There are many parents who are opposed to children using any kind of apps for entertainment or learning. This is understandable considering there are many studies that have proven how ineffective and addicting iPad apps can be. From an educator’s perspective, most apps place the child into a passive mode of learning- even the interactive apps have the child passively sitting in front of a digital device answering questions or swiping left to right. There are literally tens of thousands of ‘educational apps’ out there. If parents decide to select an app for their child’s learning, they must be clear on what their goal is in having their child use that particular app.
I have some reservations about letting my children use apps to learn. However, there are currently 2 apps that I have been using with benefits that I have witnessed so far. One of which is a Chinese character learning app called MagikidChinese
At home, my child’s experience with learning Chinese is a positive one. Learning Chinese characters is always associated with playing games, spending time together and having fun. my son is an active child who responds well to kinesthetic learning, so one of his favorite games is using flashcards to make highways. As his car passes by the cards, he reads out each character.
However, as his vocabulary increases, the characters get more complicated, and I need other ways to deepen his impression of new Chinese characters, and to enhance his visual memory. That is when I decided to look into Chinese learning apps. I downloaded around 5 apps but there was only one that I kept and paid for.
There are 4 modes of learning: Flashcards, Story, Games and Song, all of which help reinforce the learning of new vocabulary.
Here are some reason why I like this app:
The Chinese characters are NOT presented as theme-based word list, but rather, as commonly-use words. For instance, 火 (fire)，星 (star)，口 (mouth)，它 (it)，气 (air)，空 (empty) are not chosen by theme, and not related to each other. They are, though, commonly found in children’s stories.
The Chinese characters are presented as collocations 固定搭配. Collocations refer to a group of words that habitually appear together. For example, the character 口 (mouth) is followed by the word 窗口 (window)
A story is read out to the child with the key vocabulary highlighted so the child gets to learn how it is used in context.
GAMES (There are 3 sets of mini-games)
It starts with a simplest VISUAL recognition game where the child drags the character to the box that is read out, with pinyin on top (for those who can already read) It gives hint when the wait time is too long.
In the next game, child must drag the same set of characters to a box where it is used in context. They must LISTEN for the right word (there is no pinyin)
It like how it progresses to the 3rd game where the child has to drag the entire phrase (with the key character embedded) up to the box. The child learns to listen to the pronunciation, as well as identify the Chinese character in a new context.
- The target characters are sung in a song. This again put the words in a slightly different context that is both authentic and interesting for children.
- Update as of April 2020: This karaoke aspect of this app is probably anticipated part of the night! My son and I have SO much fun singing those Chinese songs (well, me singing, he trying to sing the lyrics). Some are such a hit that we have gone back to listen and sing them many many times until my son has memorised the song!
Some suggestions when using this app to learn Chinese:
- I taught the words before letting my son use the app. The reason for that is, I don’t think practicing each exercise once will enable a child to learn the characters. You would have to at least repeat each game several times, which is not ideal because of the amount of screentime that would be required to master the set of characters. I pre-teach by making real flashcards, and using them in games. Here is a great post on 15 Simple Flashcards Games
- I only do one module every few days, so 6 characters are introduced in every module, and I repeat the mini-games until Kai is familiar. Sometimes, I go back to previous games to see whether he still remembers
- This app is more suitable for children who already understand some Chinese. Otherwise, the songs, the stories would not be helpful!
- This app is probably best for ages 3 and up
Language learning is a long journey, and it helps when it is fun and interactive. If you are open-minded to let your child use iPad apps, do give this a try.
Updates: I have actually explored several more Chinese learning apps that are definitely worth an App store visit. Will post soon and link it here.
2 thoughts on “Apps to reinforce Chinese learning that kids enjoy”
Agree with pre learn the characters with real flash cards. This app is more of an enforcement tool for kids who already have a decent vocabulary. I look forward to your next post