Chinese Summer Camp 2019

drawing of kids in canoe for summer camp
Join us for summer camp!

Chinese Immersion Summer Camp in San Antonio

Together with the International School of San Antonio, Lotus Chinese Learning is offering Mandarin Chinese immersion camps this year! These camps are a fun opportunity for new students to get started with Chinese classes or to keep up their language during the summer.  The camps are for students ages 3-10. Camp hours will be from 9-3:30, with aftercare available (dependent on sufficient registration). The camp will be conveniently located at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, near I-10 and 410.

Summer Camp Dates and Themes

June 17-21 (Afternoon ONLY): China STEM. Get immersed in Mandarin Chinese with China STEM! This class will introduce students to basic Mandarin through STEM-based activities. Students will learn colors, numbers, animals an shapes while learning about rockets, tangrams, ancient pottery and more. While learning a new language, students will also learn about Chinese culture, practice their math skills and participate in hands-on activities.

drawing of rocket
Did you know that rockets are a Chinese invention?

June 24-28: Dinosaur Adventure. Did you know that many of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur fossils are found in China? In dinosaur adventure, we will learn about dinosaurs, especially those found in China. We will make our own fossils, learn about how dinosaurs lived and have fun in the world of the dinosaurs!

cartoon flying dinosaur
Learn more about dinosaurs and why so many of them are found in China this summer!

July 15-19: Around the World in Five Days. Students will travel all over the world, visiting one continent for each day of camp. They will learn about the people and environments all in Chinese! We will make different crafts, learn about animals from all over the world and play games from diverse cultures.

children around the world drawing
Learn about the world through Chinese immersion

July 22-26: Chinese Arts from Pottery to Pop. Get ready for a hands on exploration of Chinese arts and crafts! Students will make a variety of Chinese art crafts, from sancai porcelain to contemporary paintings. They will also learn about Chinese art from its ancient roots to present day.

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Camp tuition is $315 for full day and $185 for half day (snacks included)

Interested in learning more or signing up? email Mary@lotuschineselearning.com or use the contact page to get in touch!

Diverse Books for Chinese Classes

Diverse Books in the Classroom

The Lotus Chinese Learning library of books in Chinese and wordless picture books has dozens of volumes. Books are an incredibly important teaching tool. They are what I would bring with me to a desert island where I have to teach :). It is a known problem in the world of children’s literature that there are not enough diverse books out there. For the purposes of this blog post, diverse books means books that feature African American, Asian American, Hispanic and or Native American main characters. There are lots of books, such as my beloved David series by David Shannon that show diverse children, but they are not the main characters. They are still great, but they don’t count as diverse books.

Why are Diverse Books Important?

Just as in the city of San Antonio as a whole, the majority of my students are Hispanic. I also have many Asian American students and African American students. If you’re a white person in American, you probably grew up seeing characters in picture books that look like you. If you’re an adult now, it might be easy to assume that things have changed since you were a kid. This infographic  (from 2015!) shows that that this is not the case. Kids deserve to see themselves represented in their books, and there aren’t enough books out there so we have to work a little harder.

infographic for diversity in children's books
This infographic shows the need for more diverse books for kids!

Getting Diverse Books

Getting books in Chinese in the US is not super easy to begin with. As I have written elsewhere, wordless picture books can be a good substitute for books in Chinese. All the teacher has to do is point to the pictures as she tells the story in Chinese! Pool by JiHeyeon Lee is a wordless picture book that features Asian characters that I use often. There are lots of things to count in the illustrations, so it is especially fun for the little  kids to count along with me. The website China Sprout also has many diverse children’s books. Their shipping costs are a little pricey (cough cough) but when I need to add a couple more books to my collection, I know that China Sprout will have at least a few options.

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Some of my books from the Lotus Chinese Learning Library that Feature Diversity

Using The Books

Yes, February is Black History Month, however we can read books that feature black characters the other eleven months of the year too! This past week (April), I read Alfie the Turtle That Disappeared with some of my kids. The story features birthdays and pets, both hot topics for the lower-elementary crowd. It works all year-round. It is a missed opportunity to only focus on diverse books when the calendar calls for it. The lesson’s topic does not have to be about diversity in and of itself to use diverse books.

On Gender Diversity

There are plenty of books about boys and male animals for kids. Most of the classics that I have on my shelf feature boys and male animals as the main character. I’m looking at you Hats for Sale and the Hungry Caterpillar! The conventional wisdom is that all children will read books about boys, and only girls will read books about girls. This wisdom sucks. Children will read a book about any kind of child. As veteran children’s book author Shanna Hale explains, it is the story that counts. I wouldn’t hesitate to use books that feature girls as the main characters for the whole class and neither should you :).

What are your favorite books with diverse main characters? Share in the comments!

More Sources About Diversity in Children’s Literature:

Pragmatic Mom

We Need Diverse Books

You Don’t Need to Learn Grammar. Really.

Adult Learners Often Want to Learn Grammar

Kids don’t usually question what we are doing in class because they are having fun. Adult students, however, often panic in early Chinese classes because they think that they should be “studying grammar.” Understandably, most adult students (and high schoolers too) are used to opening up a textbook in a language class. The textbook lays out the grammar rules, and then lists vocabulary words. Chinese textbooks often have dialogues for the students to practice in each chapter. If you’re a language nerd like me, learning about grammar is interesting. For the vast majority of people, however, there really is no need to sit down and learn a bunch of grammar rules.

You Don’t Need to Know the Grammar to Speak a Language

If you are a native English speaker, when did you start learning the rules for English grammar? Late elementary school? Middle school? Maybe you learned the parts of speech in fifth grade. Maybe you learned how to diagram a sentence in middle school. You were probably quite fluent in English by the time you were five, but you didn’t start learning grammar as its own topic until half a decade later at least. So why do so many people think that they need this explicit kind of knowledge to learn a second language when they obviously did not need it for their first?

The Rules Don’t Hold Up Anyway

Rules are reassuring. Students, especially adults, don’t like feeling like they are “saying it wrong.” Unfortunately, grammar rules are not really rules. They don’t hold up under scrutiny. In this video, I talk about the difference between ser and estar in Spanish (both mean to be). The textbook would have you believe that we use ser for something permanent and estar for something that is temporary. Yet, we say things like “El es joven” and “El esta muerto.” Language is too complex to be boiled down to just a few rules.

If you don’t take my word for it, maybe you will listen to David Sedaris. In Me talk Pretty One Day he writes about his struggles to learn French. French includes a gender system for its nouns and of course the rule he learns does not really make sense:

I spent months searching for some secret code before I realized that common sense has nothing to do with it. Hysteria, psychosis, torture, depression: I was told that if something is unpleasant it’s probably feminine. This encouraged me, but the theory was blown by such masculine nouns as murder, toothache, and rollerblade. I have no problem learning the words themselves, it’s the sexes that trip me up and refuse to stick.

Grammar Rules Don’t Become Fluency

Early on in my adult classes, students often get tripped up by measure words. In Chinese, measure words are the little words between numbers and the nouns that they describe. In English, we say “three people.” In Chinese, however, we say “three (pieces) people.” Each noun has an associated measure word. We could summarize measure words by saying something like, “we use the measure word 张 for flat objects.” But when we are doing that, we are giving students the illusion that they can memorize this rule and then use measure words flawlessly. They really can’t. It just does not work that way.

We learn language through communicatively-embedded input, not through reading about rules in textbooks. While it is tempting to think that reading about grammar will turn into fluency, it just does not work that way. I know that my students want to see a list of all the measure words in Chinese next to rules for how to use them, for example. But reading that list and trying to memorize will not really help. They are better off just listening to the input and making sure that they understand the overall meaning.

More Common Questions About Language Learning

Every so often I post answers to common questions about language learning that I hear from students, their parents or potential students. Below are three answers to three common questions.

At what age should my child start learning a second language?

In America, we have a curious relationship with second language learning. I have noticed an interesting contrast whenever I talk with new people about teaching Mandarin Chinese to children. On the one hand, many strangers enthusiastically tell me how quickly young children learn languages. They believe that it is best for them to start young. On the other hand, many parents admit that they “know” that exposing very young children to more than one language will cause speech delays. Which one is it? Is it good for children to learn a second language? It seems that in America at least, we have two different answers. We appear to think that it is good for young children (say, ages 3-5) while bad for babies and toddlers. For my two cents, the best time for a child to start learning a second language when it works best for you as a family.

If you’re in the US and want to speak to your child in a home language and wait till he or she is in preschool to exposure your child to English, do that. If you want to go to a mommy and me language class to learn a second language at 18 months, that is fine too. There is no evidence that speaking more than one language causes speech delays. If readers don’t believe me, but perhaps you will find the American Academy of Pediatrics more convincing.

How Many Hours Per Week Should I Study Chinese?

Has anyone ever told you that you must have gas in the car before you drive it? Or that you shouldn’t attempt to de-board an airplane when it is in mid-air? Probably not. If something is truly necessary, like having fuel in the gas tank or staying on the inside of an airplane while it is moving, no one tell you to do it. So if someone tells you “you absolutely must have at least 2 hours of class per week” then they’re just trying to help their bottom line. The same goes for textbooks and language learning apps.

A student (whether an adult or a child) should spend as much time studying Chinese as he or she can. The math problem is pretty simple. A student who spends 5 hours in class every week is going to learn more than a student who spends 1 hour per week. The student who spends 1 hour per week learning Chinese will also learn more than the student who has an hour-long class every other week. The quality of the class will of course have an effect on how much the student learns. In general, more input (i.e. through class time) will lead to more learning. Spend as much time as you can getting input in Chinese, but be reasonable about what is workable for your own situation. Don’t make yourself go crazy.

I have been Using Duolingo for Month Now, Why is my pronunciation Still So Terrible?

Apps like Duolingo never killed anybody, but they are not an effective way to learn languages. They are at best a memorization tool. They don’t give learners the communicatively embedded input necessary to learn a language. Students often find it frustrating that the AI in programs like Rosetta Stone don’t recognize their attempts at speaking Mandarin Chinese. Many students assume that they have a unique problem with pronunciation. They probably do not. The most likely explanation for why students are not “getting it” is that they have not gotten enough input. They simply have not heard enough spoken Chinese (or Korean, or Spanish, or Swedish) to be able to speak at all.

If students think that they have a problem with pronunciation because a computer program says so, they should first put the phone or iPad down. Then, go and find opportunities to actually hear the target language in a communicative context.

Have your own questions about language learning? Use the contact page to get in touch

More common questions and common misconceptions about language learning:

FAQ

Language Myths that hold students back

The Myth of Mandarin as Too Hard Even for Chinese People to Learn

 

 

Reading and Dual-language

I should have hung out a “gone fishing” sign during winter break. Oops. But I did write something for The Rivard Report to help parents make the most of dual-language programs. I don’t teach in any dual-language schools, but I have a stack of research from my master’s degree thesis. Here it is: https://therivardreport.com/picking-up-a-book-helps-kids-learn-a-second-language/