Tag Archives: Mandarin

Keep those Mandarin skills fresh this summer

Worried about your kids slipping behind on their Mandarin this summer? Here’s a list of study aids, including a set of grade-appropriate flashcards developed by a group of UMIPC parents in coordination with Utah teachers.

These tools can always be found on our “resources” page. But I thought I’d call it to everyone’s attention.


Just as skills like reading English and doing math need to be reinforced at home, so do the Chinese skills your child is learning. This does not need to be incredibly time-consuming. Fifteen to thirty minutes of Chinese time each school night can give your child the reinforcement he or she needs. And there are lots of resources available! The following are suggestions of how you can help your children learn Chinese.

Top Ten

1. Support your child in doing any Chinese homework they have. For example if s/he has a take home reading book listen to your child read it. If your child has spelling words, have them write the words two or three times each night. If your child doesn’t have homework, ask your teacher for some, or use some of the below resources. 15-30 minutes of Chinese practice at home can definitely help your child learn Chinese.

2. Currently, some schools use a Singapore reading curriculum. You access their website and have your children read you the books they are studying in school. The website can be a little difficult to navigate because it’s in Chinese, but don’t be intimidated – it really isn’t that hard, especially because your child can probably figure it out. If that fails, contact your child’s teacher.

3. Some students use Better Chinese. Your school may provide free or discounted membership; it is typically about $25.00 a year. Having your children read you the online stories can be very helpful for them to reinforce their reading skills.

4. Math flashcards that children can use to remember math vocabulary. (English translationhere).

5. Digital flashcards based on the key vocab words are available to help your children reinforce their skills. First gradesecond gradethird gradefourth grade. Notice that there are some games that can be played. Some are harder than others, “Scatter” is one that many children will enjoy.

6. Practice reading with Chinese Immersion teachers from Canada reading Chinese books.

7. Let your children watch Chinese video clips. For example, they can watch Dora the Exploreror  Spongebob Squarepants (note – both of those links are to YouTube-like sites that display ads. Putting the display to full-screen often eliminates the ad. Both of those links are for individual episodes; additional episodes appear underneath). Younger learners might enjoy Sesame Street or Thomas the Train in Chinese. Several other videos, songs, etc. are linked here.

8. Connect with other parents of immersion students and work together. Get connected if you aren’t already.

9. Help your children type in Chinese. This YouTube video explains how to make it so that you can type Chinese characters on your computer. Some children will have fun typing letters to each other using characters. For those who like pinyin, this macro can help you quickly transform a word like “wo3” into “wǒ.”

10. If you have a smart device, get some apps for your kids to play with. Speak and Learn Pro(iOS only) works like Rosetta stone, but much cheaper ($9.99). Should be a fun review for most students and a good way to reinforce learning.

More resources – Dictionaries, pinyin generators, flash cards and learning sites

www.archchinese.com – Great for generating worksheets for handwriting practice. The site also has an animation tool showing you the stroke order for 7,000 frequently used characters.
Google translate  – not always accurate, but helpful
http://www.nciku.com/  – another dictionary
Pleco– Chinese dictionaries, flash cards, etc. for ipad and iphone

Chinese Books, media, toys and art supplies

Little Monkey – online store
Eastern Trends – locally-produced Chinese newspaper, great for current events
Youku– China’s version of YouTube
CNTV – China’s national network TV
CNTVenglish – learn survival Chinese

Must-reads for parents 
Asia Society: What Research Tells us About Immersion – great primer
Utah Dual Immersion Language Program – official web site

Show, don’t just tell your kids Mandarin is important. Learn a little Mandarin, too!
The Rosetta Stone – Preferred by corporations and the U.S. military. Expensive, but some school districts offer group discounts.
Foreign Service Institute –  Free and government-approved
University of Utah’s Confucius Institute – Live, in-person college-level instruction

Other Links

Utah State Office of Education
Official site for Utah’s Chinese Immersion Program 
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
Utah Foreign Language Association – comprised of foreign language teachers
American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages – created our assessments
Center on Applied Linguistics
Council on Standards for International Educational Travel – vet foreign exchange programs
Asia Society
Star Talk
Canyons School District Immersion Program 
Our Facebook page!



A-list parents pay big $ to have kids learn Mandarin

Surprise! Demand for Mandarin language programs is growing, according to Reuters. Some parents don’t have access to public programs and are having to shell out thousands to send their kids to international schools and bilingual summer camps.

If you have deep pockets, you might be interested in the story, which lists some of the multiplying pay-to-play learning opportunities. An excerpt:

“(Reuters) – If famed investor Jim Rogers is known for one trait above all, it is for spotting themes early — and betting on them big. So when the co-founder of The Quantum Fund (with George Soros) and author of “Adventure Capitalist” became a father, he naturally thought of how best to give his daughters an advantage.

His answer: Have them learn Mandarin.

“I am spending a lot of time, money and energy to be sure my kids do it,” Rogers told Reuters.

Indeed. Instead of just hiring a Mandarin-speaking nanny or having his daughters take a language class or two per week, the Rogers family packed up their belongings and moved across the world to Singapore.”

Mandarin is “Chineseasy” Part II

Long-time followers of this website will remember ShaoLan Hsueh’s TED talk wherein she explains her pictographic system for remembering Chinese characters.

She was recently profiled by The Wall Street Journal. Here are a few excerpts:

“ShaoLan Hsueh thinks that English-speakers can start learning to read Chinese in less than 10 minutes. …Her book takes [Chinese] characters and overlays simple designs on top of them to help readers make the connections between the symbol and the word. …Some words build on one or more characters put together, so once you master a handful of basic building blocks, she says, learning new characters becomes much easier. Two woman characters together mean “argument,” and three in a row means “adultery.” “It shows gender inequality,” says Ms. Hsueh. Why do two women mean “argument?” In ancient China, “they had three or four generations all underneath the same roof, and the women, they argue,” she explains….

Ms. Hsueh’s book arrives as more U.S. students are learning Chinese. Nancy Rhodes of the Center for Applied Linguistics, a national language research and resource nonprofit, says that the percentage of secondary schools teaching Mandarin has increased from 1% in 1997 to 4% in 2008 (the most recent year available). Meanwhile, the percentage of schools teaching French dropped from 64% to 46% in the same period, especially as schools face budget cuts. The number of enrollments in college Chinese language classes was more than 60,000 in 2009, up from around 34,000 in 2002, according to the Modern Language Association.”

Teacher training opportunity in Utah

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah is proud to present the 2014 Gateway to Learning Educator Workshops. These weeklong summer workshops allow teachers throughout Utah to attend professional development classes taught by distinguished humanities professors and earn graduate university credit, all at a minimal cost. This summer we will offer seven workshops covering a variety of topics (please see link below to brochure for complete information). Registration for the workshops will begin on April 1, 2014 at noon through the Tanner Center’s website: www.thc.utah.edu.

This year’s program includes a workshop titled “Survey of Ancient Chinese Civilization,” which will will offer a broad survey of ancient Chinese civilization by examining texts from philosophy, history, literature, and art. If possible, could you please share this information with Mandarin Dual Language Immersion teachers? Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you would like any additional information.

2014 Gateway to Learning Workshops Brochure

For more information, contact:

Josh Elstein
Programming and Marketing
Tanner Humanities Center
University of Utah
(801) 585-9341

Sesame Street expands Chinese offerings

China’s major TV network CCTV is joining forces for the first time with Sesame Street’s Muppets who, according to the Mandarin Immersion Parent Council, have long produced Mandarin version of their shows, available on YouTube.

Following is more information on from Kids Screen:

“The one-hour special series, entitled Happy New Year, is airing every night this week with various themes designed to encourage kids to learn more about the Chinese Spring Festival. During the special, there is a segment called Chinese New Year, where Elmo, Cookie Monster and Lily chat with CCTV hosts about special traditions and customs. The Chinese New Year segments will be re-broadcast from January 31-February 6 on CCTV Children’s Channel.

The 10 segments feature CCTV children’s hosts Ju Ping, Dong Hao, Jin Guizi, Huang Wei, Xiao Lu, Red Apple and Green Bubble, Mr. Sesame, Sister Moon, Du Yue and Zhou Zhou. The themes include monster year, bid farewell to the old and usher in the new, dinner on the eve of New Year, the Year of the Horse, lion dance and Lantern Festival.”

Read more: http://kidscreen.com/2014/01/29/sesame-street-gets-into-the-chinese-new-year-spirit-with-cctv/#ixzz2seZh4ZL1

Why one mom chose Chinese over Spanish

In Utah parents have their choice of four language immersion programs: Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese. I took the shotgun approach and entered my kids in all available lotteries.

But I asked myself, if they win entrance to more than one program, what will I choose? As a journalist I can attest to the importance of knowing Spanish in a country with a growing Hispanic population that is sorely underrepresented by mainstream media. On the other hand, China is of special political and economic importance – and Mandarin is reportedly harder to learn, so the earlier the better.

In the end I am pleased my children are learning Mandarin – much like this mother, a self-described “Texican,” who picked Chinese over Spanish.

Curious how other parents feel? Are they happy with Chinese, or do they have regrets? Is it wise as a policy for Utah invest more in Mandarin programs than in other languages?

How should schools test proficiency in a foreign language?

Immersion programs across the country are grappling with how to measure language proficiency – how much Mandarin, Spanish, French, etc. students are acquiring.

Utah is using a fluency-testing tool used by the U.S. military and State Department (among other groups), adapting it for younger learners, so that it’s age-appropriate.

Minnesota is pursuing a different strategy: using translated versions of the same assessments that all Minnesota school children take. In other, words, they’re testing students’ knowledge of content in both English and their target language – at least, for Spanish learners.

“For Chinese immersion teachers, finding materials that meet the same standards as English language resources is a more difficult task,” According to the St. Cloud Times.

Like many Chinese immersion programs, Minnesota schools have to develop Mandarin curricula, lesson plans and testing materials from scratch. They’re working with professors at St. Cloud State University to develop their Chinese assessments, reports the St. Cloud Times

“Immersion is fairly new concept in the (education) field,” said an education official quoted by the Times. “We’ve been watching very closely as resources become available, but at this point there are no practical Chinese tests.”

Minnesota has seven Chinese immersion schools and 29 Spanish immersion programs.

Free Chinese literacy resources

Ever on the hunt for free Mandarin resources to support my kids, I stumbled upon these beauties:

Character Practice
Visit this website daily for introduction to one word-a-day.

Reading Practice
This website is chock-full of age-appropriate reading materials for your Mandarin learner. Click “read more” under each book title and you’ll see entire texts translated in Mandarin and English. If your kids struggle to understand all the characters, you can copy and paste them into a pinyin generator.

A must-read for all immersion parents

This handbook from the Asia Society may be a familiar resource to many parents of Mandarin learners. But considering it’s the start of a new school year with a fresh batch of students and parents, I wanted to draw attention to it again.

It’s a must-read primer on the best models for Mandarin immersion. It helped me understand what’s expected of our children – and, in turn, what to expect from our schools.  Four years into Mandarin immersion with my oldest son, I’m still on a steep learning curve. But this handbook is a nice place to start.

Here’s a teaser:

“Over the last four decades, immersion programs in many languages have seen slow but steady growth in U.S. schools. Most immersion programs offered European languages, with a small number in other languages. Much of what is known about immersion’s effectiveness has been gleaned from these programs. Their experiences provide useful guidance about options for program models, teaching strategies, literacy development, and time allocation for both the immersion language and English. While we know a great deal about what works in immersion and why, we are still discovering the aspects of this kind of education that can be appropriately applied to Chinese instruction.

Prior to 2000, in the U.S. there were fewer than ten public or private elementary school immersion programs in either Standard Chinese or Cantonese. They led the way for the approximately seventy new programs now operating, most of which are still in their infancy. The pioneer programs have addressed the same issues that now face their newer counterparts, exploring solutions to common questions such as the following:

  • Which type of program model is most suited to Chinese immersion: Most or all of the school day taught in Mandarin, a fifty-fifty division between Chinese and English, or some other distribution of time?
  • What are the qualifications for teaching in Chinese immersion? Where can we find highly qualified teachers? What does high-quality Chinese immersion instruction look like?
  • What curricula and instructional materials are already available for Chinese immersion?
  • How might we approach literacy development in Chinese?

The teachers and administrators from the long-standing Chinese immersion programs generously shared their expertise and resources with one another as well as with the newly emerging programs around the country. They answer numerous inquiries made by email or phone, they cheerfully host visitors, and they network with one another and collaborate on important projects.”


Flash cards for grades 1-3

Immersion parents are an innovative and busy bunch. One of our parents in the Jordan School District created these flash cards for use by students in grades 1-3.

On our “Resources” page you’ll find more, free online flashcards carefully tailored to Utah’s immersion curriculum: First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade.