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The Legend of Chinese New Year

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An ancient Chinese legend about the origin of chuxi tells us that there was a monster called Xi. Xi would emerge from the sea on the 30th day of the 12th lunar month to dine on the locals. No one would dare sleep that night until, at last, they learned that the monster could be driven away by putting up red paper and setting off firecrackers. Since chu means “to get rid of”, the Spring Festival Eve was known as chuxi, meaning “to get rid of something”.

Have a look at a great video about this legend

The custom of pasting Spring Festival couplets, setting off firecrackers and staying up late at night is thus observed till the present day

The history of the character “福”

The character “福” is often seen pasted upside down during the Spring Festival. Do you know why?

Here goes the legend:

After the emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, ascended to the throne, he secretly told all the people who had helped him to paste the character “福”, which means good fortune, on their doors. He would then kill those who hadn‘t put the character up by the second day. Afler discovering the plan, the kind-hearted Empress Ma asked every family in the city to paste the  character before dawn hence eliminating the disaster. Thankfully the people listened to her.

On the second day, when the emperor ordered his soldiers to kill all those who hadn’t pasted the character “福”, he was told every family had pasted the character. This made him very angry. Then the emperor heard about a family had pasted the character upside down because they were illiterate. He became so furious that he immediately ordered the whole family to be executed.

Empress Ma then hurriedly explained to the emperor, “The family must have learned Your Majesty will come today, so they put the character “福” upside down”. The clever Empress Ma knew that when spoke in Chinese, “upside down”, has the same meaning as “good fortune has arrived”.

The emperor fell for her explanation and didn’t kill the family. A disaster was avoided. From then on, people have put the character “福” upside down, meaning “good fortune has arrived”.

Chinese New year

What’s on the menu for Chinese New Year?

Chinese New year

 

Chinese people attach much importance to family reunion. No matter how far the family members live from each other, they will normally go back home to eat a family reunion dinner on the Spring Festival Eve. The dinner, usually a big feast, includes dumplings and all kinds of other food.

In northern China, each dish has a special meaning. The steaming hotpot signifies prosperity. Since fish has the same pronunciation as “surplus” in Chinese, it means “surplus year after year”. Chicken has the same pronunciation of luck, which predicts auspiciousness while carrot heads, also known as caitou, express the wish to have a good luck. Deep-fried food, such as that of lobsters and whole fish, signifies the auspiciousness of a family.  Dumplings, originated from the word “intersection”, which means the moment between the old year and the new year. Since a dumpling also resembles a shoe-shaped gold or silver ingot in ancient China, placing plates of dumplings on the table signifies “the New Year will come with wealth”.

Families usually sit around the table on the Spring Festival Eve, eating the reunion dinner while watching the Spring Festival Galat and awaiting the ringing of the New Year bell. The sound of firecrackers will be heard and spectacular firework displays seen.

On the morning of the first day of the first lunar month, people put on their finest clothes and exchange New Year greetings. Elder members of a family give “lucky money” to the children and adults exchange greetings, wishing each other good fortune and a Happy New Year. With the development of communication tools, people send loving text messages to each other. All around there is a bustling and joyous atmosphere. No matter where you are, you’ll surely receive good wishes.

This is the Spring Festival of China. It is lively, jubilant and joyous,

Would you like to come to China now and experience it?

 

Chinese New year song

Chinese New Year, it’s time to sing!

Chinese New year song

There is an amusing song that Old Beijingers sing about the time before the Spring Festival Eve. It vividly depicts how people busily and happily embrace the New Year:

“Little kids, little kids, don’t be greedy.

After laba, it’s New Year’s time

Drink the  porridge for several days, then on the 23rd day,

On the 23rd, eat glutinous sugar candy.

On the 24th, clean your house;

On the 25th, fry tofu;

On the 26th, stew meat;

On the 27th, kill chicken;

On the 28th, leaven dough

On the 29th, make steamed bread

on the Spring Festival Eve, stay up and play whole night.”

 

小孩小孩你别馋,过了腊八就是年。

腊八粥,喝几天,哩哩啦啦二十三。

二十三,糖瓜儿粘;

二十四,扫房日;

二十五,炸豆腐;

二十六,炖炖肉;

二十七,宰年鸡;

二十八,把面发;

二十九,蒸馒头;

三十儿晚上玩一宿;

https://quizlet.com/_4e2r5g quizlet link for this song with pinyin, characters and translation – 

Click here to listen to  the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0guqygv-CEI  

The day before the Spring Festival is known as the Spring Festival Eve, which usually falls on the 30th (although it can sometimes be the 29th) of the 12th lunar month. To usher in the New Year, fun activities such as hanging lanterns, setting off firecrackers and putting up Spring Festival couplets are held. People oflen stay up until midnight on the Spring Festival Eve, otherwise known as Shousui.

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Chinese New Year 2018….Ready, Steady, Go!

Chinese-Year-PROMO1389731149

 

What is Spring Festival? Is it the equivalent to Chinese New Year? When is Chinese New Year? Does it occur at the same time of year? How long does Chinese New Year last?  How do people celebrate it?

If you don’t have the answers to all these questions, then read this article to uncover the truth about the most important and popular event in China.

This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 16th, the year of dog. Chinese New Year is also referred to as Spring Festival, due to the prominent arrival of Spring after the New Year.

When is the Chinese New Year? Does Chinese New Year fall on the same day every year?

Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival in China. In terms of grandness and importance, it is the equivalent to how Christmas is celebrated in the West.  It falls on the 8th of December in Lunar calendar ( 16 February this year) and lasts for two weeks.The festival comes to a climax on the last day of December in Lunar calendar (commonly known as the Spring Festival Eve or chuxi in Chinese) and on the 1st of January in Lunar month.

How do people celebrate Chinese New year?

The Chinese Spring Festival is more than 3000 years old. Preparations begin from the 8th of December Lunar calendar. The week commencing on the 23rd day of Iayue ( lunar calendar) is the busiest time for the Chinese. Activities include sweeping and cleaning houses and making special purchases for the festival, such as food, Spring Festival couplets, the characters of “福” and clothes from department stores and supermarkets. People living away from their hometowns begin to prepare for their journeys home. As a result, train stations, airports and long-distance bus stations are crowded with people eager to reunite with their families

For Chinese people, no matter where you are, no matter how difficult it is… it is a time to go home.

 

UWCSEA Singapore Community Fair

VivaLing at UWCSEA Community Fair 2018 – what a great time we had!

UWCSEA Singapore Community Fair

 

The Singapore VivaLing team joined the UWCSEA Community Market on Saturday 03 February 2018!!

This market was an engaging eco-marketplace that seeked to go beyond the buying-selling point of healthy, eco-friendly, compassionate and/or ethically-sourced products or services by including an immersive element to it.

We had such a great moment exchanging on language learning strategies and playing the “lucky wheel” game with families and kids. While having fun with word puzzles and “Truth or Dare” games, kids have also received attractive awards such as “Inside-Out” DVDs and free lessons with VivaLing.

We were so happy to see the excitement on their faces and hope to have many other opportunities to meet more international parents and kids in Singapore in the comings weeks and months!
Check out many more exciting moments at the UWCSEA Community Fair from: https://www.facebook.com/VivaLing/

Started in 1971, UWCSEA is an international IB school in Singapore, recognized for academic excellence, service and outdoor education for students ages 4 to 18. Over 75 nationalities enrich the daily life on the Dover Campus, as does the boarding community and the scholarship students selected through the UWC national committee structure on the basis of their potential to have a positive impact. UWCSEA is a truly international school.

the VivaLing team at UWCSEA Community Fair

 

interest vivaling

5 scientific ways to help your child learn better

interest vivaling

We empirically know that kids learn differently from adults. They see the world afresh, experience sights and sounds with unabashed simplicity, approach the unknown with candor. Sadly, adults have lost some of that along the way.

But why is that? Science attributes much of a child’s unique worldview to a partially developed prefrontal cortex. Where a fully formed one renders adults with functional fixedness, kids still possess a flexibility and freedom of the senses. We see sticks for sticks, they see ray guns; we look for the sun, they see a glowing ball of fire. They have not lost the sense of wonder and imagination and beauty that characterizes childlikeness.

But the difference goes deeper than that. Where adults are built to perform, kids’ brains are still designed to learn. They absorb what they see and experience at this age faster than any other. So how can we help them absorb the right values and skills? Here are 5 scientifically backed tips that could help.

 

 1-Read with them, not to them

Tell stories, but don’t just stop there. Get them to read too. Call attention to specific words, character moments, motivations. By engaging them with the actual reading of the texts, it stimulates early literacy for your child on a subconscious level.

Then go further. Get them to share how they feel about the story, what they liked about it, what they felt uncomfortable with. Engage. Give them the platform to express themselves and think on their own. Rather than mere listening, such a discursive approach brings in rich contexts and language to allow your child to learn healthy communication skills early. Even at that young age.

motivation languages vivaling

 2- Encourage grit, not IQ

Research has shown that self-discipline predicts success in life better than any string of raw intelligence. That is not surprising. Grit refuses to call it quits after getting beat down. Defeated. Dusted. It looks to what might be and crawls back up. In children, this begins with baby steps. They need to see learning as a journey; the attempt more important than outcome; the lessons more valuable than the end.

Thankfully, studies are beginning to uncover how grit can be taught. And a lot of it has got to with a growth mindset – success is a result of hard work and perseverance. As a family, anchor discussions on effort rather than grades. Praise them for trying, not achieving. Laugh at failing. Emphasize its normality. Over time, they will see what they want to achieve as a function of grit and effort. The first step has been taken.

gamification vivaling

 3- Introduce active thinking, not passive receiving

Learning stems from doing, not hearing. We were wired to pick things up by practicing and questioning and thinking. Start by using simple everyday things to engage your kids. Go for walks, bake together, visit the groceries store. Ask your child about the food prices, the amount of sugar added, why the birds chirp in the day. Such questions take ordinary situations and turn them into hotbeds for engaging your children about what she knows, and what else she has yet to find out. It causes them to consider how concepts and processes link together and encourage them to reflect on the how and why more actively.

Four smiling young boys and girls forming a circle against sky

 4- Peer influence matters

This is undeniable. A child’s social setting has a huge bearing on her behavior and learning attitudes. Studies have shown that constant exposure to rowdy, unstable environments affect children negatively, with harmful longitudinal effects extending further out in life. Likewise, an exposure to healthy neighborhoods, solid schools, and good friends correlates to better grades and stronger social skills.

Why is that? People are strongly influenced by others and their immediate social environment. Expose your kids to good settings early, and they will pick up good habits that will set them for years ahead.

 5- Believe in them

Treat a man as you expect him to be, and he would be that man. This applies to our children too. When we harp on their mistakes, they internalize it and start believing they are prone to making mistakes. When we tell them they are good at something, they absorb that and aim to actualize that in reality. This phenomenon, known as the Pygmalion Effect, paints a simple bottom line for parents. If we want our kids to be good at something, we have to start believing in them and let them know we do. That simple act affects their mindsets, molds their behaviors, and changes their habits. Before you know it, you will see its effect play out in your little ones.

Children learn differently from adults. But if we recognize their uniqueness and are careful with our behavior around them, those little moments we invest in will well up into the bright inquisitive person they’ll one day be.

By Geraldine Lee for VivaLing

Geraldine is an education technology writer, currently serving on the content team at Yodaa (link to: https://www.yodaa.co/), an ed-tech startup based in Singapore. In her free time, she researches on parenting issues, education tips, and technological trends.”

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To Read Chinese One Must Start Early

In any written language, words are subject to a triple association: sound, spelling and of course meaning. For example, the English word horse refers to the working and racing animal, is pronounced /hɔː(ɹ)s/ and spelled h-o-r-s-e. Anyone knowing how to read will be able to pronounce the word relatively correctly even if they have never seen it in writing before, as English is written in the Latin alphabetical script.

As explained by S. Dehaene, the reading process takes place here through the so-called phonological route: graphemes are mechanically converted into phonemes without resorting to deeper semantic representations.

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The situation is quite different when it comes to Chinese. All Chinese languages are written in the unified system of Chinese characters. These Chinese characters are pronounced differently in each of the languages of the Chinese linguistic branch, for instance in Mandarin, the most widespread. Non-Chinese speakers often claim that the mapping of a Chinese character and its pronunciation is completely arbitrary; therefore it is said to be impossible to pronounce a character, even when knowing its meaning, unless its pronunciation has been learnt by rote beforehand.

The reality is slightly more subtle. Indeed, it is often necessary to learn simultaneously a word’s character and its pronunciation. But it must be stressed that 80% to 90% of Chinese characters are actually compound characters. They often consist of at least two subcomponents: a phonetic root (there are about 200 of them) and a semantic root (there are about 1000 of them). The phonetic root, often on the right side of the compound character, may give clues as to the pronunciation of the character. The semantic root, often on the left, tells about the word’s meaning, or at least the lexical category it belongs to. For instance, the Chinese character for a horse is马in simplified Chinese, and is pronounced  (third tone) in Mandarin.

The word for mother is pronounced mā ma (ma is doubled, the first one is pronounced with the first tone); the compound character for each ma has the semantic root of woman on its left and the phonetic root of horse on its right.

ma ma English

In a paper dated 2007, Bao Guo Chen and colleagues proved that the more arbitrary the mapping between meaning and sound or spelling, the higher the effects of the Age of Acquisition (AoA) on Chinese reading (for native speakers). Characters acquired early would be read with ease; characters acquired at a later stage would be more difficult to read if the correspondence between writing and sound or spelling was difficult to predict.

In other words, the more difficult it is to deduct meaning and spelling by reading a character, the more detrimental late acquisition is to quality and speed of reading.

Thus, within Chinese language and for native speakers, the impact of the Age of Acquisition increases with the arbitrariness of the mapping between meaning, pronunciation and spelling. What is the situation for alphabetical languages? By definition, reading an alphabetical language gives a very valuable clue as to what the pronunciation is going to be*.

Taken as a whole, the Chinese language is significantly more arbitrary than alphabetical languages in terms of mapping from character to sound and meaning. One can therefore assume that for Chinese even more so than for other languages, there is benefit in learning the language early so as not to be negatively impacted by the enhanced effects of the Age of Acquisition on reading.

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Chinese learning :
Chen, B. G., Zhou, H. X., Dunlap, S. and Perfetti, C. A. (2007).Age of acquisition effects in reading Chinese: Evidence in favour of the arbitrary mapping hypothesis. British Journal of Psychology, 98: 499–516. doi: 10.1348/000712606X165484

Stanislas Dehaene (2007). Les neurones de la lectureEditions Odile Jacob

 

Note : * The situation varies quite significantly from language to language. Italian or Turkish, for instance, are very easy to pronounce when reading a text, while a given spelling in English can be read in multiple ways (refer for instance to  toughthroughthorough, etc…)

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10 Popular Beliefs on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education

There are still many beliefs and cliches about bilingual education and bilingualism. This argument deconstructs the 10 most popular beliefs.

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1. Monolingualism is the norm and bilingualism is the exception.

Not true. We estimate that more than half the people on the planet are bilingual and 40% speak more than one language on a daily basis. Bilingualism is a phenomenon that exists throughout the world, on all continents and in the majority of countries. There are different ways of being or becoming bilingual: plurilingual family situation, living near a border, schooling in foreign language, working abroad, etc.

2. Being bilingual means mastering two languages and two cultures.

Mastery of two languages is rarely perfect and balanced. We estimate that only 20% of bilinguals are as at ease with one language as they are with the other. Being bilingual is first and foremost about being able to communicate easily in two languages, and being able to switch between languages depending on the situation and the tasks at hand: bilingual people develop and use their languages in different and varied social contexts, for distinct purposes. What’s more, we can speak a language without actually knowing and mastering all of the cultural values and practices associated with it: a bilingual person is not strictly bicultural.

bilingue

3. You will never be bilingual if you learn a second language too late in life.

There is no age limit when it comes to learning another language. The quality of exposure to the language and its teaching, along with motivation, are essential to successful learning. If an adult can learn quicker than a child, he or she will, however, find it more difficult to lose their accent.

4. One language must be mastered before learning another.

Mastering one language is an illusion, as we continue to learn it throughout our lives. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to be able to rely on past achievements in your primary language to develop skills in another language. In the same way, studying another language enriches the knowledge and mastery of the primary language.

5. A child who has a bilingual education must have at least one bilingual parent.

Bilingual teaching applies to all children. It is an educational device and not a school that is just for children from bilingual families. The academic success of children who attend bilingual institutions therefore does not depend on the linguistic skills of their parents. However, if they have the benefit of being exposed to the language outside of school, it means that their learning is enriched and consolidated.

enfant bilingue

6. You have to be a good student to undergo bilingual education.

Whether or not certain bilingual educational institutions decide to select only the best students, bilingual education applies to all children without discrimination. All students find added value in bilingual education, regardless of their level of learning. Switching to another teaching language can even sometimes help to relieve educational difficulties and encourage better learning.

7. The use of different languages must be avoided in the classroom.

On the contrary, bilingualism can complement the development of both languages: the teacher can then build on this observation to develop adapted teaching strategies, taking the linguistic level of students into account. Alternating languages from one activity to the next and exchanging points of view by comparing ideas and documents in the original language encourages reflection, memorisation or even conceptualisation.

8. You can’t study a subject correctly in a foreign language (history, mathematics, sciences, etc.) without mastering this language.

Not true, it all depends on the strategies adopted by the teacher, who must take the linguistic level of students into account. With beginners, for example, it is fluent and efficient to deliberately draw on the students’ native language. Additionally, studying a subject in a foreign language allows students greater and different practice of this language, and to be enriched by it.

bilingue

9. Educating a child in two languages increases the risks of difficulties in their learning.

Bilingual children have no greater difficulty in learning than monolingual children. The only situation that could lead to a bilingual child having difficulty in their learning is if they have not sufficiently mastered any of the languages before starting school.

10. The benefits of a bilingual education are purely linguistic.

Bilingual education allows students to deepen their knowledge of languages and cultures associated with them, which invites them to think and understand the world differently. Furthermore, it motivates students by offering an authentic and dynamic linguistic practice within the framework of different academic disciplines. By approximating language and knowledge, we encourage students to exercise mental flexibility, which translates to being better able to resolve problems in various situations, as well as making them more selfsufficient.

Source: Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques – www.ciep.fr

 

comptines enfants chinoise

Six Songs to Improve Your Children’s Mandarin Learning

Dear parents, did you sing “if you are happy and you know it” or “Jingle bells” with your children, when they first started learning English? Well, what if they’re learning Mandarin and feel like singing? Here are six songs for different age groups. Let’s sing together!

 

For 3-6 years old

Sounds from animals 动物的叫声

 

Easy catchy melody, easy vocabulary, super simple but useful sentences.

 

This song not only teaches your kids about animals, but also the sounds they make in Chinese! (Yes, the animals’ sounds are different in Chinese than in English) It will also help them learn some basic verbs such as walk (走), swim (游) and roll (滚), too.

 

Two tigers 两只老虎

 

Every country has its own version of this song. Every child knows the melody!

It’s interesting for kids to learn and sing a version of the same song in another language, plus the lyrics are really funny: one tiger has no ears, another tiger has no tail…

It’s nonsense, but kids don’t care! Trust us, once they’ve learned this song, they’ll never forget it.

 

For 6-9 years old

 

Where is my friend? 朋友在哪里

 

Beautiful and easy melody, contains numbers, and some basic everyday vocabulary and simple question structure.

 

White little bunny 小白兔白又白

 

Every Chinese child knows this song. It’s extremely catchy and popular in China.

It’s a song children sing with their grandparents, parents, kindergarten classmates and anybody you can think of.

It contains easy vocabulary like white bunny, ears, carrot, vegetables, etc.

Having learned this song, your kid will share a “universal language and topic” with Chinese kids. The adults will be impressed too!

 

For 9 years old and above

 

Counting ducks 数鸭子

 

You may know how to count 12345 in Chinese, but how about when the number are not in order? “Counting ducks” gives you a good blend of easy and advanced expressions for numbers in Chinese.

 

The yellow bird 黄鹂鸟

 

Is this a song, or a funny joke? No one can tell. But we know it has an absolutely beautiful melody with funny words that contain some advanced vocabulary and expressions.

Once your kids understand the meaning of the lyrics, they will laugh and love this song for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

future-of-education

The Future of Education: What Will Education Look Like in 2025?

According to the professionals who participated in the new 2025 Education Innovation Survey Report *, in 2025 the key methods of engaging with material and content will evolve to be real-time video collaboration and mobile devices. What are the 5 key trends for the future of education? VivaLing would like to share the main takeaways of this report with you.

 

future-of-education

 

  • The ability to learn anywhere and at any time

Accessibility for all those who want to learn is considered to be the most important factor in the future of education success. Schoolprofessionals from around the globe (25%) ranked accessibility above all other factors; this view was most pronounced in respondents from the UK (31%). In the context of education, accessibility refers to the geographical aspect: that distance is overcome in order to deliver education to where it is needed. Convenient access to education is also factored in: that students and professionals have the ability to learn anywhere and at any time.

  • Real-time video collaboration with real teachers

67% of school professionals consider the focal point of education delivery to be the teachers and lecturers themselves.  However, the use of remote learning technologies in teaching is expected to rise significantly: 53% of professionals believe real-time video collaboration and mobile devices will be the primary way students engage with content by 2025. Despite this shift, many professionals still believe that the teachers and lecturers will continue to play an important mentoring role in 2025.

By allowing an engaging, accessible, and cost-effective approach to education, technology opens up the prospect of higher education, personalized courses, and teacher-training to a much broader population.”

  • Improving the quality of teacher-learning, and personalized and contextual learning should be the main focus

A majority of teaching professionals across the globe are convinced that the main focus, after deregulation and revised compliance standards, should be on improving the quality of teacher learning. Those in North America (18%) and in India (21%) feel that the creation of a more personalized and contextual learning would also be worth focusing on.

 

factors-elearning-the-future-of-education

 

  • More online access to education materials

According to 47% of the people interviewed (the majority being from North America and the UK) online access to content and lectures is what students and parents are demanding more of, from the   institutions.

  • More resource sharing online and self-learning for teachers

In 2025, resource sharing via online channels will better facilitate teachers’ professional development. School professionals see teachers sharing resources within online environments and becoming more independent in identifying their own professional learning needs.

NB: This survey covers mainly North America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India. The rest of Asia is not covered.  However the trend towards online education in Asia is much stronger, especially in China.

* 2025 Education Innovation Survey Report by Polycom. More than 1,800 people from a range of professions within the education industry participated in the survey, with more than 80% above the age of 30. The majority of response comes from North America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India. The majority of participants were management and c-suite (26%), educators (47%) and those in administrative roles (27%).

http://www.polycom.com.au/forms/education-2025-thankyou.html