After a lot of searching the Internet and asking around for best practices, we settled on a few key resources for teaching Chinese to our children. The amount of resources and choices online can be really overwhelming and paralyzing if you don’t know where to start. There are a lot of good options and none will be perfect. I was definitely in the “paralyzed” camp for awhile. Now that I’ve done the research, I realize that the key is to just pick a strategy and structure and get started.
Below are the five main resources we use:
Resource #1: A curriculum/series of books
Pick a curriculum/series of books to provide you with the structure you need to teach. This should be your starting point and you can build out from here. We chose this book series by Dr. Ma Li Ping, based on a recommendation of a friend: https://www.heritagechinese.com/. We liked this series because it begins the first few levels without pinyin. It comes in both simplified and traditional versions. We felt that our children were distracted by the pinyin and wanted to introduce it later, so this series seemed like a good fit.
Resource #2: A reliable, online reference
We use Pleco as our online dictionary/app. It is a very comprehensive app. We often need to look up words for pronunciation and confirmation of stroke order, etc. It offers pronunciation in Mandarin and Cantonese and shows traditional and simplified characteristics. This app has a lot of nice features which we haven’t even gotten to use yet (like flashcards, self-tests, clipboard readers/translators).
Resource #3: A writing practice generator
I found this website called Chinese Worksheet Generator and it is such an awesome find! It’s free, no frills, straightforward to use, and works really well. The format that it prints in happens to suit our writing needs very well. You just type in the characters that you would like your kids to practice and it spits out a perfect looking sheet, complete with stroke order, pinyin, definitions, and meaning clues (if you want). You can delete the pinyin and definitions if you don’t want them to be printed.
Resource #4: Easy exposure to Chinese language
This one is fairly new, but since Netflix has become so international, many of their children’s shows and movies are now available in various languages, both in audio and captions (though not always both). You’ll be surprised at how many of these shows are available in Chinese audio and traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles. Just three years ago, I would have to hunt YouTube and tiny library collections for these kinds of videos. The website, Mama Baby Mandarin, has a clear guide on to how to search Netflix for TV shows and movies in Chinese.
Resource #5: A guide to resources that gives you fun, optional material to supplement your lessons
As I mentioned earlier, the number of resources is very overwhelming. I found this list on Mandarin teacher’s website called “Mandarin for Me.” She has many other lessons and posts that could be helpful, but I mainly use it as my go-to place for looking up supplementary material for the kids’ lessons. The mom who made this list did a great job of listing all kinds of free, usable resources.
4/26/20 update: I just came across another great website, called Mandarin Mania that puts together as many free Chinese learning resources as possible. Material may be geared more towards older learners, but someday we will all be older. . .