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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

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

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

 

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