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.

High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses

Fall term is nearing an end. Many students are preparing for final exams as well as forecasting with their advisors and thereby registering for winter term. My daughter, Geneva, is amongst them.

She has really enjoyed taking dual enrollment courses on the college campus these past few months and has worked very hard to assure she completes two consecutive courses within the 10-week term. Come winter term she will enroll in two courses – Intermediate Algebra (Math 95) and English Composition (Writing 121).

high-school-forecastingHigh School Forecasting

Her goal is to complete the degree requirements for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree simultaneously with her high school diploma. While no easy feat, it can and has been done by homeschoolers and public school students across the state.

As at least one of the courses she will take winter term is transferable to a four year university, it is important that we work alongside an advisor to ensure the courses are counted for dual enrollment. We’ve made an appointment and look forward to sharing the four-year plan we have put together.

Course Load and Schedules

I opened our forecasting discussion by first describing the degree requirements for the transfer degree as well as the course list for a degree in engineering (a field in which she has expressed interest since she was a young girl). She then shared the goals she had for herself and what she hopes to accomplish over the next four years.

This FREE customizable spreadsheet provided the skeletal structure for her four year plan. Thank you, Heidi!

High School 4 Year Forecasting Plan

Together, we looked at the course descriptions for each of the classes she was interested in and thereby narrowed down her choices. In addition, we read the prerequisites carefully to ensure there would be no surprises along the way.

Four courses chosen from at least two disciplines including at least three laboratory courses in biological and/or physical science are required for Science & Mathematics.

With the prerequisites and an engineering degree in mind, her choices include a year of General Chemistry, a year of Physics with Calculus (must be taken concurrently), and two terms of Geology. We thereby plugged each of these into the four-year plan assuring that she would take no more than two courses per term at the college.

In addition, the course load during her senior year in high school is relatively easier than the preceding two. This will provide a little cushion and time for scholarship essays and other unforeseen hoops she may have to jump through.

Foreign Language Requirement

In Oregon, there is a foreign language requirement for admission to a four year university:

[Transfer] students who graduated from high school in 1997 or later must meet a foreign language requirement with either two years of high school level study in the same language or two quarters/semesters of college level study with a minimum grade of a C- or better.

While she is fluent in Mandarin (having studied the language since she was 5 years old), as an independent homeschool, Academia Celestia is not an accredited institution. She will thereby be expected to take a foreign language course at the college or demonstrate proficiency by passing an exam.

While she hopes to someday learn additional languages (and may yet decide to take a college level course), she will most likely choose this option. Her ultimate goal is to study abroad in China and earn a minor in Asian Languages and Culture.

CLEP Exams

In addition to the course work and requirements described above, there are several foundational (Writing, Communication, and Health & Fitness) and Cultural Literacy requirements.

Four courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Social Sciences. Three courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Arts & Letters.

For Social Sciences, she selected a fascinating Anthropology course and a course suggested for Engineering students, Economics. To earn addition credits (9) for History 201, 202, and 203 she plans to take the CLEP exam in United States History.

While English 104, 105, and 106 are not required for the AA degree (she chose alternatives in Art and Philosophy), she may also choose to take the English Literature CLEP exam to earn credit (9) for these courses.

How I Teach Mandarin .. Not Speaking it Myself

We’ve recently returned home from a family holiday in China and thus our study of the culture and language of this diverse country has been on the forefront of my mind.  Much of what we do in homeschool revolves around our Mandarin studies so I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you all a little of what we do.

How I Teach MandarinAs I sat down to write this post, however, I came to realize that my vision for how I teach Mandarin does not necessarily match with what we actually do.  We could do more.  We need to do more.  Our experiences in China proved that while the vocabulary is there – we still need more experience with practical application.

What We Did Then

When we first began our journey to learn Mandarin, I wanted a curriculum that had teacher materials in English as I myself do not speak or read Chinese.  When I found Better Chinese, I knew immediately that I had found what we needed.  The spiral-up approach allows students to review past lessons as they advance through the volumes in the series and the cute graphics and animations were captivating to my daughter, five years old at the time.  Most importantly, there was a large variety of supplemental materials available that corresponded to the textbook, thereby a strong potential for enrichment activities.


my first chinese wordsI thereby ordered My First Chinese Words, a series  for kindergarten and 1st grade learners with no prior exposure to Chinese. The set of 36 size-appropriate storybooks was a great introduction to the language and thereafter, we moved into My First Chinese Reader, a student-centric 4-volume, 48 lesson, curriculum that builds Chinese language and culture skills in a spiral-up approach.  When we first began our journey I honestly knew very little about teaching a foreign language.  Previously, my only experience was as a student myself.  Since then, I have learned a lot. The biggest impact, however, was changing tutors, a change that was brought about by our move.

What We Do Now

My kiddos meet with their language tutor (a native speaker) twice a week for an hour each.  Presently, they work with him one-on-one for an hour each session.  Thus, they each receive two hours of direct instruction each week.  Occasionally (generally once a month), when we do cultural activities, we join together in a small group. I love these days because I get to be a part of the lesson as well!

my first chinese reader老师 Shawn introduces each new lesson using the illustrated story in the textbook.  Sometimes he makes special activities related to the illustration that engage the kids in the vocabulary and get them moving physically – role play, games, drawing activities, etc.  For homework, he asks the kids to use the illustration vocabulary to create a conversation of their own.  The next session, they review the homework and move on to the activities in the text or additional activities that he has developed.  The workbook and textbook challenge activities are assigned over the weekend. Often they are also expected to practice reading aloud the conversation they composed earlier in the week.

If the written work is complete and time allows, the kids are expected to review their vocabulary words (they are encouraged to make and use flashcards in a variety of games).  Ideally, they are supposed to do Mandarin daily for at least 30 minutes each day.  Admittedly, this doesn’t always happen and as you can suspect, many times they wait until the last moment to complete their assignments – failing to review past vocabulary.

What We Will Do Next

When we were in China, we came to realize that while the kids have a strong grasp of vocabulary and can recognize perhaps hundreds of characters, they lack the ability to put these skills to work in real life.  This is in part due to their age and personality.  My son is more outgoing and though it took him a few days to feel comfortable, he engaged in numerous conversations in Chinese with local people we met during our travels.  My daughter, on the other hand, was more reserved.  I should have expected this because she is quiet and shy at home.  As a result, she spoke very little but was very helpful in providing me with the correct pronunciation for phrases that I needed – addressing the taxi driver, asking for directions, etc.

Upon our return home, 老师 Shawn was not surprised to learn of this and we discussed it in great detail as we planned the next academic year.  Our desire is to increase the practical application of their language skills and to encourage them to communicate more regularly with one another.  In addition, we will be incorporating reading assignments and oral presentations.

discovering chinese proWhile Better Chinese has materials for all grade levels, they recently released a new app for their upper level materials, Discovering Chinese.  Lessons in Discovering Chinese parallel the lesson progress in My First Chinese Reader, so students who began their Chinese learning with the My First Chinese Reader series can easily switch to Discovering Chinese once they enter middle school.  I love the flexibility of the new app – it provides a wealth of activities to practice their budding skills in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.  To learn more about the program, I have reviewed the app in more detail here, We Are Loving Discovering Chinese Pro.

I am excited about the possibilities that these new tools and our new approach will bring to our language curriculum.  I am confidant that so long as I stay persistent, their confidence and thereby their fluency will improve dramatically.


The bloggers of iHN are sharing how they teach their children at home. Browse other topics in the link up, How I Teach, and find the posts that best suit your situation.

Kidflix Global: Movies for Foreign Language Learning

As television and film have come to play so large a part in the daily life of most Americans, it is only natural that we would consider using movies as a teaching tool.  My experience with foreign movies and cartoons has convinced me that films can be one of the best tools for learning a language by enriching a student’s background, developing understanding, and creating sympathy for people living in foreign countries.  There are  online resources for foreign films, but finding them is not always easy.

foreign language movies

While attending Norway Day in San Francisco earlier this year, we learned of a wonderful resource for foreign language learning, KidFlix Global. Having discovered that there are many exceptional films being produced in other countries suited to family audiences, KidFlix Global has created a film rental club as a portal to a broader vision of the world providing families in the U.S. the opportunity to see these foreign movies for children.

Through the powerful and accessible medium of film and great stories, we can open eyes, open minds, and open hearts, and inspire a flourishing global community. What I love about these foreign movies for children is that the audio track is in the language of the country of origin with optional English subtitles. This is a great way for children to immerse themselves in another language.

At Norway Day, I picked up two Norwegian films, “Magic Silver” and “Wolf Summer”. Thus far, we have only watched “Magic Silver” and both of my children (ages 10 and 8) loved the film. It is about a small community of blue gnomes (or Nisse in Norwegian) who live deep in the mountains of Norway and are in charge of bringing daylight to earth each day. Their community possesses the magic silver that creates the magic of daylight.

Norwegian Children's Movies

One day, the magic silver is stolen by the Red Gnomes and the earth is plunged into darkness. Princess Bluerose, the daughter of the Gnome King, must overcome her fears in order to save the life of her beloved father and rescue the world from eternal darkness. She sets out on a remarkable journey with a young companion, conquers her timidity, and learns the essential lesson “when you take away, in exchange, you must always give something back.”

Teaching Tips

The first time we watched the film, we watched with the English subtitles. When we watch it again, we will turn off the subtitles to immerse ourselves in the language. Though we have not yet began a formal study of Norwegian, we already recognize a few phrases and words. With more exposure, I know the kids will enjoy pursuing Norwegian as another language.

Another way to utilize foreign films for language learning is to show students only short segments of the film and to focus on vocabulary and comprehension.  Movies and short clips allow the learner to see body rhythm and speech rhythm through the use of authentic language and speed of speech in various situations. Movies allow contextual clues to be offered and can stimulate and motivate student interest.

While watching movies alone will NOT make you fluent in that language, it certainly helps you hear how the language is actually applied in real life. It helps a lot with oral comprehension, and is a great way to learn the country’s slang and colloquialisms; which you often don’t find in textbooks and learning packages.

I encourage everyone to check out the foreign movies for children available at KidFlix Global. They presently have movies from several countries including Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. They provide options to purchase, rent, or view films via live streaming.  As a special thank you to my readers, KidFlix Global is offering my readers a special discount ~ two DVD movies for the special price of $25 and free shipping!  To take advantage of this special offer, simply enter the promo code AVERAV.

Kidflix Global

I was not compensated for this review.  I purchased the DVDs myself because they appealed to me and they fit our current curriculum.  The opinion shared here is honest and is solely my own.

Lunar New Year :: 农历新年

As students of Mandarin, we celebrate Chinese or Lunar New Year.  The biggest event during Chinese New Year is the family dinner on the eve of the lunar new year.  The dinner consists of dumplings (represents wealth), fish (for abundance), and new year cake (for prosperity).  Children receive ‘red envelopes’ or (Hóngbāo 红包) with money inside as blessings.


Chinese New Year is a time when families and friends wear new clothes from head to toe (symbolizes a new beginning in the new year) and greet each other. Traditionally, people would set off firecrackers to scare off the mythical beast called Nian 年.

This year, the kids learned a song as well (sang to the tune of Ol’ My Darling). It was such a fun lesson. We had earlier learned to sing Silent Night in Mandarin and thereby we had that melody in our heads, causing us to goof up occasionally (hence his comment at the end of the video).


新年好呀, 新年好呀


我们唱歌, 我们跳舞


xīn nián hǎo ya
xīn nián hǎo ya,    xīn nián hǎo ya
zhù hè dà jiā xīn nián hǎo
wǒ men chàng gē,    wǒ men tiào wǔ
zhù hè dà jiā xīn nián hǎo

Happy New Year
Happy new year, happy new year
Wish you all a happy new year
We sing and we dance
Wish you all a happy new year