- Language options (Simplified/Traditional, Cantonese/Mandarin!)
- Theme-based characters
- Speaking component
- Mini-games/ interactive elements to consolidate learning
- Real children’s voices
- Curriculum that will continue to expand
I often get asked why, being Cantonese myself, I do not teach my children to read and write Cantonese in Traditional Chinese? There are just many more resources in Singapore that support a child learning Mandarin in simplified form. Online bookstores, Taobao, all sell books in Simplified Chinese. Games and apps that we’ve found to be engaging and well-designed are also only available in Mandarin and Simplified Chinese… that is until we came across Maomi Stars (HERE), which is a game-changer for those searching online Cantonese resources in Traditional Chinese!
What are some things I love about Maomi Stars
1. Language option (Simplified/Traditional, Cantonese/Mandarin)
This is a big deal for my family because my boys can only read Simplified characters in Mandarin. Maomi Stars is the only app out there that allows Cantonese to be learned in Simplified characters. This presents an excellent opportunity for me to introduce Cantonese to my children in Simplified Chinese without confusing them.
Here is a short clip of Kei, my 5 years old, speaking Cantonese and playing one of the games in Simplified Chinese.
I just want to add that if you don’t understand Cantonese or Mandarin yourself, you can adjust the audio instructions to English!
2. Theme-based characters
Under the premium membership, I have access to three of the currently available curriculums. My kids are working on one of the curriculums called MAOMI 2021 Collection. It contains 335 theme-based words that are appropriate for 4-7 years old.
Here are the current themes in this curruclum:
- Facial Actions
- Body Actions
- Body parts
Each theme contains around 20 words. Below is a sample of the characters from the first few themes:
It is such a great idea to clump characters together by themes, especially for children who are learning Cantonese as a second language. It makes sense to tackle one theme at a time.
Below is the word list from the CALENDAR theme which I find to be practical because it contains words that a child would need to describe time.
I love that you don’t have to learn the themes or characters IN ORDER! You can jump to different characters/themes according to your needs. This is, again, different from how the characters are set on 洪恩识字 .
Another curriculum I really think works for younger kids is the SImple Strokes Collection, which groups their characters by the number of strokes. This is ESPECIALLY helpful when getting my kids to write. I can start from 1-3 strokes, and work my way up. I’ll explain more in a later section how I usually pair apps with Chinese writing.
3. Speaking component
I LOVE that the app requires the child to SPEAK! This is one feature that I wish 洪恩识字 had. If you have come across my IG stories, my boys respond well to apps that require them to repeat after the sentence, or record their own voices. They seemed to think it’s a requirement of the game, and that they would not be able to move on unless they practice speaking!
If your child finds it difficult to pronounce the characters accurately, you can even adjust the sensitivity level, which is what I’ve done for my kids.
I find this speaking feature to be especially helpful for my boys. I have witnessed it myself that they are trying so hard to pronounce each character in Cantonese. I am confident that with time, they will be able to associate the Simplified Chinese character with its Cantonese pronuncation.
4. Mini-games/ interactive elements to consolidate learning
What is a kid-friendly app without games! Just like 洪恩识字, Maomi stars has games to incentivize children to learn Cantonese characters.
The LISTENING game is straightforward. The child listens to the audio and selects the right character.
The WRITING feature is fantastic as well as the child needs to follow the kitty cat in the right stroke order. I do wish that each stroke could be named as the child glides their finger along the lines!
LEARNING TIPS: Maximize the writing feature of Maomi Stars to encourage writing. Have your child select which characters they want to practice. Follow the characters on the app, and then do it again on another surface such as a whiteboard.
What you can do to support Chinese writing, which has worked wonders in our home recently, is to have your child choose the characters they want to work on, write them into the Chinese grid book, and practice following the stroke order indicated on the app. Kai has been choosing 7 characters each time and practicing them in his notebook and on the dining table until he is ready to move on to the next set. This will work very well with Maomi Stars as well!
And recently, I even started Kei on this writing routine!
In return for the games your child plays, they win items such as different cakes that they can use to enter the PLAYROOM to interact with the kittens!
As your child wins more stars, they also get to explore other parts of Maomi Land to play games that consolidate learning:
5. Real children’s voices
Instead of hiring professional voice actors/actresses, Maomi stars hosted a competition when it first launched and found 14 Chinese-English bilingual children to do the voices of the app’s kittens. As a result, those Mandarin and Cantonese voices are from real children! What a brilliant idea, as it makes the kitties so relatable for kids trying to learn the target language. It is important for children to see other children speaking Cantonese, whether it be YouTube videos, neighbors chit-chatting, adults interacting, or voices from an avatar!
6. Curriculum that will continue to expand
As mentioned earlier, Maomi Stars currently has 3 curricula. They can be selected from the SETTINGS page. We are currently working on the first one, which is Maomi 2021 Collection.
The other curriculums include: :
It is amazing that the developer is planning to expand the curriculum to accommodate families with different needs! I believe that a Pokemon theme is currently being created. It also has plans to include characters from SAGE or other Chinese curricula!
I am convinced that technology enhances language learning. Technology helps to motivate learners to use their non-native languages that are not accessible in their home country, such as learning Cantonese in Singapore. Online classes mostly offered in North America never can fit our time zones, and Cantonese resources do not exist in bookstores here. With limited options available to us, I’m thankful that my Chinese homeschooling journey has taken my family on a non-traditional route to allow technology to integrate with language learning at home, keeping in mind that an app can only beyond passive learning when parents are actively seeking opportunities to maximize learning.
If your child’s school is teaching Chinese using traditional methods, apps like Maomi Stars could add a fun component to learning at home. When Chinese learning is enjoyable, it’s a win-win for children and parents.
Emma fromLlahlahbanana also wrote a great blog post reviewing the features of Maomi Stars HERE. Be sure to check it out!
Here are my other Chinese-learning posts:
- Maximizing 洪恩识字 to learn Chinese (7 tips and printables)
- How we practice writing Chinese at home without using any worksheets
- Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template
- Supporting sentence-writing using predictable books- Odonata series
- My favorite Chinese storybooks with a “magical” element
- Ms. Claudia’s 10 Mandarin-pop songs for kids
- Helping my kids learn Chinese, English and Japanese through picture and sound association