Updated: Feb 7
With school out are you struggling to keep up your childs Mandarin learning? Technology could help. No doubt your child’s Chinese teachers will have their own favourite animated books, podcasts, apps, movies and Chinese “readers”, or books for early-stage learners, to recommend. But here are some of our favourite resources to keep little Mandarin learners ticking over:
This online learning tool works well both for students using Pinyin and those opting for Zhuyin.
Whether you like it or not, learning Mandarin requires the memorisation of lots of characters. It can be hard to do this alone. Quizlet is a mobile app that can aid in the process as it trains and tests students. Truly designed for the digital age, as well as digitally rendering paper predecessors such as flashcards and vocabulary lists, it is full of fun games and audio exercises that will blow the minds of anyone schooled more than a few years ago - for instance in “Gravity”, definitions scroll vertically down the screen in the shape of asteroids. The user must type the term that goes with the definition before it reaches the bottom of the screen.
Quizlet has become a hugely popular resource - it now boasts more than 100 million user-generated sets of digital flashcards - that allows you to track your progress in learning just about any subject, from medical students learning anatomy and Spanish students learning verbs to, of course, Mandarin students getting to grips with dozens and dozens of characters.
Pleco is an English and Chinese dictionary application for iOS and Android devices and a tool any Mandarin student shouldn't be without. Pleco can work with Pinyin, Zhuyin, English words and handwriting. It has many sets of dictionaries, (from Oxford, Longman, FLTRP, Ricci etc), audio recordings from two different native speakers, and has flashcard functions and document readers that look up words in a document. Pleco is a free application with in-app purchases, additional functions and large dictionaries (English, French, German, Mandarin, Cantonese and classical Chinese).
This website created by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan helps you learn how to write characters in the correct way. It’s a learning programme to master the stroke order of frequently used Chinese characters and covers characters radicals, Zhuyin and Pinyin while also featuring teaching resources including the basic rules of stroke order.
Google’s free service instantly translates words, phrases, and web pages between English and over 100 other languages - and these days you can use your phone’s camera to scan the Chinese script you’re looking at. This might be an obvious tool for this list but it’s surely one any modern-day Mandarin learner will want in his tool kit of resources. Google now boasts Chinese-to-English translation with near human-level accuracy, a huge advancement in artificial intelligence on just a few years ago, given the fiendish complexity of Mandarin Chinese and the many different meanings a word can take depending on which characters it is paired with.
This website shares resources for learning and teaching Chinese. Check out the free books, posters, videos, games, and much more. It also offers lessons, which feature dual-language flashcards, interactive games and quizzes. The site’s mission is to help people learn Mandarin “the fun way” - and it also offers stories, songs and videos.
Mandarin Matrix provides resources specifically designed for children learning Mandarin as a foreign language. These resources are available as printed reading books as well as online for early stage learners. The online classroom features hundreds of e-books for students to read, plus thousands of activities, games and tests. It can be used as an in-class learning tool, or at home as part of an additional learning homework program. It can be accessed anytime, anywhere and learning programs can be customised to fit each students needs and pace of learning.
The theme-based readers have 240 storybooks ranging from beginner to advanced. The readers are divided into six colour coded levels that aim to engage the student while systematically introducing new vocabulary, Chinese characters and grammar. Using a theme-based approach with over 1,600 characters that are common to most curricula worldwide, the readers start with basic vocabulary but develop through to advanced storylines based on complex historical and mythological Chinese tales.
There are also resources for students studying YCT levels 1-4, and for schools providing a dual language immersion curriculum.