This blog comes to us courtesy of Hao Mama, an American woman who lives with her Chinese husband and their two children in San Francisco, where she is on "a never-ending quest to find and share resources that make learning Chinese a fun and organic part of our children’s lives."
Two years ago when I got my iPhone, I searched for decent educational apps that could support my kids’ Chinese learning. They were few and far between, and mostly developed by Westerners for non-Chinese speakers to teach basic vocabulary. In recent months, I have followed tips I read on Twitter (thanks @lantaumama!) or on blogs and, ever since the iPhone was introduced in China, it seems the market has expanded and improved. These are a few of our favorites so far (this post will be a work in progress so please send in any tips of programs I may have missed!):
– Rye Studio: A series of animated stories, with the option to switch between English, Japanese and Mandarin. By far, the best, most engaging and professional Chinese app I have seen. They are cheap, several are free, and my kids love them. Mulan and the Monkey King are favorites and can be downloaded here.
– Apple Tree Books: Illustrated books including classics like the Hare and the Tortoise, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, etc. They have an option to read it yourself or have it read to you, which is nice for beginning readers. Not quite as sophisticated as Rye Studio but good nonetheless.
– FeedMe Chinese: A favorite with my three-year-old, the program asks simple questions about colors, shapes, numbers, etc and the child must drag the correct answer into the mouth of a silly purple monster. If the answer is correct, the monster gives a happy whoop. If it’s wrong, he spits it out and looks dejected and sad. Very cute.
– Just as I was finishing this post, I received an email about a new Chinese reading app, Catch Me if You Can, which is a fun character recognition game, where students have to “catch” the correct characters to recreate a sentence. My six-year-old tried it and was hooked right away. The only downside (for us) is that the versions using simplified characters are very limited. (I emailed the developer and she said they are planning more versions with simplified characters soon.)
– 5Qchannel: A great storytelling website has just started creating iPhone apps. I haven’t tried them yet but the content on their site is quite good.
– Doodle Chinese teaches basic vocabulary in three categories: Animals, Numbers and Greetings then offers quizzes with cute drawings to test your knowledge and expands to more complicated conversations. Good for a new learner.
– ABC Chinese: A simple flashcard application to teach basic vocabulary。
For my six-year-old, the best writing practice is simply the Chinese character touchpad input screen on the iPhone 4, where he can draw a character with his finger and it magically converts it into type.
Some others I have seen but not yet tried:
– Chinese children’s songs. Frankly, I don’t dare download it since I know my daughter will want to listen to nothing else. But it looks good for those whose kids are learning the standard Chinese children’s songs. And it’s free.
I don’t have an iPad so haven’t included any apps that just work on tablets. Beatrix Potter storybooks, in English and Chinese, with the original illustrations, look great but are only for iPads.
For those without smart phones, Childroad is a nice Chinese story and reading website.
Got some pointers for Hao Mama? Add them to the comments section of her original post here.