Learning Chinese online is one of the great advantages of modern life. With advanced technology, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips, but navigating the world of the Internet to find safe and meaningful learning for your children can be tricky. There is risk involved with letting your children look through the Internet alone to find information, so please supervise them when using certain tools. Let’s look at a few Chinese learning tools that will enrich their online learning and discuss the pros and cons of them.
Your kids and you are probably already very familiar with YouTube, and know the quickest ways to watch LOL or Minecraft videos, but you may not be aware that it can also be a great educational tool. A quick search of “Mandarin Chinese” can lead you to many videos, and once you have found some that you like, you can subscribe to those channels for more of the same. YouTube is not safe for unsupervised use by children, but together, you can watch pronunciation videos, learn new songs that will help introduce new vocabulary, and you can even watch their favorite American shows in Mandarin. Some channels that we would recommend are: Lingo Bus, which has a variety of leveled songs and other content to help your child practice their skills; Chinese Buddy, which has many humorous songs and videos; and Fun, Fun Elmo, which is great for younger children. Beyond that, you can find videos of the legendary Monkey King, or watch shows like the Octonauts in simplified Chinese. Also, if your child has questions about Chinese culture or animals, YouTube is a quick way to find results. If you want to practice pronunciation, Yoyo Chinese is quite helpful. Again, YouTube is best for supervised use.
An easy way to practice learning on the go is through apps. As Chinese grows in popularity, new apps are developed every day. Depending on your child’s age and skill level, you can find an app that will challenge him or her while also keeping his/her interest. The Lingo Bus app has leveled readers that kids can read along with a native speaker, or record with their own voice (and get pronunciation feedback via speech recognition). There are also flashcards and songs to practice with and listen to.
Some other apps that you might find useful are: learn Chinese, Hello Chinese, iHuman Chinese, PinPin, Duolingo, and Chineasy. While some apps focus mainly on learning characters, others have speech recognition to encourage correct pronunciation, like the Lingo Bus app. The benefit to apps is that your child can more safely use them alone, after you have approved them and taught your child how they work.
Though not every library has these resources, many libraries have online subscriptions to language-learning programs. Again, some of the programs are geared toward younger children and will be at a more basic level, while others will be more appealing to an older user. You can look on your library’s website or ask your librarian if they have access to any of the following programs: Mango Languages, Transparent, Pronunciator, or Rosetta Stone. If your library does not have subscriptions, it is possible that a nearby library will allow you to get a card and use their online resources. The pro of these resources is that they are definitely educational and safe for children to use without direct supervision. The con is that not every library has access, and that not all the programs are suitable for every age and ability level.
The Pinterest craze may have subsided some, but there are still many resources for parents. You can find pin boards for Chinese printables, pin boards for unique activities that you can use to teach your child characters, and even pins for Chinese culture. If you have never used Pinterest, or have given up the habit, this might be a good reason to look into it. Pinterest is not a resource that children can use on their own, but can be a great tool for parents who want creative ideas for enriching their child’s learning. Please visit Lingo Bus’s Pinterest site for some great information on Chinese holidays, the 24 solar terms, and some kids’ recipe ideas, among other things.
Streaming Services (Netflix, etc.)
Netflix and other subscription services are not free to use, but you might already have a subscription. Why not use it as a learning tool as well? Many popular children’s shows have the option for Mandarin audio and you can also choose to display subtitles in English or in Mandarin. If you are searching for new titles, it is easiest on a computer, rather than on a mobile device. The Netflix website allows you to search for videos with Mandarin audio. You can create a profile for your child’s Chinese videos and add videos such as: Magic School Bus, Green Eggs and Ham, Minecraft, and My Little Pony, which all have audio in Mandarin as an option. Who knew that Minecraft could help your child learn Chinese? The benefit to this option is that your child will already have an interest in their favorite shows. The downside is that they might initially find it frustrating to not be able to understand everything that is said. This activity can expose your child to the sound of Chinese and help them to develop an “ear” for the tones and the for the sound of natural speech. They will be more passive learners though, and this is not an effective tool on its own. Encourage your child to repeat phrases, write down new words they learn, or listen for words they recognize to making learning more active.
Other Web Resources
These websites are only the tip of the Internet iceberg. There are literally millions of other options, including: SlideShare, Coursera (more suited for older kids wanting a challenge), and Facebook (which has a number of groups geared toward parents of Chinese learners), among others. With each new resource, always check it yourself before allowing your child to use it. If you find or know of some other great resources that we missed, please add them in the comments! We always like to hear your ideas and input. Also, what are some ways you keep your children safe while exploring technology?
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