Do you know what is the easiest way to get your kids to pick up Chinese vocabulary? Read widely, yes, but I think a lot of us know that it is not always easy to convince our kids to read Chinese books. Besides, I find that reading books may not let you pick up vocabulary that is current or popular. E.g. how many books can we think of that talk about the World Cup Match (since this is the latest thing)? Yet, these may be the terms that our kids will need in exams, especially for the Oral component. In conversation, current terms are even more important. This is why even for myself, although I do not subscribe to the Chinese newspaper, every now and then, I will find some to read so that I will be updated on the latest terms used. It is difficult enough as it is to get our children to read Chinese books. I think it will be even harder to get them to read the Chinese newspapers to get exposure to these terms.
My approach to most things is :
1. Divide and conquer. If the problem is too big, too difficult, we take it one step at a time, a little at a time.
2. A little is better than none. Don’t aim for perfection because then you will end up not ever finding the right time, right moment, right skill, right environment, etc, to get it done.
3. If there is no harm trying, then try.
So recently I started to teach my kids current terms one word at a time. And I pop quiz them every so often, like when we are driving somewhere, or when they happen to walk pass me at home. Do it when it does not take up any extra time or effort. One word a day will mean 30 words a month. Even if we do half that, and the kid forgets half of what he is taught, at the end of the month, he will at least remember 5 or 6 terms, which is better than none.
What is best is that current terms are relevant, and what is relevant is usually much easier to remember. So because World Cup is the latest thing, I have been teaching them terms relating to the World Cup and football. The other “current affair” (from a kid’s point of view) is the Rainbow Loom, which is the craze right now. So I have also taught them terms relating to the Rainbow Loom.
If you want to give this a try, I have created two Chinese Vocabulary Lists for your reference. The lists are not exhaustive as I do not think it is productive to include everything in the lists. I also do not recommend that you make your child memorise the entire list. Just pick a handful of words to teach and pop quiz him now and then. I also strongly discourage using the lists like another thing to shove at your kids and ask them to ‘go memorise’. Make things fun and learn together!
(I know it is a little late for World Cup, but better late than never!)