My daughter loves to pick out books from the “My First Book of” series. We don’t always learn many words, but she really enjoys reading through the terms—particularly to see how to say common phrases and animal names in the different languages—and hearing how they are pronounced. Her favorite, so far, is the Spanish book, but we just picked up My First Book of Mandarin Chinese Words this weekend, so that may change!
Wood Sprite has already been picking up a tiny bit of Mandarin from the show Ni Hao Kai-Lan, which she used to love. She’s sort of outgrown it now—her favorite show is The Magic School Bus now—but her interest in language continues. Like the other books in the “My First Book of” series, which are also known as bilingual picture dictionaries, Katy R. Kudela’s book lists depicts a real photo of each term introduced, along with the word in Mandarin and a pronunciation for readers to follow. Unlike our Spanish book, however, Mandarin is obviously written in Chinese characters, which my daughter has, so far, found very interesting. She’s even tried to copy a couple of them in her journal.
A quick pronunciation guide is provided at the beginning of the book, which is incredibly helpful since it’s hard for many Westerners to pronounce sounds like “ui,” as “way,” or “zh” as “dge.” Since Spanish was the only other language I learned, I tend to try to use that as a pronunciation guide, and of course that’s wrong!
There is also a helpful table of contents at the beginning of the book, which is great because my daughter always wants to go to the animals or farm section first. You will find bright, full-colored photos of a family, the body, clothing, toys, areas of the home, colors, the garden, and many more things your child is likely to experience in his or her community. In fact, city words, as well as classroom items, are also included, as are numbers and useful phrases.
So far, my biggest challenge with this book is the pronunciation. I would recommend practicing the pronunciation on your own—or even looking up the words together on the computer with a language tool, or even a YouTube video—in order to truly get the sounds right. Then you’ll be able to read through the book together and really enjoy trying out the new words. Who knows, you might even end up using them in your daily conversation!