Homeschool Chinese: My Family Tree
Exploring the family genealogy with kids is a great way for young people to learn about their history and understand the world. Kids love to hear about their own family history.
The Chinese family tree is complicated, very complicated. Every relative in the Chinese family tree is called something different depending if they are related to your father or your mother, whether they are older or younger, and whether they are related by blood or marriage. So two sets of cousins might refer to their grandmother in different ways, even though they are actually talking about the same person.
This topic is so unique for Chinese and causes a lot of trouble for foreigners learning Chinese. Since there are so many different relationship terms, the easiest way to find the exact relationship you’re looking for is to use a family title diagram. Here are a few terms to get you started:
爷爷 yéye: paternal grandfather
奶奶 nǎinai: paternal grandmother
外公 wàigōng: maternal grandfather
外婆 wàipó: maternal grandmother
叔叔 shūshu: uncle (father’s younger brother)
伯伯 bóbo: uncle (father’s elder brother)
婶婶 shěnshen: aunt (father’s younger brother’s wife)
舅舅 jiùjiu: uncle (mother’s brother)
舅妈 jiùmā: aunt (mother’s brother’s wife)
Here is a great little song to help learn the words, Chinese Family Members Song.
One of the projects the kids recently did with Shawn was to construct a family tree in Chinese and present it orally. To not overwhelm them, they didn’t show all of their family relationships.
As an amateur genealogist, I was particularly intrigued with this assignment as it gave us an opportunity to discuss family members who the children had not met (great grandparents). We had a great time pulling out the photo albums and selecting photos for the project. I enjoyed passing down our family stories as we turned each page.
There are many ways in which to explore genealogy with kids beginning with the youngest of learners. I share a few with you in a post I wrote on my homeschool blog, Genealogy with Kids.