Monday, November 3, 2014

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

I went through all the free Chinese apps that we've downloaded over the last couple years to evaluate them to find one that would be both fun and educational. I created a spreadsheet to track what features each app includes, with categories such as games, Chinese characters, pin-yin, writing practice, and kid-friendliness(based on kids under 10). (Note, this may not be 100% complete nor accurate and it is a work in progress, as I went through each app and quickly played around. There may be some features I might have missed during this cursory review and I will continue to add to this as I play around with the apps.)

In the end, we decided to proceed with paying for the full package for Kids Learn Mandarin by Fingerprint. It has a series of games the kids can play for each category, such as numbers, animals, etc. The free version only comes with numbers.

Fun Chinese by Studycat was a close second, but it has fewer categories to add on (but it is also a lot less in price for the full pack).

In general, the apps seem to fall into 3 categories:

  • words with pictures (all have audio) 
  • writing
  • dictionary

I only included one dictionary in the spreadsheet, because it was specifically for phrases, not just words, as I didn't have much opinion regarding how good the other dictionaries were. They were generally acceptable. The writing apps were not flashy and fun, but they were functional. Maybe there's not much creativity that anyone can muster for something as mundane as writing Chinese characters.

One drawback of almost of the 'words with pictures' apps is the inclusion of only nouns. Of course, nouns are important for vocabulary-building, but you can't make sentences with only nouns. I've taught the kids basic verbs in the past few months, as well as pronouns, so they can form basic sentences, but are limited in what nouns they can use in the sentences, so I hope this new app will help them expand their vocabulary.