Our Mandarin Hokey Pokey video :-)

The Hokey Pokey song in Mandarin is called 唱歌跳舞  (chàng gē tiào wǔ) which is literally  ‘sing songs and dance’ in English!

This is just full of grammar learning opportunities, and also gets the kids up and dancing like they are at a party!

It has position/location sentence structure (inside, outside), left and right, and body parts.

But it is the repeated 把 construction that is the winner for me!   The 把 sentence pattern in Chinese is tricky for older students to get their heads around, yet little kids get to hear this sentence pattern in this song, and so many other songs and classroom instructions, so many times that they will never have a problem with understanding the grammar of it when they get older!


Here is a video of us singing the song at our Mandarin Song and Story Time, with the words below.

Here are the lyrics:





Chorus: 唱歌跳舞, 转个圆圈, 大家笑哈哈




摇摇你的手 (Chorus)




摇摇你的脚 (Chorus)




摇摇你的脚 (Chorus)




摇摇你自己 (Chorus)

bǎ yòu shǒu fàng miàn

bǎ yòu shǒu fàng wài miàn

bǎ yòu shǒu fàng miàn

yáo yáo nǐ de shǒu

(Chorus) chàng gē tiào wǔ zhuǎn gè yuán quān

dà jiā xiào hā hā

bǎ zuǒ shǒu fàng miàn

bǎ zuǒ shǒu fàng wài miàn

bǎ zuǒ shǒu fàng lí miàn

yáo yáo nǐ de shǒu (Chorus)

bǎ yòu jiǎo fang miàn

bǎ yòu jiǎo fàng wài miàn

bǎ yòu jiǎo fàng miàn

yáo yáo nǐ de jiǎo (Chorus)

bǎ zuǒ jiǎo fàng miàn

bǎ zuǒ jiǎo fàng wài miàn

bǎ zuǒ jiǎo fàng miàn

yáo yáo nǐ de jiǎo (Chorus)

bǎ zì jǐ fàng miàn

bǎ zì jǐ fàng wài miàn

bǎ zì jǐ fàng miàn

yáo yáo nǐ zì jǐ (Chorus)

Translation is much the same as English with a few changes: You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, You put your right hand in, and you shake it all about, sing and dance and you turn around, everybody laugh.  Repeat with left hand, right foot, left foot and whole body, and add your ‘bottom’ (pigu) for a fun one at the end 🙂

This particular translaton was taken from ‘Sing and Learn’ by Trio Jan Jeng and Selina Yoon.  You can purchase the whole CD on iTunes.

Bù kěyǐ song!

This week at our Mandarin Song and Story Time, we read 大卫, 不可以!(Dàwèi , bù kěyǐ!) the Chinese translated version of ‘No, David!’ by David Shannon.

It is a simple book with the ‘No!’ and ‘’Don’t!’ things that adults often say to children. The illustrations are fun and convey all the meaning needed for reading in a second language, will encourage lots of discussion in both English and Chinese, and lots of repetition in the text to reinforce some key Chinese phrases.

不可以玩食物!(bù kě yǐ wán shí wù) ‘Don’t play with your food!’

Chinese doesn’t really have a word for ‘No!’ So instead the translators have used the modal verb ‘Can’ to translate ‘No’ in this context as ‘You can’t’. When we say ‘can’ in English, it can mean ‘you know how’, or that you ‘are able to’ or that you are ‘allowed to’, all depending on the context. In Chinese, there is a different modal verb for each one…’会 (huì), 能 (néng), and 可以 (kě yǐ)’. It is 可以 kě yǐ that is the one used to say that you are permitted or allowed to do something. At pre-school in China, when teachers are telling kids what ‘not to do’, it is this ‘不可以!’ (bù kěyǐ!) that is used…No! Don’t! For English learners of Chinese, learning how to use these different forms of ‘can’ in Chinese can be tricky. So this book is also great for older students of Chinese to reinforce the usage of one of these ‘can’ modal verbs. It will only take a couple of readings and some fun discussion of the illustrations to remember that ‘不可以!’ is the ‘can’ that means ‘allowed’ or ‘permitted’.

不可以挖鼻孔!(bù kěyǐ wā bíkǒng!) ‘Don’t pick your nose!’

Of course the little ones at our story time will pick all this grammar up naturally just by enjoying the story!

Here is a song to practice singing bù kěyǐ!

可以去吗?不可以!(kěyǐ qù ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) go? (You) can’t!
可以买吗?不可以!(kěyǐ mǎi ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) buy (it)? (You) can’t!
以吃吗?不可以!(kěyǐ chī ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) eat (it)? (You) can’t!
以吗?    不可以!(kěyǐ ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I)…? (You) can’t!

可以看吗?不可以!(kěyǐ kàn ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) watch (it)? (You) can’t!
可以穿吗?不可以!(kěyǐ chuān ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) wear (it)? (You) can’t!
可以走了吗?不可以!(kěyǐ zǒu le ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) leave? (You) can’t!
可以吗?不可以!(kěyǐ ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I)…? (You) can’t!

中秋节歌 Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival Song

Mid Autumn Festival (Or the Moon Festival) is on the 24th Sept this year. Who better than Groovi Pauli to give us a great song and video to learn all about traditions for this festival. You can purchase his ‘Celebrations in Chinese 4 Kids’ that this song comes from on album on iTunes. But here is a video for you, we will be singing this song every week in our Mandarin Song and Story Time till the festival 🙂 We will also tell stories and make some things over the next few weeks to help us learn all about the things in Groovi Pauli’s song 🙂

Here are the lyrics:

月亮月亮圆圆圆 yuè liang yuè liang yuán yuán yuán
(moon, moon, round round round)

月饼月饼香香香 yuè bing yuè bing xiāng xiāng xiāng
(moon cakes, moon cakes, fragrant fragrant fragrant)

嫦娥嫦娥飞飞飞 cháng é cháng é fēi fēi fēi
(Chang-E Chang-E fly fly fly) Chang E is the name of the moon fairy!

中秋中秋中秋节 zhōng qiū zhōng qiū zhōng qiū jié
(Mid-Autumn, Mid-Autumn, Mid-Autumn Festival)

罗尔德达尔日 Roald Dahl Day

Celebrate Roald Dahl Day on 13th September (his birthday 🙂 ) in Chinese with your kids or students.

Roald Dahl’s Chinese name is 罗尔德。达尔 ( Luóěrdé 。Dáěr). 

All of Roald Dahl’s books have been translated into Chinese. Using translated versions of books that kids are familiar with and love, are great for kids to practice their second language reading. Older students (including senior students and adults) will enjoy the nostalgia and challenge of trying to read their fave Roald Dahl book in Chinese!!!!! We’ve picked up a few of Roald Dahl’s books on our trips to China, but you can order them online for delivery to Oz… pick your favourite one and get it in time for Roald Dahl Day!

If a full chapter book like this in Chinese is too difficult for your students, use Roald Dahl Day to springboard memorable ways to visualise some Chinese vocab.  For example, you could do a  mind map of all the different products a chocolate factory could produce…at the centre of your mind map would be 威利旺卡先生的巧克力工厂 (Wēilì Wàngkǎ Xiānsheng de Qiǎokèlì Gōngchǎng)’Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’.  You can take examples from the book to start your mind map, then the kids brainstorm all the different products and flavours they would like…with flavours like roast beef and gravy bubblegum, blueberry pie lollipops, and whatever kids’ imaginations think of, there are some great opportunities for food vocab to come alive!

Or, if you are following a strict curriculum with just no room to budge for your students, then you could just pick a few paragraphs, or key sentences from a Roald Dahl book that are really exciting, but also have grammar points that you are working on at the moment…so you can have some fun with Roald Dahl but still tick the boxes you need to as a teacher 🙂

Such books are also really good to spark conversation about translation…are there some things that have been translated literally that have ambiguous meanings in the first language, but just don’t work in the second language? (Roald Dahl plays with language so much!!!). The books were written for western children, immersed in western ‘culture’…are there things in the books that Chinese children (growing up in China) would find difficult to ‘get’ the point of?  These questions can really help kids with literary analysis in their first language too 🙂

Below I have typed out chapter 5 of the ‘BFG’, to give an idea of the level of language typically required for a Roald Dahl book in Chinese.  In this chapter, Sophie is having her first conversation with the giant, which is all about what the giants think children from different countries in the world taste like.  Giants like to eat kids from Turkey because they taste like turkey, they don’t like to eat kids from Greece because they taste greasy, kids from Denmark (Danes) taste like Great Danes, kids from Wellington in New Zealand taste like Wellington boots, kids from Jersey taste like jumpers, and kids from Panama taste like Panama hats.  The Giant is not very good at English grammar, which also allows for Dahl to play on words some more, he call human beings ‘Human Beans’.

This chapter is really interesting for kids to read, and full of grammar points just waiting to be highlighted 🙂 BUT, what is really interesting for kids, parents and teachers to discuss, is how the translator has managed to keep the same play on words using Chinese like Dahl intended using English. It contains Chinese idioms that the translator has carefully picked to maintain Dahl’s humour the best way possible in Chinese, eg. when Sophie tries to correct the giant’s grammar he says not to ‘咬文嚼字’ (yǎo wén jiáo zì) literally to bite words and chew characters (meaning don’t be punctilious about the finer details of wording!).  This is within a conversation about Bone Crunching Giants biting and chewing kids’ bones, so a cool idiom to use 🙂

How does a translator translate ‘Greek kids taste greasy’ in Chinese?? It just wouldn’t have the same effect if translated literally.  So the translator has used a Chinese idiom to describe children from Greece (Greece= 希腊Xīlà) have a taste described as 味同嚼蜡(wèi tóng jiáo là) which means to taste as if one is chewing wax.  The character 腊(là) in the country name of Greece is not only pronounced the same as the character 蜡(là) which means ‘wax’, but also shares some of the same character components.  This way the translator has been able to keep the same play on words that Dahl intended using English.

Where the translator has not been able to change this play on words in Chinese, they have kept the same literal translation, but added a foot note to explain the intended meaning, for example a foot note explaining what a Wellington Boot is in England, how they were named after the soldier ‘Wellington’ and how the capital of New Zealand ‘Wellington’ shares the same name etc.  The foot note explaining that the Panama hat is a straw hat from Panama is a good one to discuss, because it can lead to a discussion as to whether the Panama hat actually does come from Panama…so translating the text from Chinese can actually lead to students delving deeper into analysis of the text in English 🙂

Read the full chapter to find out how the translator has translated the other kiddie tasting comparisons 🙂  Hope you and your students can have fun with Roald Dahl in Chinese in some capacity on Roald Dahl Day this year 🙂

好心眼儿巨人   Chapter 5 



巨人坐下来,狠狠地盯住索菲看。 他的耳朵真大。每一只耳朵有车轮那么大,他好像可以随意把它们转来转去。


‘请…请不要吃我。’ 索菲结结巴巴地说。

巨人哈哈大笑。‘只因为我是一个巨人,你就以为我是一个吃人生番!’他叫道,‘你说得也对!巨人全是生番,要杀人豆子!他们当真吃人豆子! 我们如今是在巨人国!四面八方都是巨人! 在外面我们就有个赫赫有名的嘎吱嘎吱嚼骨头巨人!嘎吱嘎吱嚼骨头巨人每天晚上要嚼上两个肥肥胖胖不值钱的人豆子做晚饭!他吃饭的声音会把你耳朵震聋!他嘎吱嘎吱嚼骨头的声音会传得非常远!’










可这些是笑话吗? 也许这凶恶的巨人谈吃只是要引起他的食欲。














‘丹麦人豆子有很 强烈的面粉味道。’巨人说下去。‘当然,’索菲接上他的话,‘面粉是麦子磨出来的。你说话是不是有点混?’索菲说。‘我是一个非常混的巨人,’巨人说,‘不过我已经尽力不这样。我一点儿没有其他巨人混。  我认为这么个巨人,他一直跑到惠灵顿去吃他的晚饭。’










(2)英国有长统靴  惠灵顿高帮靴,其实它们的名称源自英国陆军元帅惠灵顿1769-1852,跟新西兰的首都惠灵顿根本不搭界。




非洲的地缝 African rift!

非洲的地缝 (Fēizhōu de dìféng). We learned today that Kenya all of a sudden started to split…

Here is a picture Lucas made for our big world map…

The text reads:   这里的土地慢慢裂成了两半,一天这一大片地会变成两快。

(Zhèlǐ tǔdì mànmàn lièchéng le liǎng bàn , yī tiān zhè yī dàpiàn dì huì biànchéng liǎng kuài).

‘Here the land is slowly splitting in half, one day this big continent could become two!’

Thanks to Randall Munroe’s Chinese version of the book ‘Thing Explainer’ for sparking our curiosity to learn more about this!

Here are some videos to explain what is happening 🙂



巧克力‘木制芝士板’! Chocolate Cheese Board!

Kids made a Cheese Board with a twist for their birthday afternoon tea 🙂 Here is a video they made showing some of the steps in Mandarin 🙂


将软糖   杏仁糖   干果坚果    棉花糖  撒在巧克力上。
添加更多 巧克力!
乳酪   饼干  草莓  放在巧克力‘木制芝士板’上。

shì mùzhì zhīshì bǎn ma
kànqǐlái xiàng mùzhì zhīshì bǎn

lín bái
hēi niúnǎi qiǎokèlì zài kǎopán shàng xiàng mùwén yī yàng
jiāng ruǎntáng
xìngréntáng gānguǒ jiānguǒ miánhuātáng sā zài qiǎokèlì shàng 
tiānjiā gēngduō 
sì gōngjīn qiǎokèlì 

fàng zài bīngxiāng lǐ ràng qiǎokèlì biànyìng

mócā zhídào guānghuá
xiàng mùbǎn yī yàng
  bǐnggān  cǎoméi fáng zài qiǎokèlì ‘ mùzhì zhīshì bǎn ’ shàng
gēn péngyou yīqǐ chī

Is this a wooden cheeseboard?
It looks like one…
Drizzle white, dark and milk chocolate on the tray, like wood grain.
Scatter jelly beans, marzipan, fruit and nuts, and marshmallows on the chocolate.
Add more chocolate!
4 kgs of chocolate
Put in the fridge to set.
Grate and rub till smooth like wood.
Put  cheeses, crackers and strawberries on the chocolate ‘wooden’ cheeseboard

Share with friends!

This is the video that the kids followed to make their Chocolate Cheeseboard if you want to try making your own!

杰米奥利弗 Jamie Oliver

My little boy loves cooking, and he loves following Jamie Oliver’s recipes. So when I saw Jamie Oliver’s cook books in China I didn’t hesitate to buy! Integrated English, Health, Maths, Home Economics, Chinese…and the pleasure of making dinner for the family…all wrapped in fun and yummy food!

Jamie’s Chinese name is 杰米奥利弗 Jiémǐ Aolìfú (to see how a Chinese name is made you can click here).  And this book is his 15 minute meals, or 十五分钟开饭 (shíwǔ fēnzhōng kāifàn), literally ’15 minutes serve a meal’.

Lucas loves making a ‘fancy weekend dinner’ for the family, so straight away he looked through the recipes, this is the one he picked to make this weekend for us.  Lucas can follow an English recipe independently with ease now…so I have given him the task of making this dinner for us, with no help from me…from translation, to shopping, to cooking (of course I will go to the shops with him and monitor the stove top cooking bits :-))

‘Glazed sizzling chops with sweet tomato and asparagus lasgnetti’.  So Lucas set to translating the recipe.  Lucas can recognize about 75% of characters in a regular text.  That doesn’t mean he will know 75% of all the ‘words’ in the text, just the ‘characters’ that will make up those words.  His strategy therefore is to type the whole recipe out, using the pinyin for the characters that he knows, and looking up the ones he doesn’t know in a handwriting recognition tool.  Once he has the whole recipe typed out, it is then easy to look up the words that he doesn’t know using online tools.

Some words just don’t come up in even the most updated dictionaries, because new words are being formed all the time in China. As western food products increase in the market, phonetic names are made up for them, and often different areas of China may have different names.  For example 帕尔玛干酪 (pronounced ‘pà ěr mǎ gān lào”, Lucas knew ‘gān lào’ as cheese.  But an element of common sense guessing had to be used with the ‘pà ěr mǎ’ bit…a word in an Italian Pasta recipe…a kind of cheese…it didn’t take long to work out that ‘pà ěr mǎ’ was a phonetic for ‘parmesan’. After spending some time in Kunming, Lucas knows that only a handful of very upmarket supermarkets with international sections would stock such an item as parmesan cheese. So words like these can take a while to appear in online dictionaries.

Next Lucas had to write a shopping list of the ingredients that he needed, taking into account the quantities/measurements and making sure it’s enough for all 4 of us.  So he printed his typed out list and wrote the English over the top. His translation for a ten year old is pretty amazing I think 🙂 (Please note I don’t correct any work of my children as I believe they ‘improve’ without the need of a teacher’s red pen). A few mistakes like writing ‘kg’ instead of ‘g’ they realise themselves…it is much more powerful for kids to find their own mistakes than have a teacher point them out 🙂

The dinner was an absolute hit…and an amazing feeling of accomplishment for Lucas…not only did he prepare, cook and serve a really fancy yummy dinner for our family’s Friday night chill…he had to translate the recipe from Chinese beforehand…some pretty amazing skills being developed 🙂

Ok…the work involved to get this recipe translated, shopped, prepared and on our dinner table was more like 15 hours spread over the week… not 15 minutes 🙂 But who cares…in the moment, meaningful and rewarding learning 🙂

拟声词!Onomatopoeia story and songs

We will read this book this week: 听, 是谁在唱歌? (tīng, shì shéi zài chàng gē ?)  ‘Listen, who is singing?’

It is full of Onomatopoeia, or words that make a sound like the sound they are trying to describe.  They are called  拟声词 (nǐ shēng cí) in Chinese, or literally ‘imitating sound word’.  These are great for young learners of Chinese, because just like in first language acquisition, these words can allow children to explore the ‘sounds’ of a language.  You will notice that most of the characters in the table below for these ‘sound’ words, have the 口 radical on the left side of the character, which is the ‘mouth’ radical…often giving a clue it is an onomatopoeia word!

The children will have to try and guess which animal is making the singing noise!

Below is a table that has a list of the animals in the book, and the animal sounds that the children will enjoy, but till Story Time enjoy this song! The words to the song are far too long to post here, but this link will take you to them 🙂 You will note some of the animal sounds in the song are a little different to some of the animals in the book…like the Rooster goes ‘ wowo’ in the book and ‘o o’ in the song…but just like animal noises in English…there is no law!

here are the animals in the book:

Cow niú Moo 哞哞 mōu mōu
Duck 鸭子 yā zi Quack 嘎嘎 gā gā
Dog gǒu Wuff 汪汪 wāng wāng
Cat māo Meow 喵喵 miāo miāo
Lion 狮子 shī zi Roar 嗷呜 áo wū
Sheep yáng Baa miē
Rooster 公鸡 gong jī Crow 喔喔 wōwo
Horse Neigh 嘶嘶 sī sī
Pig zhū Oink 哼哼 hēng hēng
Frog 青蛙 qīng wā Croak 呱呱 guā guā

Here is another more familiar song to help us make those animal sounds!  The first sound in the song is a chicken, which is not in our book (we have a rooster in our book crowing ‘wōwō!’. The chicken says 叽叽 ‘jījī’, more like the ‘cheep cheep’ sound of a baby chicken.  Lyrics to the song are under the video. Old MacDonald in Chinese is 老王先生 lǎo wáng xiānsheng, the ‘lǎo’ is a polite address of a senior, the ‘wáng’ is his surname, and ‘xiānsheng’ is the word for ‘Mr.’ In Chinese we say ‘Wang Mr’, not ‘Mr Wang’ 🙂  Enjoy!

wáng lǎo xiān shēng yǒu kuài dì yī yā yī yā yōu


tā zài tián lǐ yǎng xiǎo yī yā yī yā yōu

zhè lǐ jī jī jī nà lǐ jī jī jī

叽叽叽 叽叽叽

zhè lǐ nà lǐ dào chù dōu zài jī jī


wáng lǎo xiān shēng yǒu kuài dì yī yā yīyā yōu


Literal English Translation:

Farmer Wang had a plot of land, yiya yiya yo

On his land he raised little chicks yiya yiya yo

With a cheep cheep here, and a cheep cheep there,

Here a cheep, there a cheep, everywhere a cheep cheep

Farmer Wang had a plot of land, yiya yiya yo

Whose bottom? and Handkerchief Game!

We love stories and songs about bottoms 🙂 So we will read 谁的屁股? (shéi de pìgu) ‘Whose Bottom?’ this week, Wednesday 10am in our Mandarin Song and Story Time. For more posts on bottoms check out our wiping bottoms page, who did the poo page, tones and poo page, and poos and water page!

We will also play the traditional Chinese game ‘Hide the Hanky’ as long as it is not raining!  There is a version of the song that accompanies the game below, together with the lyrics for you.




diū shǒu jīn diū shǒu jīn , qīng qīng de fàng zài , xiǎo péng yǒu de hòu mian , dà jiā bù yào gào su tā , kuài diǎn kuài diǎn zhuō zhù tā , kuài diǎn kuài diǎn zhuō zhù tā

Drop the hanky, drop the hanky, lightly put the hanky behind a friend, everybody don’t tell him/her, quickly quickly catch him/her, quickly quickly catch him/her.

Chinese teachers wishing to get their students to explain how to play the game in Chinese could show this video:

The simplified script is :



See you Wednesday 🙂

画了一匹蓝马的画家 ‘The artist who painted a horse’

This week we will read 画了一匹蓝马的画家 ( huà le yī pǐ lán mǎ de huà jiā) ‘The artist who painted a horse’ by Eric Carle. The children can guess what crazy colours Eric Carle has painted his drawings 🙂

We can also sing a new balloon song.  Here are the words, you can sing to the tune of ‘My darling Clementine’.

Hóngsè qìqiú huángsè qìqiú

球, 球,

wǒde qìqiú zhēn piàoliàng


lǜsè qìqiú báisè qìqiú

绿 球, 球,

bié rang qìqiú fēi tiān shàng

别 让 上。

Literal English Translation:
Red balloon, yellow balloon, My balloon very beautiful,
Green balloon white balloon, don’t let the balloon fly to the sky.
Song originally sourced from ‘Better Chinese’, lyrics changed to reflect better environmental practice 🙂