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Chinese Language Learning with Sage Formula

Aussie Expert: 4-time expert shares her Chinese language learning story

This week’s Parent Spotlight is Aussie Expert. Aussie has gone through Chinese language learning with the Sage Formula curriculum FOUR times – and she only has three kids! That’s dedication! She chose to teach her children both the Traditional and Simplified versions and as a result, really knows her way around the Sagebooks curriculum.

Family Background

I am an ABC (Australian-born Chinese) who learnt basic simplified Chinese as a young adult. My Chinese speaking and (especially) reading level has skyrocketed in the last two years since teaching my kids Chinese, with Sagebooks a crucial part of that journey!

I have now used Sagebooks a total of four and a half times. (Two times simplified, one time traditional, half twice with sets 4 and 5, and half with my youngest daughter!)


7 year old son: started: ~7; finished: 4 months (Simplified), 4.5 months (Traditional)
5 year old daughter: started: ~5; finished: 7 months
4 year old daughter: started: 4; currently at Building Reader (Level 3), 13 months in

In her own words

Why did you choose Sagebooks?

I chose Sagebooks because of other people’s recommendations and the fact that it uses a systematic, spiral-up method for teaching kids to read Chinese. Initially I didn’t want to teach my kids to read Chinese, thinking my own level was so low and that I would rather spend time and resources on speaking, but I’m glad that I did, and Sagebooks made Chinese language learning easier for all of us and to learn to read Chinese in a well-organised way.

What was your experience with going through Sagebooks?

I’ve used Sagebooks for Chinese language learning many times now with my kids.

Child 1 (boy): Started Sagebooks at nearly 7 years old, knew 350 simplified characters already (60% of Sagebook characters he already knew, 40% were new for him). He finished in four months, learning two new characters per day. This fast rate was possible because many characters were already familiar to him and he was older when we started Sagebooks.

I found that he had lower retention for sets 4 and 5, so we re-did both sets a few months later.

He currently reads 1200-1400 simplified characters.

Then I decided I wanted to teach him traditional characters too. However, I didn’t know how to read traditional and had always been intimidated by it, so I purchased a second set of Sagebooks in traditional characters and we went through that too together. I found that 158 out of the 500 characters were new to him (unique to traditional), so only 31% of the material was new to him. Again, he went through the curriculum very quickly, finishing in four and a half months.

Child 2 (girl): Started Sagebooks at 5 years old, knew approximately 50 characters already. Finished in seven months.

Again, retention of sets 4 and 5 were lower so I re-did these two sets with her a few months later.

She currently reads 800-900 characters.

What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities?

Review the “currently learning” characters (approximately 12 of them) from previous or future chapters with flashcards.

Review 20 “old” characters from previous sets with Anki flashcards (only did this with my youngest).

Read through two previous chapters of Sagebooks and 1-2 new chapters, ALWAYS covering the pinyin with a strip of thick paper.

NOTE: I have found covering the pinyin to be a crucial step with Sagebooks. I don’t want my kids to rely on pinyin to read like I did when I was young. Even now I have not formally taught my son pinyin. He only got a little bit of pinyin teaching at a Chinese school he no longer attends, but when I tested him recently at home, he was surprisingly accurate with his pinyin regardless!

What did you like about Sagebooks? Was there anything you didn't?

I like the systematic, spiral-up approach of Sagebooks.

I don’t like the pinyin present above the characters. It would be better if the pinyin was at the back of the book in a “cheat-sheet” for parents to refer to.

Also, the built-in natural review of characters in sets 4 and 5 is less as the number of characters learnt gets higher.

I wish that Sagebooks continued up to 1000 characters! But we find other ways (reading simple readers and books) to continue their reading journey.

If you have more than one child, would you do it again?
See above.
Any advice for parents who are just starting?
This is a great method for kids and parents to learn to READ Chinese, especially if you and the kids have basic spoken Chinese already. It is pricey but worth it, especially if you have multiple children. It is not a method to learn how to SPEAK Chinese.

Thank you so much for your responses, Aussie! Your determination and follow-through are amazing!! You probably know the curriculum better than even our own staff members. 😀

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Sagebooks Hongkong promotes independent reading and life-long learning by nurturing the child’s confidence, autonomy and self-teaching abilities. Since 2006. Find out more About Us.

© 2020 Sagebooks Hongkong. All rights reserved.

Sagebooks Hongkong promotes independent reading and life-long learning by nurturing the child’s confidence, autonomy and self-teaching abilities. Since 2006. Find out more About Us.

© 2020 Sagebooks Hongkong. All rights reserved.