Learning Mandarin, what method is best?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

I studied in a sort of Chinese school for 13 years.
So that "sort of' means, I SHOULD know how to speak basic Mandarin right?


I studied in a Chinese school where we only get less than an hour of Chinese class daily.  When you think about it, well - one hour a day, should be okay - but the problem is, at that time - it was pure memorization.  The books that we used, were those traditional books that I honestly have no idea what is written in them.  I see Chinese characters and they're just that - Chinese characters without meaning, nothing.  It was not practical if you ask me.  The words we were taught were not used in everyday conversation

It was only during my 3rd or 4th year of high school that I realized how important knowing how to speak Chinese was.  It was during a trip to the Chinese border from Hong Kong that while I was going around the mall, I was having a hard time communicating with people who looked like me.  I was so frustrated that after that trip, I swore to myself that I would go to China and learn the language.  I owed it to myself.

So when an opportunity came, I went and I studied.  It was such a memorable half a year of my life that I wouldn't trade for anything.  I studied hard - the hardest I have studied in my life.  It was at that time that I really grew up and matured.  I was in a foreign country that spoke little english, I was without parents, there was no driver, no helpers to help me.  I was something I never thought I'd ever do.

At the start, everyday was a struggle to me.  I had to adjust what I learned for 13 years to a new system.  I did the work, I made worksheets, I bought books, I put in extra time learning the language.  We had quizzes, midterms and finals.  We even have a report card to show our progress.  All in all it was a half day meant for just learning the Chinese language.  It was that intense.  Imagine the hours you spend daily just to learn ONE language.  I had a class in comprehension, and then another class for listening.  They really chop it up so that foreigners can really learn the language.  But of course the best 'learning' was, you can get to practice it everyday since you are in China.  Everywhere you can see Chinese words and you hear people speaking in Chinese.  I was forced to adapt, to learn and to speak.  So by the end of my studying, I was already arguing with the locals in Chinese!

When I got back, it was an adjustment again - less Chinese words seen and spoken.  So what is the effect?  Well, many words forgotten.  My Chinese became kulang sa practice.

So what did I learn and realize during my half a year in Beijing? I realized:

  • -  Immersion is the best teacher.  Being in a place where people know little english, you will be forced to adapt, to learn and to do what is NECESSARY to survive.
  • -  The hours I spent learning the language was important.  Imagine 4-5 hours of learning just Chinese and spread that out 5 days a week for almost 6 months.
  • -  The lessons we were taught were brought down to a level of a child.  I felt this was the best strategy of Beijing Language and Culture University.  I was 22 at that time, and the lessons I learned were really basic - food, people, days of the week, directions, fruits, colors, places, animals.  They made grown adults learn very basic words that can be used in everyday life.  And from there they built a vocabulary that is added per lesson.  It seemed really funny and a but insulting - BUT man I can attest to it's effectivity.

When my kids started big school, I thought it would be easier.  I expected the school to teach them the basics and to make sure that they have a solid foundation on the basics.  I had this expectation that the school would have a better Chinese program compared to what I had during my time.  You can say that I expected the curriculum to evolve to a more modern effective technique.  To be honest, in my alma matter - my daughter had no problems with Chinese, she gets by with just studying by herself.  Because of how her grades are in Chinese, I assumed all is well.  But with Connor, my gosh - it was very different.

His lessons, were basic I guess.  They send out course outlines every quarter, and when you see the pages you'll be surprised on the load.  These are not just 2 pages worth, it's about 6 or more - back and forth.  I am no teacher, but I trusted the system enough because they should know best, right?  I would review Connor here and there when needed.

First and Second quarter were okay, his quiz results were satisfactory.  I was happy with them.  I think because they established simpler lessons.  But when I received the Third quarter report card, I was surprised with his grade.  Normally, I would just shrug it off.  But I was curious.  So I went to the PTC and met with his Chinese teacher.

I was very VERY surprised to learn that Grade 1 boys are expected to sight read Chinese words AND sentences.  They are expected to recognize words, re-arrange and correct erroneous sentences.  Mind you, Chinese word characters are not in the form of simple shapes.  I mean in all seriousness the words/characters look really foreign.  I was in shock, I think my mouth was gaping after meeting with the teacher and I think hours after that - I was in disbelief.

I was given these advice:

  1. -  Follow up and teach our sons at home (there is NO need for a tutor, but follow up is important.
  2. -  Practice writing
  3. - Try to interject Chinese words in everyday conversations

Here are my reactions to the advice:

  1. -  I expect my child to learn in school.  I expect the school to teach and equip him with the proper knowledge.  The school can give homework to follow up, but I don't think it's our duty as parents to follow up and teach our kids.  I remember the teacher telling me to 'help us' by reviewing our kids.  To be honest, I wanted to say - 'Bakit pa kami magbabayad ng tuition if kami rin magtuturo?' but I had to keep my cool.
  2. -  Practice writing is okay.  I would prefer that the school impose a Chinese writing homework everyday than blindly expecting the parents to do this activity voluntarily.  We parents WILL NOT voluntary do this because as I said - I personally expect the school to do this.  
  3. -  This I have to say is the funniest thing I have ever heard.  I am quite controlled with the words that I use, but to be honest - I have stronger words in my head, but I choose not to use them here.  Let's be honest.  Chinese is not a second language in the country.  We are learning this language to be competitive in the future.  We always say that Chinese/Mandarin will be beneficial in the future - but what is it without practice?  What is leaning 30 minutes a day without practice and immersion? Can you believe that our kids are learning three (3) different languages?  Three!  Not one, but three!

Thinking back, I asked myself - how did I learn the language at age 22?  How did I come to love and appreciate the language?  I had to think back and dig deep.  What method worked on me?  I know I am not a teacher, but what I have is EXPERIENCE.  I was a 22 year old equip with very little Chinese (Imagine my Chinese was the Taiwan style old characters), but I left the BLCU with so much new words, knowledge and appreciation of the language.  I HOPED that the method I was taught would be used by my high school because when they do, Chinese subject will not be something dreadful and will be enjoyable.

So what method was that?  IT WAS DUMBED DOWN for us adults.  Yes, it's as simple as that.  We were given lessons for young children and we were all grown adults in class!  You see what I mean?  There is NO SHAME in giving lessons that is not in the same level.  The school has to adapt and adjust to the capabilities of the kids.  Not because the books says Level 1 means that Grade 1 kids should learn that.  I personally feel that basics should be instilled and mastered.  And when they have REALLY masted that skill, then it's on to the next level.

I'm sure I would be questioned with how come for other subjects, it's different.  Of course it's different!  English is a language we are exposed to day in day out, 24/7 - we read english books, we watch and listen to english cartoons and TV shows, we speak english most of the time.  Filipino is the same way, we're more exposed to English and Filipino.  So how about Math, math is something we do repetitively - we gain skill because there is practice and we use it everyday.  How about SS?  Well, it's basic human behavior, right?  Most of them we use in our everyday lives.

So, what is my advice?  As a person who had to go to Beijing to learn the language.  I feel that the basics should be given first.  Personally, I think for the younger levels that they be taught the old Chinese Taiwan style alphabets.  This is to make the pronunciation better.  Fill up these young brains with vocabulary via listening - just like how we teach kids to talk.  No need to recognize words yet because let's face it - we don't want to confuse the kids with visuals.  Teach them all the colors, members of the family, parts of the body, food, fruits, animals, types of vehicles, school furnitures and fixtures - dumb it down!  When they've had enough of hearing all these words and can recognize it when they hear it - then you expose them to the sight words.  When they have masted the sight words, then you introduce the proper sentence construction and grammar.  Make it practical, so they can remember it and use it in everyday life.

But hey, this is just me.  I am not a teacher and what do I know right?  Hahaha..

What I know is 30 minutes a day is NOT ENOUGH to learn another language.

(I'm sure you can sense my frustration because I really really really am)

#SundaySeries: Wishing them well!

Monday, February 24, 2020

When I was a lot younger, I used to have this idea in my head that I need to take revenge on certain things.  That when people do something to me, I need to retaliate.  I was following the saying, if they hit you, you hit back.  I couldn't for the life of me (at that time) understand the Bible phrase to 'give your other cheek'  I swear, I thought it was so very wrong.

Then I experienced heartache.  I was feeling my lowest (I think) and then one day, I realized - that I needed to forgive that person and I needed to forgive myself.  It took a while, but then when I wished that person well and after that, everything was alright again.  The pain was minimal, I think I grew so much from that experience.  The lesson I learned then was to not think negatively of others, and instead wish them the best.

Let's not think ill of others, instead wish them well.  That's what I do now.  Whenever I'm irritared or angered by circumstances, I take a breath - say this in my head 'Lord, please take care of this' and after a while, I'll be calmer.

I wish I can instill in my children the act of forgiving and to accept apologies, no matter how early or how late.

Paymaya X Ministop! Spend P200 get P50 Cash Back!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I love love love my Paymaya.  I love the #ScanToPay QR payment because of the cash back!  It's so convenient, safe and oh so easy!  I look forward to my purchases using Paymaya.  I have this habit of asking the cashiers if they have Paymaya.  I get giddy when they say they do because I know I'll get cash back when I use their #ScanToPay QR.

Grabbing a quick bite or buying some last-minute needed items just got more convenient and rewarding as Ministop joins the growing list of PayMaya Preferred merchants, where customers can get added treats and perks whenever they pay using PayMaya QR.

PayMaya QR is now currently available in more than 500 branches of Ministop all over the country, allowing for the ultimate convenience not just in buying goods but in having a quick and hassle-free payment experience as well.

Additionally, shoppers can also get a P50 cashback once a week from February 19 until April 18, 2020 whenever they scan to pay a minimum of P200 using PayMaya QR at participating Ministop branches nationwide.

This is on top of the usual 1%, 10%, or 100% cashback they can get whenever they use PayMaya QR at thousands of partner merchants and establishments nationwide.

“Whether it’s grabbing Ministop’s famous Uncle John’s Fried Chicken for a quick lunch or buying supplies for home, your payment experience just got more convenient and rewarding because of PayMaya QR. It’s the perfect marriage of convenience and rewards, which makes buying your items at Ministop with PayMaya even more exciting,” said Raymund Villanueva, Head of QR Ecosystems at PayMaya.

Ministop is just the latest in a growing list of PayMaya Preferred Merchants around the country, where PayMaya is the preferred mode of payment instead of cash, as part of the “Don’t Pay Cash. PayMaya!” campaign of the country’s most rewarding mobile wallet today.

Aside from being able to conveniently pay for Ministop purchases using their mobile phones, PayMaya users can also add money to their accounts in select branches through the Pay & Go kiosk, which will soon be enhanced to offer even more convenient add money options in the coming months.

So hop on the cashless lifestyle and download and register for a PayMaya account now to enjoy the most rewarding mobile wallet experience at Ministop today. Dahil basta Ministop, don’t pay cash, PayMaya para may BalikBayad ka!

To know how you can maximize your PayMaya account, visit www.PayMaya.com/deals or follow @PayMayaOfficial on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Quaker Smart Heart Challenge

Monday, February 17, 2020

Would you believe that I never consumed oatmeal as a child?  Yep!  Oatmeal was never forced on us, I remember trying it and saying it doesn't have taste and that was it.  I only really ate oatmeal as an adult, a full blown adult.  And do you know the reason why?  It was because I was told that it was the healthier alternative and also because, well - my cholesterol level was slightly above the borderline.

I would put honey as a flavoring or strawberries, when it was in season.  I remember eating it for a few days and then that was it.  My Panget on the other hand ate it regularly - it's his breakfast every Monday.  He said this was to counter all the food that he eats over the weekend.  

I remember seeing ads of Aga Muhlach with his healthier look and 'abs' on TV.  He was saying that he Quaker Oats helped him get back into shape and at the same time lowered his cholesterol!  I remember thinking, this was a very good testimony because a LOT of us saw that he gained weight.  We didn't know that it really affected his health too! 

Fast forward to a few years ago, when I was introduced to the Rolled Oats of Quaker.  I was given a kit to try and it changed me and my breakfast choice.  The rolled oats of quaker opened my eyes to the possibilities of oats for breakfast!  It was also then that my friend and I started to sell our breakfast jars with measurements.  

This year, Quaker Oats wants us to have a healthier heart and with that - they are having the #QuakerSmartHeartChallenge !!  It's wonderful really that a brand encourages us to be more conscious of our health.  And what a great way for us to jumpstart this with their Smart Heart Challenge!  Thank you Quaker Oats!

We were introduced to health guru Nadine Tengco.  I've seen her but I've never heard of her story on why she came a health buff.  I was amazed at her transformation and it's such an inspiring story to share with everyone.  It's so nice that she's paying it forward by helping others and sharing her recipes for everyone to try.  We also saw and heard stories of Neri and Chito Miranda and of course, Ms. Nadia Montenegro.

(L-R) Neri Miranda, Nadine Tengco, Nadia Montenegro

Kickstart your heart-healthy lifestyle with the Quaker Smart Heart Challenge

In a country where eating is a national passion, we tend to disregard the effects of the food we consume. Even though fast food and processed goods are becoming staples in our daily meals, many don’t take into account their nutritional density.

In a recent survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI)[1], they found that one out of two adult Filipinos has borderline to high cholesterol mainly because of unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Our inclination towards fatty foods contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, based on the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority, heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the country[2].

Quaker, the number 1 oats brand in the world, aims to lower cholesterol for better heart health management among Filipinos through the Quaker Smart Heart Challenge. First introduced in 2004 in the Philippines, the challenge was developed to demonstrate how adding oatmeal to your daily diet helps reduce cholesterol. “Oats is a common cereal noted for its heart benefits, owing particularly to its high soluble fiber content called beta-glucan,” says Dr. Rodolfo F. Florentino, Immediate Past Chairman-President of the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. “Scientific studies have shown that beta-glucan is capable of lowering the cholesterol level in the blood, particularly LDL-cholesterol,” he adds.

The Quaker Smart Heart Challenge aims to help individuals lower their high cholesterol in just 30 days by making one simple change: incorporating two scoops or eight tablespoons of Quaker oatmeal daily, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This challenge was created to help adults learn about and develop heart-healthy eating habits, especially now that more and more individuals - including more and more young Filipinos - are experiencing heart problems and high cholesterol levels.

To show how simple, convenient and tasty an oats-filled diet can be, Quaker partnered with health coach Nadine Tengco to create a variety of sweet and savory recipes to complement the 30-day Quaker Smart Heart Challenge, perfect for young Filipinos who are looking to take better care of their hearts. Make your own oats breakfast jars with recipes like Coco-Choco Oat Jar and Oats n’ Mango Breakfast Jar, or step up your morning pick-me-up with Oats n’ Raisins Banana Mug Cake or Whipped Egg-Whites n’ Oats. “Incorporating oats into your daily diet need not be boring nor complicated. It’s easier and more accessible now than ever to kickstart a heart-healthy lifestyle,” shares Nadine.

Make the smart move to take good care of yourself with the Quaker Smart Heart Challenge.

For more information on Quaker Oats and the Quaker Smart Heart Challenge, visit www.quakeroats.ph. Quaker oats is available in instant, quick, and rolled oats format. And is also available in a variety of flavors: Chocolate, Banana &

[1] Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST). (2015). Philippine Nutrition Facts and Figures 2013: 8th National Nutrition Survey Overview. FNRI Bldg., DOST Compound, Bicutan, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
[2] Registered Deaths in The Philippines, 2017. (2019), 1–16. Retrieved from https://psa.gov.ph/vital-statistics/registered-deaths-philippines-2017

Please go ahead and scan the QR code or click this link http://quakeroats-ph.teectest.co.uk/smart-heart-challenge/ and start your #QuakerSmartHeartChallenge !!

#SundaySeries: Be the Light, Pay it Forward

Monday, February 10, 2020

Be the light.
Be the salt.
Pay It Forward.

The animated priest who officiated the Mass I attended yesterday said to share our light to others.  What he said struck me and I found myself in tears.  I was asking for a sign, and it was during his Homily that I found the answer.

Be a gift to others.  Share your light.  Pay it forward.

And so I will pay it forward.  I will share my light.  I will try and be a gift to others.

I thanked the priest after Mass.  I told him that I was asking for a sign and that his Homily was the answer.  He hugged me and said 'You're going to be OK'.

Have a wonderful week and month ahead.

Take care everyone!