About a month ago, I stumbled onto this article on InCulture Parent, written by Fiona Falcone. Fiona was a new mom and determined to teach her son Cantonese despite the fact that she had forgotten much of what she had learned as a child. (Wait, did I just find my parenting twin?) She ended up creating PlayCantonese.com, organizing playgroups for families teaching their children Cantonese. Unfortunately for me, PlayCantonese playgroups are located in the UK. But thankfully for me, her website also offers PDFs of popular Cantonese (and Mandarin) songs and nursery rhymes with traditional Chinese characters, jyutping/pinyin pronunciation and the english translation. It was EXACTLY, what I needed.
I quickly purchased several of these PDFs and gave it a go with my kids. I chose songs they were already familiar with. At this time, they had already learned a few Chinese characters so we first spent some time picking out the words they knew. After we finished reading and singing through our first song, my oldest son turns to me with unexpected praise “Good job, Mommy!”. Apparently he knew that it truly was a feat for me to read an entire song!
What I also love about this is that it also gave me a way to practice reading and picking up new vocabulary with all of the context I needed. While we’ve been using CDs and DVDs to sing Cantonese songs in the past, it’s actually difficult for me to understand all of the vocabulary and ultimately the meaning, even in songs aimed for young children. With these PDFs I could actually get through an entire song, understand the real meaning and also be able to sing or speak it correctly! Everybody wins!
PlayCantonese playgroups have extended to families teaching their children Mandarin as well and the website also includes nursery rhymes in mandarin with pinyin and english. There’s also a great community group on facebook where members love to share cantonese and mandarin resources and experiences. It never occurred to me how much I needed peer support until I joined this group.
-Alice, Team Zhao