When I was a preteen, I remember going to "Chinese school" to learn the language. At the time, there were no innovative methods to teach or learn, and many Saturday afternoons were spent with friends reading "Tween" magazines, drooling over the latest rock star (Duran Duran was the choice of the day) in the back of the class while a teacher speaking very little English hoped we were going to learn the Chinese language by osmosis. I'm not sure if there was much value in those classes.
Education in general, has made some revolutionary changes, from iPads in elementary school classrooms to Mooc's (Massive Online Open Courses) that teach university level subjects. Now more than ever, learning things like a new language or how to cook bok choy is available at your fingertips.
Recently I was introduced to an app called Learn With Miao Miao, that teaches preschoolers basic Chinese words and thought this would be a great opportunity for my kids to learn Chinese while having fun.
The app was easy to use since my daughter intuitively knew to tap on the Chinese characters (the written form of the words) and watch it come to life, becoming animated objects that look like the words they represented. This, I thought, was really cool...and I finally saw the correlation between the pictures and words, and it actually helped ME to recognize Chinese characters! Something I never learned in those classes.
“Some people don't realize how many Chinese characters are based on pictures, but it is actually an age-old way for Chinese children to learn to read,” says Leo Yu He, the producer for all the Miaomiao games and television programs.
Although Learn with Miao Miao isn't set up to teach complete fluency in Chinese (it's geared toward preschoolers), it is a great start for young children. This app DID accomplish sparking an interest in my kids to learn more, and they were both eager and hopeful that a more challenging version for older kids would be available in the near future. Anything that engages my kids to start a new language learning journey is worth a try to me (and has much more value than exchanging tween heartthrob pictures at the back of a classroom).
Happy Chinese New Year!!!
Editors note: This Chinese New Year (January 31st), a free update with a new writing component will be available. Kids can trace the characters by following a lady bug or Doh Doh the dog that shows them the correct stroke order. You can find out more at learnwithmiaomiao.com or download the app here at the iTunes store.
A great big thank you to Christine at Mark Animation for introducing us to this Learn with Miao Miao app.