Each story or lesson starts with a famous story from Chinese history which is cool and I really appreciate that. Part of learning a language, is learning it's culture and history. It is what reinforces what you are learning. Languages are not just languages. They are part of a culture.
It is even one reason why the adaption of English language as a world language which is depleting languages around the world into non existence is a big problem for me. While it is great to have a world language, the depleting of world languages is depleting culture which I definitely don't like.
I love that they teach Chinese in both the traditional characters and how it is spelled today.
I have to say that I wish there were more videos so you could see the actual pronunciation of each syllable in the Mandarin language. Once I found a video on you tube, it makes more sense. So then it was able to reiterate was I was learning and what the kids were learning through the Mandarin course.
They go over how to write characters of the words you are learning as well. I think that this is not just helpful in learning the language but even with fine motor skills as well as art skills.
The really cool part is they show how to count to ten in Mandarin also in the language of hands... Before I confuse you, let me explain. I know this because my co worker and friend Lin Ning, from when I worked at UC Berkeley showed me. When you count to ten on your hand in English, you don't think twice about it and you use both hands. However, in China, this is not done. You count to ten on one hand. So of course, to avoid confusion, they have their own hand signs for each number that correspond with the written language. Which you can see below...
When they are teaching how to write the characters for example for each of the numbers, they should say the sounds that go with it. So audio and kinetic learning go hand in hand. It is proven.
A side note that was hard for me though while doing this program.... The audio volume varied on the page you were on even though your desktop computer volume was the same. I would turn the internal sound of the video clips up to an even volume across the board as well. I had to put headphones on to be able to hear what they were saying.
The interactive part of the putting the different strokes together to make the characters is super helpful for kinetic and visual learners and I am loving it!
We are having a blast learning Mandarin and while there are things I would improve about it, overall this has helped to put the love of learning different languages in my kids sphere and re-activated my love of learning languages.
As far as the site usability, it is fairly simple and intuitive for you to use. I like that you can learn along with them. In fact, my daughter was adamant that she knew how to make the sounds better than I did so we had a little bit of a talk that mommy is learning this with them so we all work together. Which I love, because it teaches them that you can learn and love to learn even as an adult. And kids do catch it faster so I look forward to her re correcting me over and over again because she does pick up sounds pretty well.
I like that the objectives are said in the beginning of the lessons and that there is no 'tests' so that way learning this as another language isn't another tedious task for them. This is HUGE for my daughter. She hates tests with a passion so the fact that she can learn this without worry of being tested after every lesson is nice. The tests are virtually the interaction online which is nice and a burden off this mama.
To reinforce it though I had them write what they learned for the day down in their language notebook. So they wrote the Chinese characters, the modern Chinese, and the English down in their notebooks. Sometimes the old fashioned way works to help make sure they understand it.
When it comes to telling the stories in the beginning of the lessons, what I like about it is that it doesn't do it in English. So you are listening to the entire story in Chinese Mandarin. Then on top of it, the characters that you will learn, or words, will be highlighted. And you will notice ones that you have learned from say, Ni Hao Ki Lan. Don't judge me and the fact that I only learned that after the Disney show. Ha ha. We know most of us parents didn't know it.
After the story, the break it down and show you how to make characters and say the words or saying in Mandarin. At the end of it, I wish they had the English and Mandarin writings of it right after to put two and two together easier rather than just putting together Mandarin into it's part of the story. It is confusing especially when certain phrases sound so similar. So if they switched it, it would definitely be easier.
Overall, this is a program that I highly suggest to parents because it is a low key way to learn a language. If you are looking to help better skills that are done in school or starting from scratch, this is a great program!