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Learning Chinese: The Potato Way

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a Potato Parent. I am not pleased to admit it… but I am not ashamed. See… I didn’t get to choose how I was educated. Unlike many in Singapore, I was never given the opportunity to learn Chinese. I spent the better part of my childhood outside of Singapore. So, I learnt French instead.

My children have to learn Chinese. I am fully supportive of this. If the government decided to move away from bilingual education and people had the choice to take or not to take Chinese, I would still opt for my kids to take Chinese.

But Potato Children like mine find it really difficult to excel in the Chinese language because they do not evolve in a Chinese reading milieu. In the past 10 months, I have experimented with some Potato Methods for Learning Chinese and my son has made progress. In this post I would like to share some things I discovered about the process of learning Chinese – and why Potato Children like mine find the language almost impossible to master… and what parents can do to make the impossible possible.

Under-Developed Cognitive Infrastructure

When I first arrived in Europe, I found Caucasian faces impossible to decipher. My friends, who had been staying there for years, could differentiate the German look from the Italian look from the French look almost immediately. I even found it effortful to differentiate one person’s face from another’s. Some years later, my Caucasian friends complained to me that all Asian faces looked the same to them.

After 1 year in Europe, I no longer had problems differentiating Caucasian faces. Indeed, I too could pick up the subtle elements of style and expression that allowed me to identify someone as Italian. The sheer volume of exposure to Caucasian faces stimulated my brain to develop the necessary subconscious cognitive infrastructure to (1) differentiate Caucasian faces (2) retain Caucasian faces with details  and (3) recall whole Caucasian faces.

A baby who evolves in a Chinese literate family, meets in the natural course of living and breathing, enough Chinese characters to develop this subconscious cognitive infrastructure for fast and easy (1) character differentiation, (2) character retention and (3) character recall. These babies grow up into adults who believe that Chinese is easier to learn than Malay. This sounds incredible to Potato Parents, so if you don’t believe me… click here.

This learning is subconscious.

Up until Dec 2010, Little Boy relied on the conscious learning of the Chinese language only. His Grandma assigned assessment books and he spent hours learning his ting xie. He worked hardest at Chinese and it was still his worst subject. This conscious learning was getting him nowhere. I had to help him activate his subconscious learning processes.

I took a risk. I adapted my own experience with face recognition to Little Boy’s endeavour to learn Chinese. In my adaptation, I did three things differently from what parents of potato children normally do.

(1) I exposed him to material containing at least 50% of new and strange Chinese characters

(2) I did not require him to fully master (read, recall and write) the words he was exposed to.

(3) I threw away all the assessment books.

This was because I had decided to look BEYOND obvious and tangible deliverables such as the ability to write words and get high marks for ting xie. I focused instead on the unseen aspects of developing a cognitive infrastructure for (1) fast and intuitive processing, (2) efficient organizing and retrieving of Chinese characters. I didn’t care if he flunked ting xie. I was focused on building the unseen, not acing the seen.

Let’s now look at each of these 2 in turn.

(A) Processing Chinese Characters

Do you remember the dial-up internet connection of old? Not much data could go through because there was not enough bandwidth. Little Boy’s mental pathways for processing new Chinese characters were so narrow that they were like dial-up internet. Not surprisingly, he had to spend up to 2 hours to master one miserable list of ting xie (and he promptly forgot half the list the next day).

Now, visualize in your mind’s eye a small stream that allows only a trickle of water to pass. Compare your small stream with the Thames. Then, ask yourself “How am I going to get this stream to be deep and wide enough to move the same volume of water as the Thames”? Nature does it with forces of erosion. High volumes of water exert frictional forces on stream beds and banks as it passes through to dig a channel deep and wide. The higher the volume of water, the greater the speed of flow, the higher the rate of erosion.

I had very little time left because Little Boy was in end-P4 (and PSLE was coming up too soon) when I started messing with his language cognitions. I needed maximum erosion rates to dig a mental pathway large enough that Little Boy would not look constipated every time he had to read Chinese. I exposed Little Boy to daily stimulus from Chinese texts. I made audio-recordings and he memorized the text as he listened and read. Every new Chinese character fed through his brain hit against the narrow walls of his mental pathways, and made them wider and deeper.

For maximum benefit, I required him to memorize and recite in short chunks. This pumped the same material through his brain again and again until the material could easily go in one end (eyes and ears) and come out the other (mouth). To confirm, I made him read the material to me without the recordings. This is the equivalent of pumping the same water again and again through the same stream until you’re pretty sure some erosion has taken place.

Today, 10 months later, Little Boy spends as little as 20 minutes (compared to 2 hours twice a week last year) to learn 1 chapter of ting xie. His mental pathways for processing Chinese characters has become very much deeper and wider. The speed of learning has improved.

But, does he forget? We will next examine organization and recall of Chinese characters.


(B) Organization and Recall of Chinese Characters

I visualized Little Boy’s brain as a room with insufficient storage cabinets. Chinese characters, after having made the long journey through narrow passageways tumbled helter-skelter into this room. Once they got there, they promptly got lost.

I was sure the characters he had learnt were there in his brain somewhere, but since he had not developed the cognitive infrastructure for organizing and retrieving Chinese characters, he couldn’t find them when he needed them. He could not remember.

I took another calculated risk here. I exposed him daily to new Chinese model compositions that contained about 400 words that he had never encountered before. I made sure that he learnt these texts well enough to be able to read them fluently to me at the end of the day. This meant that he was cramming a new lot of 400 words every day into his brain.

I gambled on the adaptability of the human brain. If you stuff enough stuff in a short time inside there, the brain naturally and unconsciously decides to build more storage cabinets for better organisation. It’s a bit like a housewife who realizes that she has so much to store away that she absolutely must get the carpenter in to build more cabinets…. and because she already knows what she needs to store away since everything is lying there, the cabinets are better designed for the material she needs to store.

I did not require him to write the words. I did not require him to recite the WHOLE compo at a go. I absolutely did not care if what he had just learnt disappeared from conscious memory the day after. I focused on cramming new words and more new words into his brain to stimulate the development of more and better storage capacity for Chinese characters.

By January 2011, he didn’t have to revise his ting xie for 2 hours twice a week anymore to remember only half the characters. He spent a single 20 minute study session on his ting xie and that was all. Studying Chinese became faster and easier. And that was when Little Boy began to feel good about the subject.



Hence, Potato Parents please don’t despair. Our children CAN excel in Chinese. We just have to be aware that we cannot go about it in the same way that Rice Parents do. We are unable to read them Chinese books in bed. We are incapable of speaking to them in Chinese. But our own ignorance can be easily compensated by modern technology.

Audio digital recordings of model Chinese compositions helped Little Boy to develop the cognitive infrastructure that made processing, organizing and retrieving Chinese characters as easy as if he were a Rice Child. There is no reason for Potato Parents to sit back and accept that it is impossible for their own children to learn Chinese excellently well. With some knowledge of how the subconscious brain works… and a computer with speakers, Potato Parents like you and I can help their Potato Children.

So, Potato Parents arise. Wrap your arms around your children and lift them up towards competence in Chinese. If your children are in Primary 1 then time is on your side. You don’t have to pump up to 400 new words through your child’s brain daily, like I did. Set less stressful targets for you and your child.

But DO note that if you are a Potato Parent, you need to help your Potato Child build the cognitive infrastructure for learning Chinese that Rice Children develop naturally because of their home environment. Ignore the grades for a while and lay off the writing.

It was painful to memorise compos but it was pain of a shorter duration compared to the long pain that we went through from P1 to P4, trudging through short lists of words and never quite mastering them. We felt like losers then. We don’t feel like losers now. In addition, Little Boy is now able to analyze the structure of strange and new characters he encounters and GUESS how they are pronounced and what they mean. Till now, this was a skill that only Grandma and The Husband possessed because both grew up in homes where people spoke and read ONLY Chinese. Best of all, Chinese has become much easier and faster to learn.

For those who are interested… here is a reference 1000 Model Chinese Compos on this thread… If you can, just drop a note of thanks in there so that others know that thread has this reference.


Interesting article

I liked your approach and wish I had read this 5 years ago. My Sec 3 son hates MT and we are potato parents. I myself can’t read a para of Chinese text without referring to a dictionary. I would love to try your method, but it think it may be too late as my dear son is resistant and also frankly, too swamped with his other subjects to remediate his subject to a meaningfully good level. Sigh…


Formative Years are crucial in absorbing languages

Thanks for sharing an interesting post.

Yes, nowadays, Singaporeans hardly use our mother tongue anymore. We have to make a very conscientious effort to communicate with our children with it so i becomes our second nature.

Kids Learn BEST through:

1) Play- Board Games/ Guessing Games etc.

2) Watch Chinese Dramas/ Cartoons together

3) Speak to at least 1 parent with Mandarin

4) Story Telling

Potatoes or not, we will all arise to teach our children well if we are determined and showered them with our love. 🙂






My Personnel View

Hi PenangKiasuMom,

My two kids have also been grown up in an English speaking family too.  My dd likes to read books and magazines and thus, I will subscribe to “Xin Peng You” and “Da Mu Zhi” for her to read.  On the other hand, my ds prefers to play with electronic gadgets and games instead of reading.  I will subscribe to online education games or ebooks for him to play and learn.  Separately, I try to read to him at least twice a week.

I let my dd choose and buy story books with “Han Yu Pin Yin” since she may not know all the words in the books.  I have been encouraging her to highlight those words that she does not understand.  She can approach me for assistance when I’m back from work.

For my ex-colleague, she is not able to teach her dd Chinese when her dd is in P3.  She outsourced the teaching to “Berries” which does help her dd in her studies.

For my nephew who is now in S1, who is more mature and self-motivated since young.  He has no tuition but he owns quite a number of reference books.

I believe you need to know what will interest your son.  Since your ds does not know many words at his level, I would like to suggest that you build up his confidence level with reading of simple comics books of his interest.  Try to be patient and explain to him if he needs guidance.  This would help in his learning as you can monitor and fine-tune your ways of coaching.

If possible, try to talk to him to see how you can help him to cultivate more interest on the subject.

Thank You! Need further advice pls!

Hi, thank you for your sharing.

My son has grown up in an English speaking family, but I've sent him to chinese school.  He is now in P4.  He has been very reluctant to read in Mandarin all this years, as there are so many words that he doesn't know, and thus the fear.  And honestly speaking, it is my fault too, coz I'm not the patient kind of mom.  Do you think if I apply your method, by audio recording his text book chapter, and also some model compo, will that work for my son?  About the audio recording, do I need to explain the meaning of the words / the whole story in English so that he could understand the meaning?

Really appreciate your advice!

Thank you very much! 

Thank you very much! 

Compo topics

 Common topics 
 p3 n p4
 1) road accidents 
 2) fall down due to rain / slippery floor
 3) Good Samaritan / le yu zhu ren
 4) accidents in school canteens, soccer ball
 crash the windows etc….


4 model composition

 May I ask what are the 4 common chinese compositions that you have gotten your child to memorise? I am trying very hard to help my child to improve her Chinese.


 How do you make audio

 How do you make audio recording/reading of Chinese newspaper? 

Please share your mental heuristic for CL Oral

Hi Chenonceau,

My DD is in P4 this year. He has a problem with CL oral as he hardly communicate in Chinese.  Especially in the oral conversation part. Please help…..

Please share your mental heuristics for CL Oral

Hi Chenonceau,

My DD is in P4 this year. He has a problem with CL oral as he hardly communicate in Chinese n most of the time have a problem with what the teacher is asking under oral conversation. Please help…..

Thanks :)


Great post there. I liked it and am now familiar with how to train my younger sister in Chinese.

However, I, growing up in an English-speaking family, am unfortunately a "potato child". I can’t speak much Chinese, and half the time I can’t even understand the comprehension passages set in exams. I am in IP Sec 2 this year, is it too late for me to better my Chinese?

Lastly, do you have any advice for "potato children" like me?

Thank you in advance 😀

You're most welcome!

You’re most welcome!

A big Thank You !

Thanks for the post ! I am a potato mummy whom I have to coach my 2 gals in their CL Hw . It is very stressful ! Will definitely try your method 🙂

great article! thx for

great article! thx for sharing! cheers


 very interesting article!

 very interesting article!

 The brain is a lot more

 The brain is a lot more malleable than we think… even in old age.

The righty is still plastic!

Hi Chenonceau,

I feel so encouraged by your success at helping your boy overcome the Chinese Language barrier. Evidently, the right brain is still sensitive to external stimulus even after 6 years old (from what I gathered from the Shichida Method). There’s still mystery to how much we could tap on the brain power.

I’m eager to share your article with my potato relatives and friends! 😀

Thanks a lot and may your boy excel at his PSLE 😀

I was very determined to

I was very determined to protect him from PSLE failure you see. I dun mind that he fail in lower primary but not the PSLE. I was really very determined.

Good Job! Chenonceau :>

Hi, I am really impressed by your effort:> I have two boys and I fully understand how difficult to get them to study, let alone do well. 

Yes, accompany them thru the difficult moments is important thus I really admired your courage and determination to stick with your little darling when he needed you most. 

For this Nov/Dec holi, i would like to try out your method and hope it will work well with my boy. 

Thank u!


Dun feel guilty. It isn't

Dun feel guilty. It isn’t your fault. Standards have risen so high that your A1 would probably be a Fail today. Many parents are blind-sided by misleading textbooks. Our children need to go far beyond the textbook standard to do well in school for ANY subject. 

Thanks Chenonceau once

Thanks Chenonceau once again.

reading your posts made me guilty…i was an A1 student in chinese during my younger years & hence friends are surprised when I told them my boy failed his Chinese.  DH is a potato..speaks Chinese with a funny accent.

reading your post motivate me…never give up!  cause my boy is still young & I CAN motivate him to like the language too.  thank you!

 I got in cable just for

 I got in cable just for Chinese cartoons. He wouldn’t watch. We bought stacks and stacks of comics. He wouldn’t read. There is more than one way to build a positive association and some of these ways don’t look like fun… but my son has developed by now a positive association. He quite likes Chinese now.

Chinese and positive association

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I am on the journey to getting DS to read Chinese books and I admit it hasn’t been easy eveN though we are not potato family. 

I agree that we have to cast our sights further and reap the longer term benefits. For me, that is positive association with the language – Chinese cartoons and comics!

 Hi mother777, ummmm....

 Hi mother777, ummmm…. actually I don’t have a clue what topics to spot for PSLE. We memorize for fast and voluminous exposure… not to the topic for pure regurgitation.

Hi Chenonceau, great article.

Hi Chenonceau,

great article. hope this will work for my DD too. She is in P2 now and we belong to non-chinese family.

but DD still loves to read and learn chinese books.

Just wanted to request of possible to advise the good compo topics to focus in PSLE. may be i can request her to concentrate on memorising those 🙂

thanks in advance.

Yup! My son REFUSED to read

Yup! My son REFUSED to read storybooks. He WANTED to memorise. Partly, he could see the results. Partly, the model compos had audio recordings and he didn’t get stuck. Partly, he FELT that he was making faster progress than with just leisure reading.

I was quite surprised.

He also said that he quite enjoys writing Chinese compos now. It’s exactly what I experienced when learning piano. You HAVE to practise and practise and practise… and THEN, when you CAN play, it’s thrilling. I kinda concluded that learning Chinese is quite the same as learning to play classical music. You NEED to memorise and you NEED to be disciplined.

Learning Chinese the potato way

Hi, I am a potato parent too.

I consult my colleagues who are chinese teachers in schools and they told me it’s essential to memorise.

Speaking from the horses’ mouths!

Then I read thru your blog and decide to do likewise.

Got her to memorise 4 common compo topics before the chinese compo.

She’s only P3. I read about your blog and share with my DD what you wrote. She said she doesn’t want to cramp

7 hours of compo memorising and writing a day at the last min. That did it! She memorise it on her own, learn how to write the words and I help her with the phrases and writing of the difficult words and guess what, I even download the chinese writing software and type out the compo she wrote after she has done with the 4 model compo. I even complied a book of the model compo and the ones she wrote.

We were so tired after the entire experience, that we took a break from reading and memorising chinese compo after the chinese compo exams.

But guess what, after only 2 days, she missed it! She said she wants me to read the chinese compo to her and she wants to memorise more. She even told me she loves writing chinese compo.

She prayed hard that the topics we memorise will come out for the exams, and it did 🙂 Phew!

Hopefully, all these translate to better results 🙂



Switching would mean one less

Switching would mean one less mountain to conquer and Malay seems already part of your heritage. I want mine to do Chinese and be good at it and like it because I have always regretted not be able to come to grips with my own heritage.


Hi Chenonceau, thanks for sharing. I really envy you for the courage, patience in this matter.However, I’m not if this will work for my kids. We are malay-english conversing family at home.They also dont have much expose in Chinese even though having Chinese as mother tongue. from what I see they can read in hanyu pinyin but not in Bi hua. I am seriously considering to switch to mly. 

 If there is a will, there

 If there is a will, there will be a way. All the best to you!!

 Hi Chenonceau, Thanks for

 Hi Chenonceau,

Thanks for sharing. It is really very motivating for potato parents like myself.  Anyway, I wonder if there is a way to do audio recording if both parents and relatives are all potato?  

The audio recording is the key to success!

I am illiterate in Chinese. I

I am illiterate in Chinese. I ask a relative to record for me. I choose the material however, by asking for random readings that I pick. Then we go through the whole book systematically. You can choose your own material from Popular or storybooks and record it yourself.

Hi Chenonceau, Your posting

Hi Chenonceau,

Your posting really inspire me! Can you let me know how to make audio digital recording of chinese model composition? Do you read out aloud and record it yourself?

Many thanks..

  Yes... you are right. IQ is

Yes… you are right. IQ is documented as inborn. In textbooks, fluid intelligence is defined as problem solving skills and seen to be invariable throughout life. This is a bit like the processing power of a chip. More intelligent computers can process more data and faster. The power of the chip is invariable.

The difference in opinion between you and I can be explained by Dweck and colleagues’ "incremental theory". Incremental theorists (of which I am one) believe that intelligence is malleable and can be increased through effort. Entity theorists believe that a stupid person stays stupid no matter what you do. See quick write -up here.

The brain is a muscle. It’s synapses develop when you stimulate it. I am thus not referring to the ability to see new connections between words. I am in effect referring to fluid intelligence.This assertion however, can be controversial in the same way that researchers debated vigorously the well-accepted notion that a little stress is good and a lot is no good. This, previously accepted, assertion has in the past 10 years been proven false.

I, like every other psychologist have read research demonstrating that IQ is inborn, and that it is the single strongest predictor of success in life and in school. It is one of the first things you learn… but I have also learnt that it pays to be skeptical of everything one is taught. Blind faith in such research leads us to highly fatalistic conclusions about what people can BE in life… and influences the development of an educational system that throws everything of value at the high IQ. Such research reports have done the world a disservice and exacerbated social inequality in the USA, from whence this research first arose.

I am thus referring to the controversial notion of fluid intelligence being malleable. I am not referring to crystallized intelligence such as grammar rules and vocabulary. I am referring to stimulating the development of language processing capability. Specifically, I am advocating that parents train children in mental heuristics, defined as problem-solving short-cuts that allow people to solve problems quickly and efficiently. See link here.

It is arguable whether mental heuristics should be parked under fluid intelligence… I don’t see it under crystallized intelligence though…. which is just the accumulation of facts and knowledge. It has been a long time since psychologists have accepted that IQ is not malleable. For a long time too, medical practitioners believed that it was humanly impossible to run a mile under 4 minutes. Then medical science improved and it has been decades since that has been made possible.

My thinking is that as the science of psychology develops, we will know more and more HOW to train mental heuristics… and make the human brain more powerful. Certainly, this does not take away innate talent but a completely untrained talent for running fast (turned into couch potato)… could well lose out trained runners with lesser innate talent to begin with.

I would also point to the studies that concluded that between blacks and whites, there is a significant difference in IQ scores favouring the whites. Later researchers reported that if blacks and whites went through the same schooling stimuli, these differences in IQ scores between populations went away. This suggests that IQ can be influenced by the environment.

Indeed, Dr Peh and Associates make a good living from training children to get into GEP.

 Oopsies... thanks for

 Oopsies… thanks for pointing it out. I WAS thinking of Roger Bannister and his 4-minutes. Will correct the post.

1 minute mile?

Ummm…its still impossible to run a mile under a minute (3.75 sec per 100 metres). The 4-minute barrier though, was famously broken by Sir Roger Bannister in 1954. 😉

Really good post though Chenonceau, now I’ve got some homework to do to decipher it!

Thanks for holding the banner for us potatoes, some people think its a crime to be one.

 You go gal!!

 You go gal!!

I see some light!

Thanks for sharing Chenonceau!!

I see some hope for me and my potato girls!!

Now.. if only I have someone who could dictate it… *faintz*



Not enough to be competent though

 Thanks Chenonceau. I may know Chinese, but not enough to be competent or fluent having grown up in a potato environment and school, so I am learning alongside dd. I have to prepare all my lessons ahead, as in practise the words, check dictionary first, ask my hb for the meaning, or I will be a total embarrassment when I teach. So if anything, the greatest beneficiary to this whole exercise is perhaps myself. 

Thanks for sharing


Thanks for sharing

Oops, realised I posted too many times, so removing these posts…

 Good for ya! I so envy you.

 Good for ya! I so envy you. You know Chinese.

Thanks for sharing

 Thanks for sharing Chenonceau. After reading your post, I am more convinced than ever what I’m doing with dd is the right away to go. She is only in K2, going to P1 next year, but I have decied to tackle hers and mine "potato-ness" head-on so that we wouldn’t have to struggle in the years ahead. So every day without fail, I am teaching and revising new characters with her, reading new phrases and sentences, and then getting her to read Chinese story books out loud (though she may only know 60% of the words)… I had an inkling that this dedicated immersion somehow would help expand her abilities to absorb the language and therefore overcome her reluctance for it, and hopefully enjoy it in future. And your sharing has certainly verfied my belief 🙂 

Reading newspapers did not

Reading newspapers did not work for us. Cantonese shares the same writing forms as Mandarin. If you grew up in a home as Cantonese, you would have been exposed from young to written Chinese… and developed the heuristics for differentiating, organising and recalling Chinese characters to some extent.

You can therefore READ.

We order Chinese newspapers everyday but when my son tries to read, he is easily discouraged because he can’t recognise the characters… and he can’t pronounce them. This demotivates and he soon stops because he can’t understand a thing. We have started to make some audio recordings of newspaper articles for him however, and these help.

It is very difficult for non-Potato people to appreciate how differently Potato People approach Chinese characters.

You can’t speak in English, think in English and dream in English unless you KNOW English first. For that, you need high volume English stimulus. There can be no output such as speak, think and dream unless there is input first.

How about reading chinese

How about reading chinese newspapers (well, but never exposed them to the evening newspapers as I find they are of no value). Reading chinese children magazines and watching mandarin news or radio help too.

I grew up in a cantonese environment and learning English and Mandarin were not easy to me either.  These are the ways I learn to speak and listen English and Mandarin.

My english teacher once told me, in order to learn English, you have to "speak in English, think in English and even dream in English".  Initially I thought that was impossible to dream in English.  But after constant exposure, I finally can make it.  So, maybe learning Mandarin takes the same route. 

Nope... it did not help for

Nope… it did not help for Oral.

The mental heuristics underlying oral performance are different. I tackled oral separately. It is important to train ONE set of heuristics at a time… develop mastery there, and then move on. Meanwhile, I just accepted that my son will do poorly in CL Oral, until the time comes to work on it.

We worked on the mental heuristics for CL Oral in the last week of June hols. he scored 46/50. The highest mark was 49/50. That’s pretty decent for an INTROVERTED (who talks little even in English) potato kid.

Yes... you are right. IQ is

You should ignore the digression to Science. The heuristics I taught for Chinese are not applicable to Science. I am no expert in mental heuristics but in teaching my son, I notice that each set of heuristics needs to be trained separately.

The comment about Science was a casual and off the cuff one that was not developed. So you will find it confusing. However, what I meant to say was merely that the books in Popular do not develop the mental heuristics that I think are critical in mastering today’s Science syllabus, and that the conscious way of teaching is not the most effective way.

Do note also that I am not entirely happy with the analogies I used. Analogies are never perfect reflections of reality. But because I was trying to reach people with NO foundation in psychology, I had to use analogies that would make a complex reality somewhat simpler. But many complexities get lost in the translation from science to analogy.

Thanks Chenonceau for your

Thanks Chenonceau for your sharing. Just curious, does your potato method of cramming help in Orals / Mandarin conversational skills..?

I’m also curious how this method of cramming stimulates the brain to exercise fluid intelligence. FI is typically about ability to reason quickly and think abstractly. Perhaps you are referring to the ability to learn new Chinese words ("seeing" new connections and relationships) once you’ve gotten a good foundation in Chinese…? Usually we refer vocabulary and language skills as crystallized intelligence and problem-solving as fluid intelligence. Your son may already have great fluid intelligence (eg problem-solving and reasoning skills) to begin with, and with high-intensity exposure to Chinese words, allows him to see the connections between (new) words. Or perhaps I’ve mistaken your posts, maybe you meant by encouraging a love for science you’ve also provided opportunities for your son to exercise FI and that’s nothing to do with the cramming method you’ve mentioned for Chinese learning…?


Thanks again for sharing!

 Oh ho ho ha! This is a

 Oh ho ho ha! This is a beneficial effect that I didn’t ever imagine would come to be. I am so pleased!

Good one

Hi Chenonceau,

Excellent article! I am going to use the same techniques to teach my kids Hindi. Frustated with them failing every exam till date! Hopefully this will change and next year I too can report success!


 I made my own. You can make

 I made my own. You can make your own too.

Audio digital recordings of model Chinese compositions ??? how?

 Hi Chenonceau,

Thanks for giving us hope…. How to get "audio digital recordings of model chinese compo??  did u buy? if yes, where?  if not, how ?  thanks…  





Hey... you're smart to see

Hey… you’re smart to see that the approach can be adapted for other subjects!! For Science too I look beyond the marks to build a cognitive infrastructure. I’ve not had to overtly teach Science. I encourage him in his love for experiments and this stimulates the development of cognitive infrastructure for retaining content effortlessly. It also stimulates his brain to exercise what psychologists call fluid intelligence… which when well exercised and properly developed allows predisposes a subject to flexible and creative thinking processes.

Oh dear… I am getting technical. Sorry.

Suffices to say that for Science too, I find, the most direct and conscious method of teaching is also the most ineffective.

All the best.

Thank you

Thanks Chenonceau, for your selfless sharing. Something for me to think about on how to help my potato kids appreciate Chinese more. 

More than anything else, you are also giving me ideas how to help dd in other areas as well.

It takes courage, patience and effort to do what you do. And I’m really encouraged by your sharing. Thank you.

 Thanks for reading! Hope it

 Thanks for reading! Hope it blesses you in some way!!

Its another great post

Hi Chenonceau,

i love reading your post, they are simply fantastic 🙂

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