of his suicide, they rushed to the river on boats trying to look for him. They drummed and splashed water trying to keep the fish from eating his body. They also threw in rice for the fish to eat. The food they threw into the water eventually became "zongzi", which is sticky rice with various fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. There are salted zongzi with pork, salted eggs, beans fillings, and sweet zongzi with red bean filling. When I was young, zongzi were only sold during DuanWu festival, but nowadays, I can find them sold everyday at any Asian supermarket. The boats racing to save the poet with drums and paddles became the "Dragon Boat Race", which has become an international sport in recent years. In the US you can find it at many cities, such as San Francisco, Miami, and Houston.

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Year of the Ox!

As we approach the Chinese New Year, let us from Ni Hao Books wish you a healthy and prosperous year! New Year’s Day will be on Monday, January 26th this year, and it will be the year of the Ox.

I haven’t been able to celebrate New Year in China for almost 20 years. Many of my favorite things in childhood are related to the New Year festivities. In Southern China, especially Guangzhou where I grew up, buying fresh flowers from the flower market is a big event before New Year’s Day. It isn’t common for people to normally buy flowers to decorate their homes during the rest of the year, unlike Americans who have access to flower shops even within grocery stores. So as the New Year approaches, for weeks before hand, vendors selling fresh flowers spring up everywhere in Guangzhou. One street on the bank of the Peal River is converted to a flower market. All kinds of flowers are sold such as daisies, roses, lilies, tulips, peach flower, and Chrysanthemums. Those flowers are used to decorate homes, bringing a sense of spring and a festive atmosphere. Many people also buy kumquats in pots which are supposed to bring luck and wealth.

I also loved the red pockets. As a child growing up, I never got an “allowance”, so this was one of few opportunities for me to receive money. I’m sure my parents were not too excited about it since they had to give red pockets away!

New Year’s Eve is a huge event. Families and friends gather together sharing a big meal with lots of dishes. Fish is usually one of them since it signifies abundance. Everyone gathers around the dinner table and watches the New Year variety show on TV while eating dinner. The show usually goes on for 5 hours, with dancing, singing, comedy, skits and greetings from overseas Chinese. When it gets closer to midnight, firecrackers start going off. I remember that by the time midnight hits, the cracking of firecrackers was so loud that we had to cover our ears! Then on New Year’s Day, I woke up to a set of new clothes signifying a new beginning.

Oh, how fun it was and still is. If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend traveling to China, especially Guangzhou, during Chinese New Year. I plan on taking my kids there someday. But for now, we will watch the variety show on YouTube.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, Ni Hao Books is offering 5% off your entire purchase! Use discount code “moo” (Expires Feb 28, 2009). Also, standard free shipping (no code necessary) applies to any order over $20. Shop Now!

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Posted: Saturday, January 24, 2009 Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011 By Ni Hao Books

Whether you're studying for the SAT or learning a new language flashcards may not be the flashiest, but they are the classic way to learn new words, and can be made fun, even for young children. In our household, we introduce new cards periodically and quiz our 3-and-a-half year-old and his dad to see who can recognize the most Chinese characters. And it's a great way for him to pick up some more Chinese as well. We also play games with picture flashcards, which is much easier than trying to recognize Chinese characters. Our son loves it, because he gets to show off how much more Chinese he knows than his dad. He also gets a kick out of correcting his dad's pronunciation. We also tape the flashcards with Chinese characters onto corresponding things in our house. We start with simple characters such as "men" (door) and "deng" (light), then increase to more difficult ones like "dian hua" (telephone) and "dian shi" (TV). Even though our house is full of flashcards taped onto furniture, toys, and even utensils, but it's a great way to expose our son to Chinese as much as possible.

Flashcards are easy to make if you want to, and can be part of the learning activity. Just print out the Chinese characters in a big font on a piece of paper and the corresponding pinyin on another. Then cut them out and glue them onto index cards. If you want to make picture cards, it is fairly easy to find pictures online to print out as well.

Of course, if you would like to purchase flashcards, we sell them here as well. The flashcards we sell are easily organized on a plastic ring, so they can stay together, and our son enjoyed going through them. Most have colorful pictures on one side, and the pinyin, English, and Chinese characters on the other side.

Currently, all our flashcards are 20% off! Click here to view our selection. We hope you will take advantage of it and use them in fun ways to teach your children more Chinese!

Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 Updated: Friday, October 24, 2008 By Ni Hao Books

"Ni Hao!" Hello! That may be the only Mandarin Chinese you know. It is probably one of the most familiar phrases in Chinese. Even the carnival hawkers at our local county fair know to yell it out at me after they recognize I'm Chinese (sometimes after yelling "Konnichiwa" unsuccessfully, though). It was probably almost all the Mandarin Chinese I knew for a long time, despite being Chinese myself. (I grew up "speaking" Cantonese, if you can call the sounds coming out of my mouth that, but that's a different topic). So here I am today with a 3 year old spouting out Mandarin like there's no tomorrow, and I'm thinking I better pick up on it, or he'll be talking to his mom about me, probably making fun of me, and I won't even know it! Maybe that's what my wife intended - her secret plan to keep control when boys outnumber girls 2 to 1 (and soon to be 3 to1). In any case, it's what we decided long ago: I would speak to him in English, and my wife would speak to him in Mandarin Chinese. It was a tip we learned from another parent to help him learn both languages and keep them separate, and for the most part it's worked out great, except that I don't really understand him 50% of the time. Of course, our son will dutifully translate what he just said to me if I ask him to. And when we went to China this past year, he was somewhat useful as my personal translator (although not surprisingly, not as useful as I hoped). So I continue to study his Chinese flash cards, so I can learn more Chinese words and try to keep up with him. Unfortunately, my brain is over 10 times older than his (gulp!) and doesn't absorb at quite the same rate. Luckily, I did take a year of Mandarin Chinese in college, but that was woefully inadequate. A young brain can absorb multiple languages in an amazing fashion, and I'm constantly in awe at how easily my son can pick up both Chinese and English so easily and keep them separate. When meeting new people, he quickly ascertains whether they speak Chinese or English, and switch to the correct language channel seamlessly. If I tell him, in English, to tell his mom something, he'll translate the message instantly and tell her in Chinese.

My wife has taught our son well, but one problem she always faced was that when it came to story time, most of the books and other materials she could find was in English. There were some sources of materials, but not too much impressed her. She wanted to read Chinese stories to him, and share the same poems and songs that she grew up with. So she was inspired to start Ni Hao Books to provide a source of Chinese books, particularly story books, picture books, DVD's, flash cards, and other materials that she found useful in not only teaching our child Chinese, but also some Chinese culture and history as well.

Chinese is used by at least 1 in 4 people on this planet, and with China growing as an economic powerhouse, it's becoming more useful to be able to speak some Chinese, and more than just "Ni Hao!". My wife even taught a Chinese immersion class in a local preschool! And more and more schools at all levels are starting to offer Chinese classes. I better get back to studying those flashcards, so I can get more right than our son the next time his mom quizzes us. In the mean time, take a look around the store, leave a comment, and enjoy! "Xie Xie!" "Thanks" for visiting and taking the time to read my meandering thoughts.

Check back here for tips and other articles about our own experiences teaching a child Chinese, as well as games and other activities you can try to help your child learn Chinese as well.

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2008 Updated: Thursday, September 18, 2008 By Ni Hao Books

 

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