Multilingual Resources for Kids

I am on the cusp of a new season in my life. This autumn, as my eldest prepares to transfer to the university and move away from home, I will be returning to a brick and mortar classroom full time. I will be working with English Language Learners as the K-12 specialist. As such, I am on a quest to build a multilingual classroom library.

 My students come from all over the world and are a diverse population of students. They speak a variety of native languages such as; Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Palauan, Urdu, and many more!

Today, I highlight a few of my recent multilingual resources that I have discovered. I am excited to share these with my students in a few months.

Multilingual Story Books

Dylan’s Birthday Present

Dylan’s Birthday Present by Victor Dias de Oliveira Santos is an adorable story about a young polygot who desires a pet chicken for his birthday. The illustrations are a delight and children will be drawn into the creative and out-of-the-box story.

Dylan and his best friend, Emma, live in the USA. Both children have parents who came to the United States from foreign countries. The parents speak to their children in different languages. Dylan’s parents speak Portuguese, Ukrainian, and English while Emma’s parents speak to her in Zulu and English. As a result, the two kids became polyglots, people who speak more than a single language.

Available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

As children enjoy the story, they will identify with the characters, realize that having friends is a good thing, and become inspired to study (realizing that skills acquired by study can be very beneficial), and perhaps learn a new language.

The Fabulous Lost & Found and the Little Chinese Mouse

The Fabulous Lost & Found … series by Mark Pallis and Peter Baynton is another delightful story and it is available in many different languages. I had the pleasure to review the The Fabulous Lost & Found and the Little Chinese Mouse.

The story features a little mouse who enters the Lost & Found. The little mouse speaks only Chinese though and thus the proprietors – Mr. & Mrs. Frog – endeavor to figure out what the mouse is has lost.

There is a special magic about learning words another language and using them: I truly think it warms the heart. ~ Mark Pallis

The target age is 2-7, but my teen daughter enjoyed the story and remarked, “I actually know all the characters!” The unique ‘story-centered’ language learning method combines humor and emotion to gently introduce kids to 50 simple and fun Chinese words and phrases. 

Available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

Multilingual Music

Una Idea Tengo Yo is the latest album by Latin Grammy winners Andrés and Christina – the music duo of 123 Andrés. The eleven songs feature upbeat Spanish language songs that seek to answer a child’s curious questions about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Available in CD or MP3

123 Andrés combine a broad sampling of rhythms and Latin American music genres with familiar tunes. The Farmer in the Dell, for example, becomes El Agua y el Viento with new lyrics to edu-tain children as they learn how water and wind affect the Earth’s topography.

Other STEM topics include the four seasons, outer space, matter, animal habitats, light & sound, and much more. Lyrics and translations are available online.

Frame from video for Diez Perritos

For more bilingual children’s music, check out my earlier post about  José-Luis Orozco.

You can also find their STEM videos on YouTube or visit their website 123 Andrés to see their other releases, including an adorable book Hello Friend, Hola Amigo!

Mastering Mandarin Language with eChineseLearning

Learning a language can be an experience that transforms your life. It provides a competitive edge in career choices and opportunities for personal enrichment through travel and building relationships with new friends.

In our homeschool, my children chose to learn Mandarin Chinese at an early age. It has since become a focus of our curriculum. Recently, my daughter prepared for the Chinese Language and Culture AP exam and now my son has taken on the challenge.

I received access to an eChineseLearning class in exchange for an honest review and I was compensated for my time writing the review. All opinions are my own.

One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to work with a native speaker. A native speaker provides you with the opportunity to learn a variety of useful phrases, sentence structures, vocabulary, and the proper tones. The more you engage with native speakers, the more you learn.

This rule has been proven to be effective for many language learners. I am confident it is the reason my daughter was successful. Finding a native speaker is not always easy, however. Especially if you live in a rural area as we do.

I have picked up a few Chinese phrases over the years. I have always wanted to learn more though. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a short conversation with my kids in their target language?

Learning Mandarin with eChineseLearning

I was delighted to learn of the online lessons available through eChineseLearning. Perhaps now I could begin to learn what the kids are saying when I hear 妈妈 (māmā)?

My first lesson was with Bonnie. It was just like sitting down for a cup of tea in our favorite coffee shop. Meeting for the first time, our conversation focused on getting to know one another as she gently corrected my pronunciation and guided me to express myself.

I had explained in advance that my goal was conversation, it was less important for me to learn how to read the characters as I know I do not have the time to invest. I simply want to be able to chat.

E: 你好。(Nǐ hǎo.)

B: 你好。(Nǐ hǎo.) 你好吗? (Nǐ hǎo ma?)

E: 我很忙,我很好。(Wǒ hěn máng, wǒ hěn hǎo.)

Bonnie pointed out that the conjunction 但 (dàn) would be useful in this situation to join these two sentences together. I listened to her example and repeated,

E: 我很忙,但是我很好。(Wǒ hěn máng, dàn shì wǒ hěn hǎo.)

B: 你是美国⼈吗。(Nǐ shì měiguó rén ma?)

E: 对。(Duì.)

Positives of eChineseLearning

Our lesson continued for thirty minutes though a typical lesson is 50 minutes in total. We took turns using the vocabulary intermittently as either a statement or a question.

She did a great job of allowing the conversation to flow as naturally as possible considering I know very little. She was able to scaffold the lesson and made adjustments to the lesson according to my needs and level of understanding.

As a VIPKID teacher, I am familiar with online language learning. Just as my students have a workbook from which they can study between our online lessons, eChineseLearning provides textbooks. With guidance from the teacher, a study plan is crafted.

Students have the option book their lessons with a favorite or regular teacher but are also encouraged to work with a variety of teachers to develop their listening comprehension skills.

I was very impressed with the quality of the lesson and am excited to continue developing my Chinese language skills.

Negatives of eChineseLearning

While eChineseLearning is good in many ways, it has disadvantages too. All their lessons are conducted with a teacher on a one-on-one basis, so I have to say they are not cheap. It might not be suitable for you if you do not want to spend a lot of money on learning Chinese. However, if you are very serious about learning Chinese and have a strong specific goal, eChineseLearning is definitely worth a shot.

Stay Strong Campaign

eChineseLearning students and teachers send their wishes for people fighting the coronavirus around the world. I was touched when I watched this video – they want everyone to know that we are not alone.

Best wishes for people fighting the coronavirus around the world!

This is a great time to begin language lessons. Currently, eChineseLearning provides three campaign offers:

#1 Not Satisfied with a Lesson? Don’t Pay for It!

If you are not satisfied with a particular lesson and your request is reasonable, eChineseLearning will provide you with a free make-up lesson.

#2 1-Month Free Lessons to Give Away

If you purchase or upgrade a course package during the campaign period, you will get an extra month of lessons (two lessons per week) for FREE.

This offer is valid for new, current and former students.

#3 Refer a Student and Get Two Months Free Lessons and $100 Credit

If you refer a student to eChineseLearning during the campaign period, you will get extra month of FREE lessons on top of the existing rewards (1 month Free lessons plus US$100 credit), which means you get 2 months of FREE lessons and US$100 credit in total.

What are you waiting for? Come join me. ⾛吧! (Zǒu ba!) – Let’s go!

Developing Language Skills with New Amigos Board Game

I have always been fascinated by languages. In fact, raising bilingual children is was one of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool. Along the way, we have purposely sought out resources and opportunities to develop fluency in a second language.

Finding materials for Norwegian is not easy (at least where I live) so I was very excited to discover the New Amigos board game. New Amigos makes language learning fun and interactive!

The game has sold over 42,000 copies in Norway where it was developed. In Europe, it is distributed through toy stores, department stores, as well as book stores. Thus far, there are several versions available including: Norsk-English, Norsk-Spanish, and Norsk-Arabic!

Developing Language Skills

You can play either as an individual or on teams, independent of language knowledge or age. By virtue of three difficulty levels, played in parallel, even novices can stand a chance against advanced speakers and learn the basics of the language along the way.

The game works in two directions: native English speakers, for example, but wish to learn Norwegian can play the English-Norwegian version with speakers of Norsk who wish to learn English. The vocabulary is learned by everyone as each player takes his or her turn.

I have compiled a list of my favorite Norwegian Language Resources for families interested in learning Norwegian, Snakker du Norske?

Even players with the same language background and goals can play together. In other words, though both my daughter and I desire to learn Norwegian and are at different levels ourselves, we can successfully play the game together and learn from one another. We do not need to play with someone who speaks the language fluently.

The correct pronunciation of words in foreign languages is no problem, as New Amigos uses a unique phonetic system that doesn’t require any advance knowledge. Unlike the dictionaries, the words are spelled using Latin alphabet letters instead of phonetic symbols.

New Amigos Game Play

The goal of the game is to win cards over three rounds, each new round begins after seven cards have been won. This is accomplished by translating cards in both languages. The winner is the player who, in the final round, translates all of the played cards error-free.

Novices translate simple words, while advanced players translate more difficult words. In addition to vocabulary, there are also sentences and idiomatic expressions. New Amigos also includes geographical information and cards focused on culture, business, and food and drink.

New Amigos is a great game for language learners of all skill levels. Available for purchase online, there are four bilingual versions presently available: Spanish/Norsk, Arabic/Norsk, English/Norsk, and Spanish/English.

Our AP Exam Experience: Chinese Language & Culture

In Oregon, students entering a four year university must have completed at least two years of a foreign language. As a homeschool, we are a non-accredited provider and therefore the language learning that my children have done with their private instructor is not recognized by four year institutions in Oregon. They must prove competency through examination.

Typically, there are multiple avenues or choices for credit by examination. The two most popular options are Advanced Placement® (AP) and the College Level Exam Program® (CLEP) – both of which are subject-specific credit-by-exam programs offered by The College Board.  Keep in mind, each university determines what tests are accepted and the qualifying score required.

Though my daughter will most assuredly apply to multiple institutions, her top choice is Oregon State University (OSU). It is an in-state school and both her father and I are alumni. Most importantly, the degrees she seeks (environmental and chemical engineering) are intertwined within the same college or department, rather than separate programs as is common at other universities.

OSU will accept either exam option. However, as there is no CLEP exam available for Mandarin Chinese, the AP exam is the best choice. The score required to prove competency on the Chinese Language & Culture AP Exam is a 2. If she scores a 3+, she would be awarded 15 credits and permitted to begin with upper division language courses.

Sophomore Year

We partnered with an umbrella school in the fall of the 2017-18 school year. While our reasons were varied (I’ve outlined them here), the school we partnered with promised it would make it possible for her to take the AP exam in the spring. None of the other area schools offered the Chinese exam – though any would likely be willing to secure it, I wanted an assurance.

The AP exam is offered only once a year on a predetermined date in May. In October, we began to communicate her intent to take the exam in the spring by both email and telephone. When April’s showers began to bring May flowers, we had given up hope that it was going to happen at all. We had received no confirmation of registration.

The week of the exam, we received a phone call that a make-up exam had been scheduled for the following week. Surprise!! We had no idea this was even a possibility. The school apologized and explained that this was the first AP exam they had the opportunity to administer (it is a relatively new charter school) and thus there was a bit of a learning curve.

We drove over to the school with few expectations. She had not taken a standardized test since grade school so our goal this time around was simply to gain some familiarity with the testing format.

Upon our arrival, we are informed that the “testing room” had just used been used to heat press t-shirts which accounted for the chemical odor that lingered. They opened a window but that only served to intensify the loud ruckus of students on their lunch break.

When I picked her up a few hours later, she complained of a headache and nausea. She is a strong test taker and yet was disappointed. “The fumes and noise made it difficult to concentrate. I began to feel queazy soon after we started but there was nothing I could do.”

Needless to say, she did not pass. No big deal. She could take it again the following year (she only submits . She and her Mandarin instructor began a focused effort immediately, using Barron’s AP Chinese study guide to prepare.

Junior Year

Since we first began Mandarin language instruction years ago, we have scheduled two classes each week. During this two hour block of time, each of the kids works with Shawn for one hour. Periodically, he incorporates cultural or cooking lessons whereupon it is a combined class but generally they work with him independently.

Over the course of the year, she would often have a focused two-hour block to work specifically on AP exam prep. With a familiarity of the testing format, she knew what she needed to do the second time around.

I also communicated more effectively our disappointment in the testing atmosphere to our umbrella school. While taking AP exams provides many benefits to students, it also reflects well on the school. I was certainly willing to overlook the concerns I had last year but did expect them to make improvements.

All her efforts were rewarded last month when we received her score report from the College Board. She passed! Her score was sent automatically to the community college where she is dual enrolled and 12 credits were awarded free of charge! Well, not exactly free. The cost to take the exam in the US is $94 – but that’s certainly much less than tuition.

Benefits of AP Examination

As I mentioned briefly above, taking an AP exam provides many benefits for students. I can’t recommend this option enough.

1. You save money on tuition

2. You will have greater flexibility in college and can potentially graduate early

3. AP classes impress college admissions officers

4. AP classes help develop college-level academic skills and increase your chances for merit aid

To clarify, taking an AP class is NOT required in order to register for and thereby take an AP exam. Whether you are working with a tutor or studying independently, you can still take the exams by simply arranging to test at a participating school or authorized test center. Learn more at I’m homeschooled. How can I take an AP Exam?

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.