Technology can be useful to support learning so I am not entirely opposed to apps as long as children use technology with the right intentions.
I started looking into Chinese learning apps after Kai finished Book 5 of 四五快读。 I wanted introduce an alternative way to review Chinese characters beyond what we already do using flashcards and levelled readers. Emma from lahlahbanana was the wise friend who recommended 洪恩识字. Her comparision between 洪恩识字 (iHuman) and another hugely popuarly app 悟空认字 gives a very detailed overview if you are trying to decide between the two. I’ve linked her blogpost (here)
I will be covering the following on this blog:
- Basic features on the mainstreen of 洪恩识字
- Tips on using this section
- Tip 1: Skip the characters that your child has mastered
- Tip 2: Shut off the 玩 section if needed
- Tip 3: Practice writing the characters from the printable worksheets
- Tip 4: Reinforce stroke names and stroke order using the app
- Tip 5: Review at a glance in 字库
- Bonus Feature- 汉子天地. *** must read!
- Tips on using 汉子天地. *** must read!
- Tip 6: Ask your child to repeat after each character during the mini-game
- Tip 7: Use printables to continue practicing strokes / radicals offline
- Tip 8: Use printable to support reading and sentence-making OFFLINE
1. Basic Features on the mainscreen of 洪恩识字
Number of Levels
To start, below is the main screen which features the first 1-200 characters from the first level. Many of the characters overlap the ones from 四五快读. The characters get progressively more difficult as you move towards the end of the spectrum. After every 5 characters, there is a game for review, and after every 10 characters, the child must read a levelled book which incorporates previously learned characters. Kai is currently on Level 5, and below are some snapshots of the characters in each level. I am currently unable to unlock Level 6, which is the final level in 洪恩识字
These are the characters in the next few levels
4 ways to learn
There are 4 interactive components for learning each Chinese character: 玩，认，练，写 which another blogger, Mandarin Homeschool (here) has blogged extensively about.
My favorite section by far is the 认 section, which aligns with my philosophy of using pictures (in this case animation) to associate a character with its meaning. I obtained many ideas for my 四五快读 cards from this.
If you click on 古 section in the top right hand corner, you will see a diagram of how each character evolved from ancient Chinese. This is one section that other blogs on 洪恩识字 did not mention!
2. Tips on using this section:
Tip 1: Skip the characters that your child has mastered
Initially, when I introduced the app, I went onto the SETTINGS section to check which characters would be too easy for Kai. I clicked on the ones that for sure Kai has mastered and skipped them.
Here is how to skip certain characters:
Tip 2: Shut off the 玩 section if needed
I shut off the 玩 section when we first started, and left 认，练，写 for Kai and Kei to play with. Eventually, I turned it back on so that we won’t speed through each character so quickly!
Tip 3: Practice writing the characters from the printable worksheets
It would be waste to just use 洪恩识字 online without encouraging your child to practice writing physically on paper as well. You can actually download practice sheets for each level from the app!
I’m not a fan of these practice sheets so instead, I have written the characters for Kai to write in his Chinese grid book. This is just one way I have managed Kai to practice Chinese without worksheets. He wrote individual characters, and eventually practiced writing phrases which I took directly from the app. (Do check out my blog (here ) “How we practice writing Chinese at home without any worksheets” )
Tip 4: Reinforce stroke names and stroke order
In the 写 section，you can have your child name each stroke, and then practice on the whiteboard alongisde the app.
Tip 5: Review at a glance in 字库
The 字库 section in the bottom right hand corner provides a great way to review all the Chinese characters that your child has learned so far at a glance. It minisises the distractions on the main screen, and as you click on each character, the app reads it out for you.
Tip 6: Use the books to review by turning off the audio
Recently, I realized that I should actually go back to the easier levels and have Kai read the levelled books to me as a review of his previously learned characters!
3. Bonus Feature: 汉子天地
Recently, I discovered a section on the app 洪恩识字 that teaches radicals in a clear way using animations and games, so I decided to go back and reteach Kai Chinese radicals more symmetrically.
汉子天地 is the section that I absoutely LOVE. It is such a gem to have discovered a fun and meaningful way to teach 笔画，笔顺 and 部首 in 洪恩识字。
偏旁部首 is a brilliant section that teaches the meaning and usage of the following Chinese radicals:.
Each Chinese radical is introduced using an animation/chant, game, and practice. The animation / chant is fantastic in that it explains the meaning of the radical in a catchy way. Radicals are building-blocks that give clues to the meaning of the Chinese characters, and because of this portion of the app, I am enjoying learning them together with Kai.
笔画知识 is another feature in 汉子天地 that helps children learn the names of the strokes, and stroke order.
Each stroke features 4 animations： 笔画 to learn the strokes in isolation, and 例字： 3 examples of characters that incorporate that particular stroke. All these are useful in helping a child recognize and write each Chinese stroke, and its stroke order.
4. Tips on using 汉子天地
Tip 6: Ask your child to repeat after each character during the mini-game
Tip 7: Use printables to continue practicing strokes / radicals offline
After discovering the 汉字天地 section，I created this template to help both of us remember the names and forms of the radicals. I had Kai write the radicals on its own first, and then went back to incorporate examples of characters that have each radical.
Here is a list from Twinkl that shows the examples of characters for each bushou:
Here is an example of how I use my other printable to help Kai learn his strokes:
Downloads can be found here:
Tip 8: Use printable to support reading and sentence-making OFFLINE
I have recently printed these packages out which have all the characters from the app listed in order as well as the sample sentences. I thought this is a great way to continue practicing offline. You can read the characters and sample sentences with your child and get them to make their own. You can have your child practice writing these sentences as well.
For those who have already downloaded 洪恩识字，I hope this blogpost has inspired you to go back to explore other parts of the app that you may have missed. For others who are still thinking about purchasing the app, this is one of my essential Chinese learning resources that has inspired me to create other writing activites to supplement my children’s studies. Writing Chinese has always been about traditional, rote forms of learning. Children grudingly toiled with writing without embracing the true essence of what they were learning. But now with technology and creative tools available, children can really thrive and gain a mulit-dimensional understanding of character writing… all of this in a fun and interactive way!
Do check out my other blogposts on Chinese-learning:
- How we practice writing Chinese at home without using any worksheets
- Supporting sentence-writing using predictable books- Odonata series
- Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template
- My favorite Chinese storybooks with a “magical” element
- Ms. Claudia’s 10 Mandarin-pop songs for kids
- B-I-N-G-O for Reading!
- Using 四五快读
- A review of 2 major Chinese learning platforms- “Lingobus” and “KoalaKnow” PART 1