Magnetic letters made of brightly coloured plastic with a small embedded magnet are really common here in the UK - usually found attached to refrigerator doors in houses with kids - I assume the same is true in the USA.
But what about countries with non-Roman alphabets, or with diacritics? Do magnetic letter sets (of the same kind) exist there? How common/popular are they?
The local Hebrew bookstore has Hebrew letter refrigerator magnets. I bought a set when I was trying to learn the alphabet, but just like the English ones, most of them got lost under the fridge or were munched on by the dog.
Of course, I realize that there are children who learn Hebrew right along with their ABC’s, right here in Chicago, and why on earth wouldn’t the same tools in a different language be just as useful and bought up by Grandmothers? But to me, there was something so adorable about all this familiar looking stuff in a different alphabet, which I realize is completely stupid and patronizing and culturally insensitive, but I had a BLAST in that store! :o
I never saw anything like them in China, although they might exist somewhere. The whole approach strikes me as a bit casual for the Chinese theory of early childhood education, which focuses more on drills and flashcards (those kids have A LOT of things to memorize before they can read even a simple storybook, so they have to start ASAP) and less on explorative self-directed play-learning.
I thought I’d seen some early readers for Chinese kids in Pinyin, which would mean that they had to learn a much smaller character set to start reading, and which would be useful later when they learned English.
In Chinese-speaking Taiwan (as distinct from China proper), they still use Bopomofo, essentially translating a complex system of squiggly lines into a slightly less complex phonetic system of different-sounding squiggly lines.
For example, the characters 醫, 一, and 衣 all become ㄧ.
You will find readers that have text in both characters and pinyin, but the ultimate goal is always to get children reading characters- pinyin is rarely used in everyday life. So the emphasis is certainly on characters.
Quite a few stores here in Korea carry both English alphabet (that’s what they’re called here) and Hangeul magnets. It’s a trivial issue to organize the Hangeul magnets into syllable blocks: just put the things in the right position, ignoring the fact that they’re not sized correctly.
Having had a couple of kids go through pre-school in China, what happens is that kids learn their ABC’s at about 3 years old. This is part of learning pinyin or the Chinese romanization system. Surprised the hell out of me when one day China Bambina could sing the ABC song and recognized the alphabet. ABC refridgerator magnets and letter blocks are ubiquitous.
Pinyin is used in some but not all text books and readers in pre-school and for at least the first few years of elementary school to help learn characters or as a supplement.
The only Chinese character based fridge magnet type things I’ve ever seen were here in the US for kids learning chinese as a second language. I don’t remember seeing these in China.
Reply - my understanding is that Taiwan is also adopting their “new and improved” version of pinyin. Maybe Koxinga or other Taiwan based dopers can weigh.
IMHO, zhuyinfuhao aka bopomofo was not a very practical system. It’s not universal like roman characters, and it never evolved into a Katakana type system for foreign words. I think the deathknell is the computer and clear advantage of using a roman keyboard as an input device. Of course, as a English speaker that learned Chinese as a second language I’m biased as a roman letter based system is far more efficient in this case. And I did learn both systems as well as wade-giles and the yale romanization systems.
Only just saw this. As far as I can tell, bopomofo is alive and well, and my kid’s going to kindergarten. She starts out tracing the zhuyinfuhao characters as an introduction to Mandarin syllables, and at the same time she gets essential practice in the basic stroke forms ahead of learning characters in a year or two.
One final advantage for her in particular is that, as a kid who’s already reading English, she won’t get confused by roman characters in pinyin that are supposed to have different pronunciations.
So, YMMV but I think bopomofo’s great.
ETA: snerk Keyboards? All the cool kids are using touchpads these days, gramps. And if you insist on using a keyboard in the office, IME they’re just as efficient typing bopomofo based input as they are roman characters – probably more so, what with the QWERTY setup and all that.