Over a long period of time, Mandarin Chinese has become a part of the Australian experience, from the signs on high streets in certain cities to economic trading considerations.
In fact, the ABS statistics show that, after English, Mandarin is the language most spoken at home.
Because of this, Mandarin has become a popular option for language students in Australia because of the excellent global opportunities that speaking and reading fluent Chinese can offer, and this doesn't just apply to adults.
Many parents have decided to get their children into Chinese language courses, starting from younger and younger ages.
This means that, by the time they're of working age, they may already have an advanced grasp of Mandarin characters and language.
It's a pretty commonly known fact that children learn languages more efficiently and thoroughly than adults, but this can only happen if they are provided with the right resources and support from a young age.
Let's have a look at some of the best Chinese learning resources on the web and elsewhere that could help your child get great marks in their Chinese course...
Learning Mandarin Chinese with Traditional Resources
When we first think of a language-learning resource, we usually have pretty fixed ideas in our heads of what they might look like. Some of these may include:
- Character copy books
- Textbooks and grammar books
- A dictionary or a vocabulary list
- Dialogues for listening practice
These resources will teach learners to read and write, as well as plenty of vocabulary. While these are not the most creative resources in the world, they can be exactly what some Chinese language students need to get the best out of their studies or want to get started with Mandarin.
This is especially true for older students who are preparing for school or HSK exams, as they will require a list of resources that they can use to review and practice.
If you're already in a Mandarin language course, you will likely have a textbook that matches your needs and your level.
However, if you need to buy one for self-study, the options can be overwhelming.
When making your choice, consider carefully the level you need. There's not much point in an advanced student buying an intermediate textbook with more simple characters and articles. You should also think about your goals.
If you need to prepare for an HSK exam, then look for a textbook that is specifically designed with HSK exams in mind. If you want to focus on pronunciation, find a book that includes a CD and listening practice.
Some of the most popular options are:
- Integrated Chinese
- New Practical Chinese Reader
- Colloquial Chinese
- Chinese Made Easier
If your child is an intermediate or advanced student who wants to change up their learning style, they could also try to consume some more interesting media that isn't necessarily made for students.
This could be anything from audio podcasts or online videos, where students can hear native speakers interact more naturally with one another. You could also try reading Chinese articles about current affairs or even a novel!
Of course, these resources are more appropriate for older children, from about 12 years and up.
Let's check out some of the resources that could be appropriate for both younger and older learners...
Not so traditional learning resources to use in Mandarin Chinese lessons for kids
It's really easy during lessons for both students and teachers to forget an important rule about language courses... They should be fun!
If you find that your child is spending their whole lesson with their head buried in a book, or simply imitating a teacher, then it might be time to think about a new methodology.
Reaching a fluent level in a language isn't just about grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. You also need to be aware of colloquial phrases, cultural nuances and most of all, feel comfortable communicating.
You definitely won't learn about those things from simply reading a textbook!
Let's look at some more exciting resources, most of which are free...
Download an App to your Android or IOS devices
In the age of the web, there are so many interesting and well-made apps, some free and some paid, that can help learners be more interactive with their learning. Some of our favourites for kids are:
- Duolingo: This app can help you learn any language through short quizzes, flashcards and games. It's great for vocabulary and features plenty of pictures to keep younger kids more entertained.
- Hello Chinese: Similar to Duolingo, Hello Chinese has mini-lessons that are delivered in game form. You can practice writing characters and even pronunciation through a speech recognition tool.
- Miaomiao's Chinese for Kids: This one is better for younger learners, as it features a range of videos to teach children basic vocabulary related to nature, animals and more. Miaomiao also has a range of other learning content that will keep the attention of younger learners.
- Bilingual Story Time: Again, a better option for kids at years 8 or below, this app features traditional English stories that children will already be familiar with, but which have been translated into Chinese. This means children are able to pick up more language.
- Ximalaya: Best for older, more advanced level students, Ximalaya is more or less a library of content, some paid and some free. You can download audio books, TED Talks, videos and more.
The apps above are all compatible with both Android and IOS devices.
The benefit of learning with apps is that they are generally free, although they may have some paid features.
Learning a language can take some financial investment for tutors, books etc, so take advantage of any free resources!
Video and Audio Resources for All Ages
An app won't be enough to really learn Chinese, especially for beginners. You need to use a variety of different resources and different learning styles to really make progress with your studies.
Some places on the web that you could look for help are:
YouTube: On this popular website, you can find thousands of videos about learning Chinese. One video may be from native speakers wanting to share their language and culture. Another may be from English-speaking teachers who have been in the learner's shoes before.
Some popular options for older and younger children are:
- Yang Yang- better for older students, covers grammar, Pinyin, and important Chinese basics
- Shuoshou Chinese- great for learning more authentic Mandarin Chinese, help more advanced students understand differences between textbook and spoken language.
- Miss Panda Chinese- for young, beginner students, features bilingual songs and stories.
- YOYOTV: Taiwanese program with real actors and animations, very stimulating and attention-grabbing for young learners
Podcasts: For students who want more listening practice, podcasts can be an interesting option. You can find audio related to almost any subject, and you don't necessarily need to listen to a 'Learn Chinese' type show.
Because they are only in audio format, podcasts are probably more appropriate for students who already have quite a good understanding of Mandarin, or have previously completed courses.
Another good thing about podcasts is that they are often paired with a website or a blog where you can find transcripts of the shows or interesting articles that are related.
This means you can find vocabulary you didn't understand, check it in a dictionary and add it to your list of words that you now know!
Some people might be doubtful that these types of resources can actually be useful for learning and the truth is that it really depends on how old your child is and how they use each dictionary, video, website, app, blog etc.
Language Immersion: The Best Resource
When learning a language, especially for young children, it's essential that you're often in contact with native speakers who talk with each other fluently. To achieve this, some of the best options are group activities as well as travelling abroad.
For the former, look for events happening in the community around you where your child could be surrounded by others speaking Mandarin. A great example is a playgroup or afterschool group.
If you're worried that your child might feel overwhelmed by being surround by people only speaking Chinese, you can try a bilingual centre, like Kimmba Bilingual Early Learning Centre, where children learn through play.
Spending time in China is also a great way of learning. Being constantly surrounded by signs with Chinese characters and hearing people speaking fluently is like an intensive course for your child.
It also means that they will understand how to connect what they're learning on paper to the real world around them, an essential part of language learning.
If you need more advice, have a look at these ten tips for kids learning Chinese.
The platform that connects tutors and students