Updated as of 10/11/22
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” category 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 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, fun exposure to Chinese language
Good videos in Chinese for kids learning Chinese are still a little hard to come by. By “good,” I mean that the story or content is interesting or entertaining for the kids *and* that the audio is slow and clear enough for learners to follow. Here are a few that we have used:
Netflix for Chinese Learning
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.
YouTube and Little Fox Stories for Chinese Learning
Little Fox Stories is an interactive children’s website for Chinese learners that also has strong video presence on YouTube. Their site has animated Chinese stories, songs, and games structured for different levels of learning. The stories come with vocabulary and interactive quizzes that are useful for learning. Their animated stories themselves are best viewed on YouTube. Not all the stories are equally good, but as intermediate-level learners, we have watched two stories so far that I highly recommend for their clear, slow narrative pronunciation, word choice, clear Chinese subtitles, and relative entertainment value:
- Journey to the West series, a classic Chinese story that is retold in a kid friendly, very well produced language-learning video series. There are alot of versions of this video on Youtube, but not all have Chinese subtitles or are even in Chinese. This link is the one that has the subtitles.
- The Jungle Book series, another kid-friendly retelling of the famous story
Muzzy and BBC programming for Chinese Learning
Muzzy – Chinese version is a BBC-produced language learning program. As part of the program, they produce a story centered around a fluffy character named Muzzy. The language learning video about Muzzy is what my kids particularly enjoyed and which I found particularly useful as another entertaining story that was carefully narrated at a pace and language level suitable for beginning to intermediate child learners. We obtained the DVDs from the library, but they are now also available digitally on many of the library apps like hoopladigital.com.