Time for a Learning Mandarin Chinese Q & A

My children have been learning Mandarin Chinese since they were each just five years old. Thus, my daughter has been studying the language for 10 years. In May, she plans to take the AP exam in Chinese Language and Culture.

When we officially began homeschooling in 2007, one of the major driving forces behind our decision was my daughter’s desire to learn Chinese. I have periodically shared with you a little about their journey to fluency in Mandarin. Several years ago, I detailed How I Teach Mandarin Chinese, Not Speaking it Myself and have highlighted a few products or curricula that we have had the opportunity to work with.

Today I would like to answer a few questions that I am often asked by my readers and by people in my social circles when they learn of our decision to learn Mandarin.

learning mandarin q&aDo you think a private tutor for Mandarin is best?

My great grandparents emigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. Somewhere along the way, the ability to speak Norwegian had been lost – at least amongst my family here in the US. As we are in contact with our Norwegian cousins and the Norwegian culture is so strong in my family, I have always wanted to learn the language. I’ve used CDs and textbook programs but my pronunciation is poor. I can read and write far more than I can speak or understand orally.

As I do not speak Mandarin, I wanted to assure that my children would learn the correct pronunciation. I highly recommend working with a native speaker – whether you hire a private tutor, attend classes, or work with someone online.

The primary purpose of language is communication – grammar is important, but there’s a bigger picture. Language is no longer seen as being learnt through mechanical exercises, it’s developed through students interacting and engaging.

q&a learning mandarinCan you recommend a Mandarin tutor in my area?

Sadly, I am not familiar with tutors in areas outside my own small community. My suggestion is to reach out to the local homeschool community and/or the community college. When we moved to Redding, for example, I had posted on the local homeschool forum the following query, “My children are interested in continuing Mandarin lessons and would like contact information for local providers in the area.”  This simple question provided us the opportunity to meet Shawn – he and his wife attended the same church as a member homeschool family.

Where we are now in Oregon, the local college previously offered a community education course in conversational Chinese. I contacted the college and requested contact information and an email was provided.

Other options for native speakers or tutors is through video conferencing software. While we have not had the chance to try out each, here are a few providers:

How many times a week would produce the best result?

We generally meet with Shawn twice a week (initially in his home and now via Skype as he resides now in Indiana). He plans each of the two weekly lessons, assigns and grades homework, and generally works with the kids independently for an hour each lesson. On occasion they do cultural and cooking lessons together – I even get to join in on these.

In addition to their lesson, Shawn recommends they spend between 1 and 2 hours “actively” studying the language. As fluency is very important to her, Geneva meets this goal regularly. Jeffrey, on the other hand, often does his homework as quickly as possible. When they were younger, I pushed for daily practice more consistently. Now, I have come to realize they have their own individual goals and I allow them more autonomy.

mandarin q&aDo you have any experience with … ?

Until most recently, we have predominately been using the Better Chinese curriculum as we had previous experience with the program and the product line was diverse. They have gradually progressed from the elementary series, My First Chinese Reader to the more advanced middle school series, Discovering Chinese Pro. The material is presented in several formats allowing students with different learning styles to choose the method for which they are best suited.

Periodically, Shawn or I will also supplement their lessons with movies dubbed in Mandarin, music, other materials to enrich the lessons and keep the kids engaged. Some of the other resources we have used include:

Mandarin Resources for On-the-Go: “Miao Mi” App Now Available

My daughter is preparing to take the AP exam in Chinese Culture and Language in May. My son will follow her example a couple years later. I am thereby always searching for quality Mandarin resources that provide practice in her second language as well as keep her interest.

A few months ago, I shared a delightful Mandarin resource for families learning Chinese, Miao Mi Educational Programs, a subscription service available through Amazon Prime Video. It has provided a fun way to integrate Mandarin language into our home – even for my teens!

miao miI am happy to announce that Celestial Tiger Entertainment has also launched a Miao Mi app. Now parents can easily immerse their young children in Mandarin language-learning just by using their tablets – perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle like ours.

The Miao Mi app features award-winning shows and games that reinforce language learning. It provides access to more than 500 videos including “Star Babies” and “Pleasant Goat” – popular children’s programs in Asia.

Children and parents with no prior exposure to Mandarin can easily pick up the unique sounds of Chinese just as well as those from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. The programs on the Miao Mi app offer an immersive experience for children at different stages of Mandarin language learning.

“We created ‘Miao Mi’ to give parents a wide range of entertaining and educational programs and games to help give their pre-schoolers a head start learning this increasingly vital global language.” ~ Todd Miller, CEO of Celestial Tiger Entertainment

Available on the App Store and Google Play, the Miao Mi app is free to download, and $5.99 per month to subscribe. A 7-day free trial is available.

To download the “Miao Mi” app, visit the App Store for iOS.  “Miao Mi” is also available in the United States through Amazon Prime Video on Amazon Channels for $5.99 per month. A 7-day free trial is available. For more information, visit www.miaomi-tv.com.

Miao Mi Educational Programs Delight Both Preschoolers and Teens

My children have been learning Mandarin Chinese since they were each five years old. We do not live in an urban area like Portland or San Francisco – so access to bilingual schools or immersion programs have not been available to us. We have thereby relied on the materials we could find online.

I was compensated for this review; however, all opinions are my own.
Miao Mi Amazon Channel Review @EvaVarga.net
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.

When we first began our journey with Mandarin, we struggled to find resources and materials that were targeted at second language learners. Much of the curriculum I found was directed at parents who spoke Chinese themselves and desired to teach their children their mother tongue. As I don’t speak Mandarin myself, I was at a loss and unable to assist them with instructions.

Over the years, the availability of materials has increased and I am continually learning of online learning resources, bilingual materials, and curriculum designed specifically for families like ours. When I learned of Miao Mi, an educational channel on Amazon, I was delighted to try out the material with my kids.

Miao Mi offers an excellent way to support language learning, and provides a Mandarin language immersion approach to learning a new language.

Miao Mi is Educational

Miao Mi is a collection of animated programs in both English and Mandarin. Each series is designed to educate and entertain through captivating animation, adorable characters, and clever storylines.

The target age for the Miao Mi educational programs is preschool and early elementary. I was therefore a little apprehensive about sharing the programs with my teens – I feared they would balk at the content and find the animation babyish. Much to my surprise, they not only enjoyed the animated storyline but were engaged in the language.

By writing and dubbing each episode in Mandarin and again in English (without translations or subtitles, using appropriate character voices) Miao Mi provides high-quality, entertaining, immersive experiences in both languages.

Miao Mi is a safe, ad-free channel or subscription based service provided by Amazon Prime presenting high-quality animations from Asia’s leading producers of children’s programs.

Miao Mi Amazon Channel Review @EvaVarga.netMiao Mi is an Immersive Experience

Miao Mi is designed to provide immersive language exposure for children who are learning Chinese (Mandarin). Most of the programs do not provide language instruction, rather they immerse the child in the language.

My teens enjoyed the programs, “The stories are really cute and it was easy to follow along.” Though they were familiar with most of the vocabulary, the words that were unfamiliar could be easily understood based on audio and visual context clues.

While prior exposure to Mandarin will help a child learn the language more quickly, the immersive experience of Miao Mi will provide an entertaining supplemental resource that extends the language learning experience.

For Amazon Prime members, ongoing access to the Miao Mi channel is only $5.99 per month.

Miao Mi is Variety 

One of the greatest benefits of Miao Mi is the diverse content. There are several programs to choose from – each of which offer multiple seasons and subsequent episodes.

The Miao Mi language learning video-on-demand service offers over 500 videos specifically curated for kids around the world.

Our Road to Fluency: Mandarin for Homeschoolers

When we officially began homeschooling in 2007, one of the major driving forces behind our decision was my daughter’s desire to learn Chinese. She was just five years old at the time and thus we began our journey.

mandarinfluency1 Our Road to Fluency

Our first task was to find a native speaker. We were able to find a Mandarin Immersion Preschool right away and though she was the oldest in the class, we gave it a go.  After a year, it was clear that studying Mandarin was something she really wanted to do and we thereby transitioned to semi-private lessons (which she continued for four years).

Since then, we have moved to a new state and fortunately we were able to find another native speaker to continue her lessons. Upon our arrival here in California, my son also began to learn Mandarin – though he has grown to love it, in the beginning he wasn’t happy with our decision and would have preferred to continue his free time.  (What 6 year old boy wouldn’t want free time, right?)

My daughter has thereby been studying Mandarin for seven years, more than half her life.  My son has just three years under his belt but already, his skill nearly matches hers for we discovered soon after working with our new tutor that the former had not emphasized the tones well enough, had moved through the vocabulary very quickly, and that much had not been retained.
mandarinfluency2

Better Chinese

I haven’t blogged very often here at Academia Celestia about our Mandarin lessons.  This is partially because my focus here is on science and our ancestral heritage.  Additionally, a couple years ago I began to blog for Better Chinese, the publisher of the integrated curriculum we use, and thus I share our Mandarin anecdotes there.   Better Chinese is designed to motivate students in non-native Chinese environments to start speaking Chinese.

My posts are meant to show how we as a homeschool family utilize the Better Chinese materials and other resources to develop our language skills.  If you are interested in reading any of these posts, I have conveniently gathered the links here for you (listed chronologically according to the date they were published – newest on top).  

mandarinfluency3

I would be more than happy to write a post specifically addressing any questions you may have in regards to how we approach our language studies.  If there is something you would like to see .. don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let me know.  :)

ForeignLanguageLooking for other languages or ideas on how to implement language learning? Visit the iHomeschool Network’s Foreign Languages in Your Homeschool linkup.

 

We Are Loving Discovering Chinese Pro

I am über-excited about the new Discovering Chinese Pro app by Better Chinese.  As most of my readers are aware, we have been using Better Chinese curricula for our Mandarin studies for years.  I even blog about our language learning endeavors for them.

Discovering Chinese Pro review

For the past several years, we have been using My First Chinese Reader and have been anxiously awaiting the release of an interactive iPad program. Discovering Chinese Pro is the answer. Easy to navigate, engaging animations, and a variety of practical language skill applications.

Each volume in Discovering Chinese Pro contains twelve lessons and each lesson begins with the goals outlined clearly.  Upon reading through the goals, each lesson begins with a short animation. The material is presented in several formats allowing students with different learning styles to choose the method that is best (with or without pinyin, with or without audio, and with or without English translations).  The student even has the choice to use simplified or traditional characters and can apply this option to specific words or the entire lesson.

Tabs across the top divide the lesson into sections that allow the learner to easily jump to the desired section:  Language Notes, Culture Points, Practice, Homework, and I Can.

Language Notes

The Language Notes section of each lesson introduces in more detail the new lesson vocabulary, additional required vocabulary, and proper nouns.  Here, the words are defined and the characters, pinyin, and parts of speech are shown.  Students can tap on an icon to hear each word spoken aloud. Within ‘Language Points’, students are shown how to combine different characters for phrases and example sentences can be heard. ‘Language Tips’ points out short cuts or more commonly used phrases.

Discovering Chinese Pro

Culture Points

True of all the lessons in the series, the tab Culture Points helps put the lesson vocabulary into historical and cultural context.  Here students are introduced to China with idioms and photographs – bringing the Chinese culture to life.  In anticipation of our trip to China, I had selected two lessons from Volume 2 to review, Lesson 19 “Shopping” and Lesson 24 “Trip to China”.  These tabs were very valuable to me, providing a better understanding of the culture of China.

Practice

The practice section is split into six parts – pinyin, characters, listening, reading, speaking, and writing.   In the pinyin section you can practice pronunciation of the four tones, pinyin identification, and pinyin dictation.  In the character writing section, several characters are introduced that correspond to the new vocabulary introduced in the lesson.  Here, students can see the story behind a Chinese character, watch the stroke order animation, and try it themselves.

The next four practice sections work on the students’ listening, speaking, reading (split into reading comprehension and reading challenge), and writing skills (split into grammar exercises and composition).  The activities and practice applications vary with each lesson – ensuring the students are engaged and have ample opportunity to practice their budding skills in varied contexts.  In the speaking section of Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to interview a friend about his/her recent trip.

One of the things I liked best about the Practice section was the partner and group activities.  In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, students were asked to set up a flea market.  Working in small groups, they were to decide upon a name, what to sell, categorize the items, create an inventory, set prices, determine if bargaining is allowed, and finally create a poster.  In Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to pick a destination from a list of overseas trips and to create an itinerary to potential customers. As a group assignment, tasks were to be divided between students (transportation, food, activities, etc.).  In both scenarios, the students were to present it to the class.

Homework

The homework section provides additional opportunities for the language learner to test his developing listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.  The listening section has three dialogues. The reading section has two short passages with characters only, followed by a few comprehension questions.  The speaking section asked the student to record an oral narration of the lesson animation.  The writing section provides grammar practice whereby students follow a specific sentence structure or pattern as they compose sentences of their own.  In addition, a composition activity is provided that varies with each lesson. In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, the student was asked to compose an email response to a friend regarding what she bought at the store.

Each practice and homework section has a prompt box whereby the student can record their audio reply and/or type their composition.  If desired, images can even be added for a multi-media approach.  As I know even less Mandarin Chinese than the kids, I love that the students can email their tutor their work for review.

To learn more about Discovering Chinese Pro, visit the Better Chinese website.  You may also wish to watch their Discovering Chinese Pro Demonstration to see how to navigate this app more thoroughly.

 
I received the Discovering Chinese Pro app in exchange for an honest review. I am very pleased to be a part of the Better Chinese Blogging Team. All opinions are my own.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.