Saturday, May 2, 2009

Moving this blog ... and we got tons of new DVDs including Thomas the Tank Engine!

Check out our new DVD finds on our Popping Pandas site!

We set up a new blog here:

Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Heading to Beijing for the Olympics?

Getting a tourist visa for China has become super difficult just as the Olympics are ready to start. The New York Times covers the controversy and topic well in China's Visa Policy Threatens Olympics Tourism.

If you are headed over anyhow, have a great trip!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Finding Nemo in Mandarin Chinese

Just picked up a small shipment of Finding Nemo.

Send go to our site, send a note with your email address and we'll send you an invoice. They'll go up on the site next week, too.

Price: $15
Format: VCD
Region: Plays everywhere

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Animals of the Zodiac DVD

Discovery's "Animals of the Chinese Zodiac" is a great DVD for the whole family.

It is bilingual with Mandarin Chinese and English language options and has enough entertaining content to amuse children and adults of all ages.

Order on our site

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Milk and Chinese Children

For all the adoptive parents overseas who have asked about milk and Chinese children, given the numbers of lactose intolerant adults in Asia, here is what we have seen:

Milk has become quite popular in the major cities due to the availability of refrigeration, spoil-proof packaging, and marketing. This results in children in China drinking milk. They are also eating cheese (Dominoes and Pizza Hut have hit China for better or worse).

Earlier, suan nai (sour milk or yogurt) was the only milk product available because it did not spoil.

Just in case you were curious!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bilingual Chinese - English Dinosaur Cards

Brilliant dinosaur cards with full-color pictures, English, Chinese characters, and pinyin with tone marks!

Bilingual Dinosaur card set: $5.99 on our site

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Announcement: Bilingual Chinese & English Montessori Material

Our first bilingual Mandarin Chinese and English Montessori material is now available.

Using original material from Montessori for Everyone (a great source for printable and printed Montessori material for all topics ranging from language to biology), we put together beautiful color-photo cards with Chinese characters, pinyin (for pronunciation), and English.

Children can mix and match cards, practice writing characters, or work on their pinyin. You can join in, too, even if you speak no Chinese yourself because our master card set has all the words and characters written down.

See the Bilingual Cards here...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Photos from China: Chang Ling Village in Hubei Province

The grandmother and her grandson dropped by a house in the village that serves as the local store. The barefoot doctor of the village also lives here. There are no other stores or medical care facilities in the village.

The bamboo shoots (to the left of the greens) were picked from the bamboo groves in the nearby hills and marinated with pork from the family's pig. They are really tasty! The greens are cooked lightly and served with garlic. Chinese children always seem to love their vegetables and we found out why!

A curious little village dog.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Basic Words: Introduce Simple Characters

As with the numbers in Chinese, many words are easy for children to recognize...


Start with a set of 6 Chinese character cards with words such as "shan" (山, mountain) and let your child enjoy mixing and matching them.

"Shan" is one of the words featured in the first issue of our Montessori Mandarin Chinese Course!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mandarin Chinese: Introducing Verbs

(if you cannot see the Chinese characters, just adjust the view settings on your Internet browser)

For those of you who have studied French or German, you will be thrilled to know that Chinese verbs and uses are very simple.

I go/ I am going/I will go = wo qu ("q" is pronounced "ch") = 我去
I went/I did go = wo qu guo = 我去过

You go/you are going/you will go = ni qu = 你去
You went/you did go = ni qu guo = 你去过

For he/she/it = use "ta" (it is written differently for he, she, or it, but pronounced the same)

For more simple lessons, check out our post below for the Mandarin Beginner Curriculum

Montessori Method Chinese Language for Children

We are announcing our new Chinese language program for children that is designed using by bilingual Montessori teachers using the Montessori Method for teaching language. to young children.

Our goal for the program is to spark your child's natural love of learning and curiosity about language and writing.

Children absorb languages, tones, and accents easily and quickly, so we have tailored the program around this focus.

This is a brilliant and easy-to-use program with which we have had lots of success with children between the ages of 2 to 15.

The key features of the program include:
  1. Beginning vocabulary words that build up issue by issue to create compound words and key phrases
  2. Step-by-step phrase building presented using a Montessori approach to language.
  3. Self-practice material even for the youngest of students.
  4. Tones and pronunciation designed to help children soak in native-speaker level accuracy.
  5. Notes for Mom and Dad, so you can work with your child whenever you want. No experience with Chinese needed.
Price: US$39.99 for twelve issues (one per month for one year). A fabulous deal!

Learn more about our Mandarin Chinese program for children!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Chinese for Children: Building Vocabulary

Children do best when they start off with simple words that can quickly and easily be combined to make lots of phrases. Earlier, we discussed numbers, which are perfect for beginning students because the Chinese numbering system is very logical (if you missed that post, it's here at the bottom of the page).

To review, the numbers from 1 to 10:

1 = yi

2 = er

3 = san

4 = si

5 = wu

6 = liu

7 = qi

8 = ba

9 = jiu

10 = shi

And, these are new:

11 = shi yi

12 = shi er

13 = shi san

14 = shi si

15 = shi wu

16 = shi liu

17 = shi qi

18 = shi ba

19 = shi jiu

20 = er shi

Check out our Montessori Mandarin bilingual flash cards!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fimbles in Mandarin Chinese!

Fimbles is a BBC show that has now arrived in China, so we are posting a clip to share it with everyone. The show is completely in Chinese, so it provides a nice Chinese immersion experience for children and it is enjoyable without understanding all the dialog. An excellent program for beginning learners as well as more intermediate and advanced students.

Buy Fimbles in Popping Panda's Online Shop

That "Thing" Over There...

A super useful word in Mandarin is dong xi (literally "east west"). It means "thing" or "stuff" as in "na ge dong xi" (that thing) or "zhe ge dong xi" (this thing).

东 = dong = east
西= xi = west

You can go to a store and point at something, saying "na ge dong xi..." and then the person behind the counter will usually respond by handing it to you and telling you the name of it. If you say something in Chinese, people will start talking to you and everything usually works out, but it helps to say something that they are used to hearing..."yeah, that thing over there, uh huh, right, that thing..." Somewhere in the mix, you will hear a noun that you studied before and everything will start rolling.

There is a great cartoon show in China called "kuai le dong xi" or "Happy Stuff" that gives a nice slice of ironic Beijing life and lots of use of the word "dong xi".

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dora the Explorer: Short Clip

Here is a clip from Dora...


Here's a clip from the Strawberry Shortcake DVD in Mandarin Chinese

Since everyone has been asking about Strawberry Shortcake, Dora, and Barbie, we are going to put a few short clips up so you can see what it looks like (of course, this clip is crunched on our computers, so it is not as nice as the original).

Strawberry Shortcake has bilingual options for voice and subtitles for English and Mandarin Chinese.


Buy the Strawberry Shortcake DVD at our store

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tips #1 For Using Our Bilingual Flash Cards

Our flash cards have Chinese characters, pinyin, and English. Since they are delivered to you via email, you can print out lots of copies to use in different ways.

One very useful exercise is to divide the Chinese character cards and English cards into two piles. You can practice alone or make this into a game, which is especially good for children. Pick an English card. Now find the character that matches it. If you are playing this as a game, shuffle the English cards and distribute them among the players. Take turns finding the character matches. The person who matches the most cards wins. You can print out two or more sets of the Chinese cards for this purpose (so that if one person picks incorrectly, that character card will still be available for another person to choose).

How to start learning to read Chinese

It really is easy! Lots of us studied French in high school and ended up thrashing through verb conjugations and lots of odd grammar (with all apologies to the French and not to say that English is at all straightforward). Well, the only thing that is difficult about Chinese is remembering how to write the characters. Everything else is simple!

The trick with reading and writing Chinese is getting started and keeping going. It is a sight word study process, so you have to practice it constantly. Fortunately, this is easier than it sounds. We created two sets of beginning flash cards (they are on our site View Flash Cards and delivered to your email inbox in Adobe PDF format). There are beginning phrase cards to go with these flash cards, too.

Once you know a few beginning characters (see earlier posts for some samples), basic books become accessible as do subtitles on movie DVDs. Our Strawberry Shortcake DVDs for children have bilingual subtitles and prove very useful to children learning characters.

Adults should look for anything on DVD in Chinese with subtitles. Find something you like, so you'll watch it. Pick out the characters you know and don't get frustrated with the ones you don't know. If you keep studying the characters and watching the DVDs, things will begin to make sense. Plus, and this is a big one, watching the characters in subtitle form let you soak in the proper pronunciation and tones. This is important because everyone internalizes the pronunciation of pinyin into whatever one's native language, if your native language is English, even if you know that pinyin is supposed to be pronounced a certain way, your mind defaults to English pronunciation ("ou" will stick in your mind as ou in cloud, which is wrong, for example).

Check out the earlier post on learning to write Chinese on a computer. Typing in Chinese helps so much because it lets you practice faster and more frequently. PC users just need to install the Asian language pack from their Windows installation CD.

Questions? Comments? Just let us know!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Few More Dora Words: Big Red Chicken in Mandarin Chinese

If you are looking at words for Dora the Explorer in Mandarin Chinese, check earlier posts first (and if the Chinese characters below aren't clear, see earlier notes on reading Simplified Characters online).

Words from Dora #1's Big Red Chicken:

红色 = hong se = red (literally hong=red and se=color, but if someone asks you what color something is, you'd reply "hong se" and not "hong")

小 = xiao = small
大 = da = big

鸡= ji = chicken

For those of you who haven't watched this episode, the big red chicken starts out as a small red chicken...It will all be clear, even if you speak and read NO Chinese.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Introduction to Chinese Characters: A Great Beginner's Book

A fabulous introduction to Chinese characters for children and adults!

Best of all, no experience is needed to start. Just pick up the book and begin learning.

All the words have English translations! They also have pinyin (pronunciation guide) and stroke order (a step by step guide to writing the characters). Perfect for starting out.

For example, the number "1" in Chinese is super simple (check earlier blog posts for more on numbers). Did you know that "yi" (one) pretty much uses the same pronunciation as si in Spanish (for all of you Dora watchers out there)?

"100" is also pretty easy!

You will see the small words on the bottom right side of the two samples on the left. These are extra words that show you how this character is used in a compound word (if you add these samples, this red book gives you an additional 1200 words!)

Buy these books on our site

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dora: How do you say "Backpack" in Chinese?

(If you get gibberish where the Chinese characters should be, see our notes below about adjusting your Internet browser to view Simplified Chinese)

Check out the video clip at the bottom of this post to see Backpack singing...


beibao, beibao, beibao...wo shi beibao!

backpack, backpack, backpack..I am backpack!

beibao = 背包

bao = 包 = bag

for example, shu = 书 = book


shubao = 书包 = book bag!


Browse our Dora collection

Monday, September 3, 2007

Chinese Character Books: Intermediate Books Just Arrived

Intermediate Character books are finally here! Visit our Popping Panda's book section.

This book introduces 300 intermediate words (beginners, check out our red book with 300 Beginning Characters).

There's one page sample down below. As you can see, the book uses Chinese characters and pinyin, but no English translations.

Try our link to Google translations for Chinese to English and English to Chinese. If you type in the word, 左 (zuo -- if you can't see the Chinese character, read below for browser tweaking) you will get "left" (as in the left sandal below).

zuo = 左= left
you = 右 = right

Put them together,
左右 = about (as in the idea of "more or less" or "approximately")

For those of you who are just thinking about trying to learn Chinese, we highly encourage you to get your computer set up to type Chinese! It's really easy to do -- try with the numbers from 1 to 10 below.

On PCs, you usually hit "ctrl" and the space bar at the same time to shift your PC's language (I hear it's easier on a Mac, but I don't know how to do it). Anyhow, once the computer is set up, you just poke around and all the characters start coming up. Use the English keyboard to start writing -- if you were writing "zuo" you'd start with z (all the z words start appearing), then u (zu words appear), and finally o (all the characters written zuo pop up and you choose the one you want).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dora's First Phrase

If simplified (Mandarin) Chinese characters do not appear below, you will need to change the "view" section on your internet browser. (Firefox users: Go to view, character encoding, auto detect, simplified Chinese)

Dora says "I am called Dora!"

I = wo = 我
called (for names) = jiao = 叫
Dora = duo la = 朵拉


Then she asks, "What are you called?"

you = ni = 你
called = jiao = 叫
what = shen me = 什么
name = ming zi = 名字

The easiest way to learn Mandarin is to work with translations that are direct. Many books and teachers translate things roughly instead of using the precise translation. If you translate each word with precision, so you know exactly what it means, it will give you a strong base going forward.

Have you figured out the Chinese word for back pack? If not, we'll be back online tomorrow with some answers:)

Note: As soon as we get the tone mark software up, we'll edit this with the tones. But, just watch the show with your child, and follow along. Children naturally pick up the tones as they listen. Once you're grown up, it's harder, but very possible.

Your Teaching Goal for Mandarin Chinese: Children Under 8 Years of Age

Your goal for teaching young children Chinese should be the development of native speaker level pronunciation. This comes from spending time in a Chinese language environment.

Since children have the ability to learn languages easily and quickly (unlike the rest of us, who really have to hit the books), creating even a temporary language immersion environment can be amazingly helpful.

If you do not have the opportunity to spend at least a few months in China, using such tools as children's television programs, DVDs, cartoons, and music CDs, allow your child to hear the language on a regular basis.

Here are some basic guidelines for children under eight:
  1. Always remember that your goal is to help your child fall in love with learning Chinese. He or she has the opportunity to develop almost native speaker level pronunciation at this age. This is the most important goal! Vocabulary and everything else can be studied, but native speaker level pronunciation can only be acquired at this age!
  2. Select five to ten hours worth of age-appropriate material. Buying vocabulary drills or structured lessons on tape do not count!
  3. Create a stress-free and relaxed environment for your child and play the DVDs or CDs.
  4. Leave your child alone (unless you speak Mandarin) to soak in the language. It's hard to listen to a new language when Mom or Dad is chatting away in English (or whatever your native language might be).
  5. The length of the time spent with the material is determined by your child. If you are tempted to force your child to watch the material you have selected, you have purchased the wrong material!
  6. Let your child's interest level guide you. Does he or she enjoy the current material? If so, get more. Basically, go with the flow!
  7. Do not push the introduction of pinyin until your child reads English well. See our early blog posts for a discussion of pinyin.
  8. Focus on listening and speaking skills.
  9. Use flashcards with pictures and characters to introduce reading when your child becomes interested. Children learn quickly which characters go with which sounds. You can let them use the pinyin, if they find it interesting, but let them work with the cards on their own and see what happens. Many children focus on the link between the spoken Chinese word and the written Chinese character. This is perfect. Once your child is reading English well, he or she can quickly pick up pinyin in an afternoon!

Teaching tips: Credit to our Beijing-based language instructor and former middle school teacher Zhang. Translated from the original Mandarin by Montessori House staff (the original Mandarin was more elegantly put!)

Dora the Explorer: Introductory Set

Six great Dora the Explorer DVDs in Mandarin Chinese!

In these DVDs, Dora uses Mandarin Chinese wherever she would normally speak English. Key words are then presented in English -- this helps your child understand the show! Then the words are also given in Chinese. Even if your child has never heard or used Chinese, he or she will be able to quickly and easily soak in beginning words and phrases!

A total immersion language program for TV time!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Are you just beginning to learn Chinese?

One easy and efficient study method is to learn to write Chinese characters on the computer.

PC users will need to install the Asian language pack (Mac users have it a bit easier) for simplified Chinese.

It's super simple to get started. Shift the keyboard to Chinese (hit the control key and space bar for most computers) and type the pinyin and then move the arrow keys (or you can punch in the number next to your choice) to select the character.

Using the computer lets you start writing words, phrases, and sentences in Chinese quickly, so you can enjoy your new skills. Characters on the computer are definitely NOT a substitute for writing characters by hand (the process of writing each stroke helps you memorize the character), but it is another useful channel for learning.

Children love learning to write characters on the computer! They can work on projects such as learning how to write "I love you" on Mother's Day -- 我爱你(wo ai ni) - and print out a card.

Making your own flashcards (great if you have a textbook and want to drill with the words in the book but no cards have been provided). You can use blank rolodex cards and print out two sets, so you can practice matching the character with the pinyin and/or translation on the back. The process of making the cards helps you learn the characters, too.

Questions? Let us know!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake comes to DVD in Chinese

A great new find!

Visit our our store to order it. We will have more Strawberry Shortcake coming soon.

This program has slightly more difficult words and phrases than the Dora DVDs in Chinese, so if you are just starting out, you might want to try our Dora series first.

If your child is old enough to read in English already, then this is a good program to start with because it has both English and Chinese subtitles. For children who are learning Chinese characters, this is a wonderful way to practice because they see the same characters repeated in the appropriate context.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chinese Numbers 1-10 and 10 to 100 by tens.

We caught former Chinese TV anchorwoman and now renowned movie producer in China on a small video camera. Here she is with absolutely pristine Mandarin Chinese.

Tidbit: Wait until your child can read English to teach pinyin

Introduce Chinese in spoken and written character forms as young as possible, but hold off on teaching pinyin until your child reads English well (of course this only applies to native English speakers). The alternate pronunciation for pinyin will be confusing to children who do not read yet.

For example, the word "house" in English blends the "ou" (ignore the silent e for pinyin purposes because there are no silent letters in pinyin). In pinyin, in the equivalent spelling "shou" for hand, you should not blend the o and u -- the two sounds should receive equal weight in the pronunciation.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Dora the Explorer in Mandarin Chinese

Modern technology makes learning languages so easy!

Dora the Explorer has some of the best Mandarin translations of any programs out there. The songs are all beautifully translated and the famous Backpack song will soon be ringing in your ears in Mandarin instead of English...but, hey, that's a good thing if your child is learning Chinese!

See Dora on our store

How to help your child start learning Mandarin Chinese

Tips for starting out:
  1. Begin with simple DVDs such as Dora the Explorer in Mandarin Chinese.
  2. Focus on DVDs and songs instead of books (unless you speak Chinese well enough to read the books aloud)
  3. Use flashcards and beginning books to teach basic characters such as numbers from 1 to 100.
  4. Avoid saying words in Mandarin to your child if your Mandarin pronunciation is not good. You can watch programs with your child and learn together!
  5. Avoid textbooks that are not clear and easy to understand. A lot of books published in China and Taiwan for teaching Chinese to children are horrible!
    1. Look for texts that build lessons sequentially. For example, children should learn the numbers from 1 to 10, and then learn how they combine to make numbers up to 100. Children love this progression because it makes learning characters logical and intuitive.
    2. Texts should review old vocabulary as they introduce new vocabulary. Watch out for this one. A lot of texts introduce a ton of new words in each chapter, but do not focus on words that build sequentially. For example, if your child learns the word for book (shu), he or she should then learn basic adjectives such as red (hong) or big(da) to combine with the word he or she just learned. Why teach another random word that does not fit with anything else?
    3. Dick and Jane. Chinese is basically like learning how to read with whole words (the methodology where you memorize words instead of using phonics to sound them out). Children need simple storybooks that repeat words over and over again.