hanging on to language

December 13, 2014 Chinese Language, Hannah 4 Comments

Language. It’s not something that any of us can really ignore, is it? When my first two little sisters came home they weren’t even a year old, and so our words were not nearly as important as our tone… it didn’t matter that our Chinese was very non-existant. We taught some sign language to make up for delayed speech and went from there. Pretty simple.

However, when my third sister joined our family she was four and a half and spoke Chinese. She had no English. My mom will tell you that that’s when her Chinese skills really took off. She learned four year-old Chinese faster than if she had been taking classes full-time. And Lily started picking up English, too. That was exciting, until she started not using her Chinese and, because we actually lived in China, this bothered us.

I think that all adoptive parents will agree that they strive to help their little ones hang onto some Chinese culture; ideally, a little language, too. But how do you do this? For Lily, she was picking up English just because she lived with Americans. It had nothing to do with the world outside, because for us, the world outside spoke Chinese! Aren’t children amazing?

We did some research, and discovered a few recourses that not only helped Lily hang onto her listening comprehension and add words to her vocabulary, but also gave my other two sisters (who knew not a lick of Mandarin and were learning it along with us big folks) a chance to immerse themselves in the language of their surroundings… in a very simple and fun way.

Because what kid doesn’t love TV?


XiYangYang is probably one of the most popular cartoons in China. It’s about a class of cute little sheep, their teacher who guides them with sage advice. The “Big Bad Wolf” is a bumbling wolf who doesn’t get things right so his much-more-evil wife tries to keep him in line. They have a little wolf son. If your child has not grown up watching XiYangYang, they may be scared at some of the scenes, visual effects (all cartoon) and the tones of voice that the wolves use. But, if your child has spent time in an orphanage watching TV, chances are that they’ve seen things much, much more scary on TV, and this will be nothing.

Where do you find it? It’s easier than you think! Here are two playlists of shows on YouTube.

One of my sister’s favorites is “Big-Head Son, Little-Head Father.” Yeah, I cringed too. It’s your typical, “Oh, daddy… how could you be so foolish again?” type show, but with simple language and tame plots. Even though the dad is made out to be the simple one, and the son is the academically and socially advanced character, this isn’t too offensive to those of us who prefer to encourage honor and respect from children to their parents. The shows are only 14 minutes long – a perfect length to slip into those moments of the day when things are starting to spiral downward.

There’s a playlist on YouTube here.

And finally, one of our favorites… Winnie the Pooh! Because who doesn’t want to hear Pooh and Piglet and Kanga and Roo speak in Chinese? Lots of 10-minute shows, right here.


I’m sure that there are more, but these are three of the most common/our favorite options. Does your child talk about a specific cartoon, or have you found something else that they latch onto? Let me know!

4 responses to “hanging on to language”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Oh, Hannah. Such a practical help. Thank you!

  2. Emily says:

    I’ve been looking for shows like these! Thank you, thank you!!!

  3. When we were in China in 2010, our guide took us to a shop where we could buy DVDs for roughly $2 US. We picked up a couple of kids’ movies. Upon coming home, I realized what a treasure it was to have Chinese movies to offer my daughter, and I put out a plea for anyone travelling soon to pick me up a couple more of the Barbie DVDs in Mandarin/English. A kind hearted angel sent us over a dozen of them, and refused to let me reimburse her. I was so touched. Those DVDs have seen a lot of airplay over the last 3+ years, and they remain a favorite of both my China girls.

    We also like the Little Pim language DVDs, and the Dino Lingo DVDs.

  4. Emily says:

    It’s now Sept 2015, and only one of the youtube links still works. Any updates?

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