October 1st, 2005
Whether illustrating a family’s rich cultural heritage, homeschooling, or wanting to give a child a head start in school, there exists a multitude of resources for parents interested in teaching Chinese lessons. Targeting anyone between the ages of 0 to 17 (anyone who has visited a suburban mall on the weekends knows that many of its patrons fall squarely under the “child” label), a plethora of books, audio, websites, software, and other media are available to launch and supplement a Chinese education. Not every learner responds to every particular teaching method, so this list strives to show a variety of resources catering to different ages, preferences, strengths, levels of proficiency, and parental capabilities. Far more exist beyond the boundaries of this article as well, so if none of them pique an interest or seem useful it is entirely likely that something else out there will!
1. The First 100 Chinese Characters
Authors: Alison & Laurence Matthews
Though it primarily targets adults, the first volume of this particular series emphasizes exactly what the title promises. It may not necessarily target younger kids, but it certainly serves as a great beginner’s resource for high schoolers.
2. Gordon & Li Li Words for Everyday
Author: Michele Wong McSween
Two adorable little pandas illustrated by Kevin Murawski serve as guides to the first few basic words that children should know in beginner Mandarin lessons.
3. 1,000 Mandarin Chinese Words
Berlitz is one of the industry leaders in teaching children and adults alike the ins and outs of different languages, and their guide to basic Mandarin vocabulary works as an excellent, informative resource.
4. The Pet Dragon
Author: Christoph Niemann
Written and illustrated by Christoph Niemann, this delightful little story teaches the fundamental Chinese characters while simultaneously entertaining young readers.
5. Hippocrene Children’s Illustrated Chinese (Mandarin) Dictionary
Keep this detailed English/Mandarin, Mandarin/English dictionary on hand as a quick, easy-to-follow reference for children starting to learn the language.
6. Barron’s Children’s English/Chinese-Chinese/English Dictionary
3 editors bring Barron’s illustrated dictionary to an elementary school audience, providing them with another great reference book to check and double-check their vocabulary.
7. Mandarin Chinese-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary
Author: DK Publishing
For older children, this adult-oriented dictionary – complete with helpful photos and illustrations – provides a handy way to review and learn the basic words they need to communicate.
8. First Thousand Words in Chinese
Author: Heather Amery
This internet-linked book builds and strengthens Chinese vocabulary skills in kids between the ages of 4 and 8 and offers even more learning opportunities online.
9. Legend of the Chinese Dragon
Author: Marie Sellier
Children with more advanced Chinese skills can put them to the test by reading this bilingual storybook and figuring out what areas need more work.
10. The Frog in the Well
Author: Irene Y. Tsai
Another bilingual storybook aimed at kids who feel confident enough in their Chinese to test themselves on their proficiency – and enjoy Pattie Caprio’s sweet little illustrations!
11. Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes
Author: Faye-Lynn Wu
This book comes accompanied by a CD for kids to sing along with as they learn about Chinese language as well as culture.
12. Schaum’s Outline of Chinese Grammar
Author: Claudia Ross
Older kids serious about learning Chinese beyond the vocabulary-building exercises of most resources would do well to pick up this extremely useful reference on staying grammatically correct.
13. The Chinese Language for Beginners
Author: Lee Cooper
Appropriate for children young and old, Lee Cooper’s straightforward guide to beginning Chinese lessons takes a less-than-intimidating approach that comforts readers as they approach unfamiliar subject matter.
14. A Chinese Character A Day Practice Pad
Author: Philip Yungkin Lee
Practice Chinese writing skills at least once a day using this extremely handy series of lessons in properly penning the different (and necessary!) pictographs.
15. A Chinese Phrase A Day Practice Pad
Author: Sam Brier & Xia Lu
This resource follows the same concept as the one mentioned in #14, instead offering up daily lessons in the proper pronunciation and writing of phrases rather than individual characters.
16. Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary
Although designed for adults, this bilingual dictionary serves as a nice point of reference for older children hoping to galvanize their Chinese vocabulary and translate works of literature.
17. My House
Very small kids just learning to read will very much enjoy lifting the flaps of this Chris L. Demarest-illustrated book and learn the Chinese words for common items and people in their own homes.
18. Tuttle Chinese for Kids Flash Cards Kit, Vol. 1
Tuttle’s series of flash cards make for an educational way of passing a long car trip and reviewing vocabulary words gleaned from previous lessons.
19. Chinese Through Tone and Color
Author: Nathan Dummitt
Appropriate for mature junior high and high school children, this interesting method of learning emphasizing color and tone to teach the basics of the Chinese language.
Audio/Audio with Books
Singing makes for one excellent way to teach children (and adults!) a new language, and Mei Mei blends her academic teachings with spirited songs and stories for an engaging experience.
Get infants started off early when it comes to learning Chinese by exposing them to this CD and book set specially tailored to suit their educational needs.
22. Strivy Chinese
Specifically targeting children whose parents want them to learn Chinese, this CD features 2 young kids learning and teaching through a series of viable mnemonic devices.
Because music helps to stimulate language retention skills, parents hoping to teach their children the basics of Chinese should explore this CD as a possibility.
An audio set complete with an illustrated book forms a nice partnership perfect for kids age 2 and over.
This positively-reviewed CD and book pairing targets elementary school children learning Chinese as a second rather than primary language.
A Hippocrene publication by Yong Ho, these set of 2 CDs and a book is suitable for teenagers and adults alike hoping to begin learning Chinese.
Pimsleur provides in-depth, self-guided lessons appropriate for teenagers and parents or educators needing a bit of a review.
Soothe infants to sleep with the gentle strains of the Beijing Angelic Choir – it makes for a viable, immersive lesson in the Chinese language right off the bat.
This audio seminar – available as an MP3 download or a CD – teaches children Chinese lessons in a gentle, easy-to-understand manner.
A book and CD set by Kang Yuhua and Lai Siping, the Mandarin Chinese: Learning Through Conversation series targets teenagers and adults wanting to learn the language and involves nurturing basic vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills.
Another audio offering better suited for parents working with teenagers rather than infants or elementary-aged children pulls from a textbook and focuses on developing conversational and other basic skills.
Use the Colloquial Chinese series to guide teenagers through the basics of the language without any need for previous experience.
One does not need the accompanying textbook to benefit from the 14 straightforward Mandarin lessons suitable for parents and educators teaching teenagers the language.
At 1 hour and 47 minutes, the 12 very fundamental lessons contained on this CD can help parents and children alike pass the time on extended road trips in an educational manner.
Intended as a means of teaching both language as well as culture, Chinese on the Move acts as another audiobook that parents and their kids can enjoy and learn with together.
Available from the BBC, older junior high or high school students will appreciate the straightforward Chinese lessons intended for absolute beginners.
37. Everyday Chinese
Review vocabulary, phrasing, and grammar lessons with older kids using this comprehensive CD suitable for beginners.
The easy, extremely straightforward style of the Chinese for Dummies audiobooks would appeal more to older children and teenagers than the wee ones.
With 3 hours’ worth of content, Starting Out in Chinese makes for a useful audiobook for junior high and high school students beginning their language lessons.
40. My Chinese Coach
Nintendo DS owners hoping to pass the time on the train, airplane, and long car trips can pop in My Chinese Coach and stimulate their skills in the language, calligraphy, and cultural literacy.
A good choice for mature junior high or high school students, all the Rosetta Stone software programs remain some of the absolute best in the industry when it comes to foreign language instruction.
The BBC’s critically acclaimed, award-winning foreign language series for elementary-aged children provides them with a fun, educational adventure that engages their attention and speaks to them intelligently rather than condescendingly.
Beloved Nickelodeon character Kai-lan introduces very young children to the very basic tenets of Chinese language and culture – specifically, the New Year’s celebrations.
This CD-ROM activity aimed at children covers all the fundamentals of 4 different Asian languages and cultures – including, of course, Chinese.
Students in high school wanting to learn Chinese (and Japanese, of course!) may appreciate the comprehensive, straightforward lessons offered by language learning industry leaders Berlitz.
Get lessons in the fundamentals of the Chinese language with lyrical, memorable chants as well as interactive and educational games intended to teach ages 10 and up.
Appropriate for most older children, this bit of software teaches the fundamentals of Chinese through games, quizzes, and interactive spelling and pronunciation lessons in Mandarin and Pinyin.
Vocabulary Builder: Mandarin Chinese appeals to children ages 5 through 12 by strengthening their language skills through games and other activities.
Much of this software’s content targets people who want to learn the fundamentals of Mandarin in a short span of time, making it a nice supplement for more intensive lessons.
For those preferring to learn Cantonese over Mandarin, the Talk Now! series offers them the exact same features as the software with the more popular dialect.
51. IQ Chinese Quiz
Educators and parents hoping to assess the retention rate of their kids may want to pop in this simple software to quiz their knowledge and see what areas need a little bit of work.
This series takes a multitude of different approaches to kids and adults alike get started in the fundamentals of Chinese, including quizzes, recitation, role-playing, games, and more.
Intended for audiences 10 and older, Magical Chinese Characters serves as a nice resource for reviewing the basic pictographs needed to master the language.
This happy-go-lucky CD-ROM game uses animations, games, and videos to teach young children all the fundamentals of the Chinese language.
The makers of Hooked on Phonics bring kids ages 5 through 7 a comprehensive, intensive means of learning Chinese in an engaging, fun manner.
Nintendo Wii owners wanting to guide their children through fun, simple lessons in the Chinese language may want to consider this option. Featuring the beloved Kai-lan character, elementary-age children will find entertainment and education.
Focusing on Mandarin Chinese lessons for ages 4 through 12, the software packs put out by EuroTalk help to reinforce vocabulary, grammar, and other skills necessary to master the language.
Parents, educators, and older students may prefer software that exposes them to the Chinese language using immersion-style techniques.
59. Fluenz: Mandarin
Teenagers (and any parents who tag along with them!) hoping to learn Chinese may benefit from this highly respected resource – which contains not only software, but 2 CDs and podcast downloads as well. It’s an extremely intensive method of learning, but high school students are well-equipped to deal with it.
Beyond shopping for DVDs, books, and CDs, Chinese ChildBook also provides parents and educators with a few freebies to help supplement the lessons.
Listen to podcasts, browse lesson plans, buy products, and network with this thorough resource on teaching Chinese to children in grades K through 12.
ChineseforSmartKids.com provides 29 Mandarin lessons that parents and educators of 3- to 8-year-olds may download for a fee and allow their children to work at their own comfortable clip. A free demo is available, though.
63. Chinese for Kids
Download 44 simple vocabulary lessons to guide children through the pictographs and pronunciations of the most common words they’ll need to know.
64. Free Language
Suitable for older children as well as adults, Free Language provides product reviews, podcasts, software, translations, and much more for the benefit of student and teacher alike.
This incredibly comprehensive website – appropriate for teenagers, parents, and educators – provides a bevy of free downloadable references, dictionaries, and geographic and cultural guides to teach students everything there is to know about Chinese language and society.
Teachers and parents may want to check out all the available educational resources regarding Chinese New Year as a means of teaching younger children the fundamentals of the culture in addition to the language.
PBS provides some excellent ideas on how to incorporate cultural and geographic lessons about China into language studies.
Ohio State University dedicates some of its web space to helping teachers and parents find the best possible multimedia lessons to facilitate an education in the Chinese language.
Rutgers University hosts multimedia Chinese lessons in the very, very basics – making this a nice, mature, and academic starting point for teenagers.
Pop by Semanda for some great printable flash cards perfect to review children on what they have learned in their previous Chinese lessons.
University of Maine offers a few different games, flash card downloads, quizzes, and other methods of reviewing one’s proficiency in Chinese.
Play online games to bolster vocabulary and reading comprehension skills in Chinese, usually revolving around the very basic words and phrases.
73. BBC Chinese
Suitable for older children and teenagers, BBC Chinese’s fantastic games and guides serve as an excellent supplement and review resource for language lessons.
74. Min Multimedia
The more formalized online lessons cost $10 a year, but Min Multimedia also provides teachers and parents with some excellent information to supplement lessons in both the Chinese language as well as the culture and geography.
Read and stream audio files to learn the very, very basics of Pinyin and Mandarin both, written in an accessible manner suitable for beginners.
76. Learn Chinese
Teachers, parents, and students may enjoy exploring East China Normal University’s extensive array of multimedia lessons intending to teach the basics of the Chinese language.
77. I Love Chinese
Hello Mandarin hosts an excellent array of resources for most education levels, involving Chinese language, culture, and current events so students receive a well-rounded glimpse of life in another country.
With 3 levels to choose from, anyone wanting to learn Chinese via audiocast, forums, and other resources have quite a bit to take away from this website.
79. Zap Chinese
Audio and video lessons teach older children and teenagers all the fundamentals they need to move on to more intensive study in Chinese.
This DVD places the Chinese language in a broader cultural context, teaching kids both the nuances of the words as well as the society they sprang from.
All of the DVDs featuring Bao Bei the Panda introduce kids to different vocabulary sets covering all the basics.
Aimed at children around 3 years of age, this DVD introduces kids to beginner-level Chinese that also blends in history, adventure, and traditional storytelling for additional context.
Teach infants the basic tenets of the Chinese language with this DVD and flash card set that means to entertain as well as inform.
84. Culture Cubs
All of Crystal Kwok’s Culture Cubs DVDs introduce children to the fundamentals of the Chinese language as well as the culture it springs from – this particular one focuses on food, which is usually a grand place to start.
Walker and Ping Ping’s adventures entertain while simultaneously teaching children lessons about Chinese language and culture.
Parents have several Little Pim DVDs to choose from, and the one focusing on food and beverages kicks off the series. It takes an immersive approach by featuring dialogue entirely in Mandarin, though English subtitles are provided.
The very popular series of Chinese lessons with Mei Mei kicks off with lessons and songs involving common words used during playtime.
Pick up the Mom’s Choice Award-winning Follow Jade! series that exposes kids to the basics of Chinese through virtual interaction with their contemporaries across the Pacific.
Nickelodeon’s Ni Hao, Kai-Lan series teaches children Mandarin in a fun, engaging manner involving both language and cultural lessons.
First in a series, this DVD covers all the fundamentals of Mandarin in a manner that appeals mostly to young, elementary-age children.
This DVD set also comes with a book, CD, and set of flash cards to give kids the most comprehensive language and cultural education possible.
Parents wanting to learn Chinese alongside their children may want to check out this DVD which provides lessons in the language using the immersion technique.
Before taking an older child or teenager on a trip to China, have them review the basic Mandarin phrases that come in handy when traveling.
Calligraphy is an important artistic and communication tool in Chinese culture, and older kids with an interest in picking it up will find this 2-DVD set a valuable teaching tool.
Older children and teenagers holding a fascination with music would likely enjoy this series, which covers styles from all over China.
Language lessons are best supplemented by an education in different elements of the culture in question, and this one will fascinate older kids and teenagers with an interest in sports – specifically, Chinese wrestling.
97. Billy and Benboo
This gentle animated tale begins Billy and Benboo’s adventures, which also provides an excellent education in Mandarin Chinese.
98. Baby China
Aimed squarely at children learning Chinese as a second language, Baby China focuses on it as both a spoken and signed construct.
A great choice for the teenager or advanced child who wants to learn about the role Chinese-Americans play in the history of art, music, sports, and more. It illustrates how the two cultures can merge together to create something even better.
All of the entries in the Chinese Religions series make for excellent lessons illustrating the role that Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism have played in the development of Chinese culture – including language. This DVD series is best for older children and teenagers capable of thinking critically about religion.
Hopefully, parents desiring to get their kid (of any age!) started in on Chinese lessons at home can find something that dovetails swimmingly with their needs and wants. If not, be sure to scour the local bookstore or the internet for a suitable way to stoke a child’s interest in learning one of the most widely-spoken languages on planet Earth.
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