Learning Mandarin with Middlebury Interactive - Eva Varga

October 15, 20144
Disclosure: I was given a free membership to Middlebury Interactive Foreign Languages Middle School Mandarin Course in exchange for a thorough review.  I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. As always, what I share about the product is from my own perspective, and are my honest opinions of the product. 

middleburyMy daughter first expressed interest in learning Mandarin when she was just five years old. It is actually one of the reasons we initially embarked on our homeschool journey. As such, Mandarin is a major component of our homeschool.

In the fall of 2013, we even had the remarkable opportunity to travel through China as a family, Discovering China. Though we had traveled aboard previously, our experiences in China were so incredible – inspiring my children to approach their language studies with more diligence and vigor.

In the years since she first began lessons, we have tried many different programs and used a variety of supplemental resources. In our ongoing quest, we seek out interactive programs that will hold a child’s attention and make learning fun. This is critical to sustain interest long-term.

The Middlebury Interactive program does just that, using an immersion approach that incorporates videos, stories, and games throughout the lessons. Students are completely submerged in the “new” language from the get-go. They must listen, speak, read and write in the foreign language.

The immersion learning method can be a bit frustrating at first, which Geneva quickly discovered. Though a list of vocabulary words was given at the beginning of each unit, the English translation was not. Not being accustomed to this, it took her a little time to get comfortable with the new format, but she was on her way in no time.

Her initial frustration could also stem from the fact that since my daughter has had significant experience with Mandarin language and also works with a private tutor twice a week, rather than start at the beginning (which would be the most logical) we opted to select lessons that coordinated with the content or vocabulary that aligned with the lessons she was doing with her tutor. In doing so, there were some vocabulary words that she was not familiar.

middlebury2One of our favorite components of the program are the Journal Assignments that ask students to write a response to a variety of prompts and to make cultural comparisons. In the unit on clothing, the journal assignment instructed her to write a few sentences describing what she was wearing. The instructions stated to use pinyin but over the years, she has learned how to type pinyin in her word processing program which coverts it to characters. Here is a peak at what she wrote for one of the lessons:








The Cultural Lesson for this unit was on the Sichuan province. Geneva was excited that the video mentioned spicy hot pot – one of our favorite dishes. It had her taste buds tingling and she insisted we make hot pot for dinner. Her uncle joined us that evening and she delighted in trying to teach him some of the vocabulary for the ingredients we had selected.

  • 火锅 Huǒguō – Hot Pot
  • 白菜 Báicài – Bok Choy
  • 莲藕 Lián’ǒu – Lotus Root
  • 肉 Ròu – Beef
  • 虾 Xiā – Shrimp

One of the course objectives is a Life-long Learner Assignment whereby “students are required to create a plan for incorporating Chinese into their daily lives. They accomplish this by outlining the long-term benefits of learning Chinese, by making goals for what they want to accomplish with their mastery of the language, and by creating a plan for accomplishing their goals.”

This is one of the areas Geneva has been working on with her tutor. I was impressed that the Middlebury Interactive online language program incorporated this into the course and I am excited to continue using the program as she progresses in her Mandarin studies.

Online Foreign Language Courses

Middlebury Interactive offers several language courses. The courses are available with a support teacher ($175 per student/semester) or without a support teacher ($119 per student/semester).  There are lessons available for Elementary K-2, 3-5, Middle School, High School and AP (Advanced Placement). Check each course for level availability.

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

Middlebury Interactive is a great option for those looking for a foreign language option for homeschool. The interactive elements of the program makes this a great resource for homeschoolers. My kids love learning new languages and Middlebury made lesson planning easy. Here’s a peak at Middlebury’s middle school course:

The first year Mandarin course is divided into two semesters of 9 units. Within each unit are 10 lessons that guide the student through the material with quizzes and semesters finals. Each lesson has a series of activities designed to introduce new words and phrases, reinforce the goals of the lesson, and offer an audio recording so the student can hear the correct pronunciation and usage.

One of the best parts of the program is the Speaking Lab that allows the student a chance to hear the word/phrase, record themselves saying the word/phrase, and then go back and compare the two. In this way a student can hear for themselves if they need to correct their own pronunciation.

The course includes a daily Calendar that is already set for you. However, if you’d prefer to work at your own pace, you can access any of the lessons through the Table of Contents. This was particularly useful for my daughter as she was able to navigate to specific lessons and thereby coordinate the material with her tutor.

Geneva’s favorite part of the Mandarin course so far are the matching activities and flash cards, “The games are really fun!”  She also enjoys the videos with native speakers interacting, as it not only gives her an idea of the tones to mimic, but it also reminds her of our family holiday in China a year ago.

Middlebury Interactive Giveaway

Middlebury Interactive is giving away 10 One Semester courses. The winner can choose the language and level. The value is $119 per semester. Please note that by entering you agree to give your email to Middlebury Interactive for their mailing list. 

 All courses are digital, so no shipping is needed, and the giveaway is open to anyone in the world.

 Middlebury Interactive is also offering a 10% discount for homeschoolers on their initial order. Simply use this code; HomeSchoolFirst10 at checkout.

Connect with Middlebury Interactive

Follow Middlebury Interactive on your favorite social media. By connecting with them you will get regular updates, information about their products, encouragement for learning foreign languages as well tips and ideas.

It’s always a blast chatting about homeschool.  You can also join the bloggers from the iHomeschool Network as we welcome +Middlebury Interactive Languages as our featured guest in a Live G+ Hangout on October 16, 2014 9:00 p.m. Eastern.



  • Emily

    October 15, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Just amused at that dialogue exchange exercise about the clothes… and an abrupt question about watermelons!

    This is very awesome your daughter’s at a comfortable conversational level and can even type Chinese / Pinyin. Is Middlebury a supplement for your kids, or the main program they’re now using aside from tutoring?

    • Eva Varga

      October 15, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      She’s always throwing comments about watermelon into her conversations; she says it is her favorite word. So funny!
      Presently, we are using Muddlebury as a supplement but I was very impressed with the program and could envision using it as our core curriculum as well. There were so many interactive activities and suggestions for extension activities.

  • Sandra

    October 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Looks like it would be a great programme to rekindle my daughter’s interest in French.

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