We are nearing the end of kindergarten and Samantha’s first year of Mandarin. I have been nothing short of floored by the progress her and her classmates have made. Their accents are flawless, they read traditional characters, and they are no longer allowed to speak English in their Chinese classroom. For most of the year, English to each other was tolerated, but no more. And they don’t need it. And, since it’s my blog and I get to brag if I want, Samantha was chosen as one of eight students to participate in an LAUSD immersion language program conference. They’ll be performing a lion dance and speaking a little to show how amazing the program is. She’s a smartie.
As summer approaches though, I’ve been a little concerned she might lose ground. I’ve signed her up for a two week summer program in Chinese, and hopefully she’ll have some time to play with the older neighbor girl next door who speaks, but we have a crazy summer planned and I’m afraid she might lose some of it, especially compared to her classmates who speak Mandarin at home.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to test drive My First Chinese Reader iBook for our iPad. It’s created by Better Chinese, the company that makes the online learning program Sammy uses in school. I love this learning tool.
Samantha loves the animated lessons which are like the ones she’s been seeing all year. She also loves the review quizzes at the end of the lessons. She does like getting things right. :)
What I love about it the most is the vocabulary section. It’s something I’ve felt has been lacking this year, and I know it’s because that’s not how they’re teaching our kids Chinese, by having them memorize vocab words, but as a non-speaking parent, it really helps me out to know what words she’s picking up in the lessons. I also love that there is a speaker button for each word, so I don’t butcher it trying to pronounce the pinyin. It will be a way I can make sure she’s hearing correct Mandarin over the summer.
Since our school uses the online Better Chinese program, the lessons are all review for her at this point. I think that’s fine to keep her skills up over the summer, but she’s not going to learn a lot of new material from this iBook. It’s basic things like fruit, numbers, how to say your name, hello, and goodbye, so older children may not be very interested in it. It is volume 1, and I imagine that means there are more volumes planned, however.
The other great thing is that Samantha enjoys it. She wants to work with it every day. And her sisters want to see too, so they’re being exposed to Mandarin. They’ve already picked up a few words from Samantha, so I hope this will encourage them to learn some more.
If your child is in a Mandarin immersion program, I think this is a great learning tool to help them during the school year as well as keep them going in the summer. It’s available at the iTunes store and is certainly something I’m glad I have.