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!

Looking Back on My Years with VIPKID

Nearly two years ago, I signed my first contract with VIPKID. My original intent was simply to make a little extra money.  Our family aimed to live a debt-free life and we were intent on paying off our mortgage.

I also expected to develop a broader perspective of the world of education. Yet, I had no idea just how much it would change my life. While it started out as a side hustle to earn extra cash, I have fallen in love with teaching all over again.

Rediscovery

I first began my teaching career as a student teacher when I was yet in college. Since then, I have volunteered to teach aboard (summer 1993 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), served as an elementary science specialist,  and taught every grade but high school. I have been a substitute teacher and currently teach professional development courses online for other educators.

I have taught homeschool co-ops and have lead hundreds of students on nature walks. I have also worked in informal education settings – teaching natural sciences at the estuarine reserve and marine life center. And would you believe, I am now my son’s Scoutmaster?! 

I have focused so much of my energies on homeschooling my own children in recent years that I have missed having direct interaction with students and the fulfillment that comes from cultivating those relationships. VIPKid has helped me rediscover this joy. 

I don’t invest my time and energy into something just because it’s a job. I do it because it’s my passion. I must admit though, working from home in the comfort of my favorite pair of leggings is pretty hard to beat. 

Personal notes from my students

Building relationships

To build a rapport with my students, I generally spend the first few minutes of the class intentionally getting to know my students. This is especially important with students I have not taught before. I ask probing questions to learn about their interests. 

As I leave feedback for parents, I ask for input about how I can customize  lessons to better suit their child. I am a more effective if I am able to make the lessons more personal. I believe strongly that this personal touch and extra care for the families with whom I interact has helped me to develop a close friendship with several of the parents of my students.

Through conversations we have shared over time, either through the VIPKid platform or through WeChat,  we have discussed not only their child’s education, but we have also shared insights about our unique cultures, traditions, and beliefs.

My own children have been learning Mandarin Chinese since they were in preschool and as a family, we traveled to China in 2013.  I am familiar with the culture yet the relationships I have developed with my VIPKid families has enriched my life exponentially.

Are you seeking employment?

If you have a bachelor’s degree (no matter the content area) and experience working with children, I strongly encourage you to consider VIPKid. The hiring process has been simplified and there are a wealth of resources to help you get started.

I would love to help coach you along the way. My personal referral code is EVA000007 – reach out to me with any questions.

Learning Mandarin with Middlebury Interactive

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:

A:你好!你好吗?

B:你好!我很好。你呢?

A:我马马虎虎。你今天穿什么衣服?

B:我今天穿牛仔裤,灰色的衬衫,咖啡色的夹克,和一双黑色鞋子。你呢?

A:我今天穿黑色的裤子,蓝色和黑色的上衣,和一双白色的鞋子。我昨天穿衣服很美丽。我昨天穿很多颜色的套装和一双白色的鞋子。我昨天也戴白色的围巾。你喜欢吃西瓜?

B:我爱吃西瓜。再见!

A:再见!

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.