Saturday, December 31, 2011


2kids学汉字- This app is worthy of mention. The instructions are all in Chinese but I didn't let that stop me from downloading this app- don't let it stop you! I've only had this app for a few days, but my four-year old keeps coming back to it. It has been wonderful at helping us to review characters she's seen already since it covers many common characters.  This app is aimed at children who already speak Mandarin and so the primary objective of this app is to teach them character recognition and writing (stroke order).  However, I've found it useful as an immersion tool for teaching character recognition in my kids (who are learning Chinese as a foreign language).

*There is a companion app by the same company called 2Kids学拼音.

General Organization- Each Unit covers 6-8 characters and most Units are taught across 2 Lessons.  Only one Lesson can be completed each day.  This helps to ensure that a child is retaining character recognition over time.

Specific Organization- The first Unit covers 6 characters: 大,小,人,口,上,and 下. The kids are introduced to pictures that correlate to each of the characters in the lesson. Then they are shown how to write the character using the correct stroke order. Next, much like in the popular TV show Dora and Diego, they help four story characters solve problems  by correctly identifying the target character from several choices. The graphics and animation is high quality.  Kids are rewarded with short animation clips, with virtual stickers, and by watching the story characters progress through the story. The makers of this app had young children in mind!

Update 1- Just bought the first extension (Content Package 1).  The characters covered and the incentives (digital stickers and animation clips) have expanded.  It appears there will be 6 simplified characters per Unit.  I'm still recommending this app even if you are teaching your children traditional characters because most people who read Chinese will need to recognize the simplified forms (which Mainland China primarily uses). Don't let learning two forms of the same character intimidate you. Often the two forms are very similar. Consider English and all the fonts a proficient reader must be able to navigate: two forms of lowercase 'a,' uppercase versus lowercase, cursive versus print, etc. As native speakers, we pick up these variations and accept them on the path to English literacy. Use this same concept to help your child become proficient in reading Chinese; expose them to variations!

Below is an example of how similar the simplified and traditional forms can be:
妈 --> 媽 ("mother")

Of course, not all of the characters will have such obvious similarities between the two fonts,
but give your child some credit.  If they are a native speaker, they've probably already figured out
that "soda/pop," "T.V./television," and "picture/photo" refer to the same thing.
只--> 隻 (a common Measure Word for animals)

Keep in mind that many Chinese characters look exactly the same in their simplified and traditional forms.
大-->大 ("big")

Update 2- The characters covered in each Content Package aren't revealed until the child has learned all of the previous Units.  So I can't post subsequent characters until my kids pass their lessons, but I'll try to post as I have access to them.  Future Units include the following simplified characters:
  • Content Package 1 (Lessons 1-5) 
    • Unit 1- 大, 小, 人, 口, 上, 下
    • Unit 2- 爸, 妈, 天, 太, 一, 二
    • Unit 3- 中, 月, 哭, 笑, 阳, 水
    • Unit 4- 三, 亮, 星, 火, 云, 地
  • Content Package 2 (Lessons 6-15)
    • Unit 5- 个, 和, 四, 我, 心, 有
    • Unit 6- 明, 木, 山, 石, 头, 土
    • Unit 7- 耳, 好, 花, 牛, 田, 五 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 8- 聪, 眉, 目, 手, 树, 羊 
    • Unit 9- 鼻, , 日, 六, 叶, 的 
  • Content Package 3 (Lessons 16-25)
    • Unit 10- 草, 多, 少, 雨, 孩, 七 & 2 Short Stories (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 11- 红, 黃, 白, 家, 是, 吃 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 12- 愛, 不, 唱, 奶, 爷, 子
    • Unit 13- 朋, 歌, 八, 在, 学, 书 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
  • Content Package 4 (Lessons 26- 35)
    • Unit 14- 宝, 生, 贝, 儿, 九, 友
    • Unit 15- 看, 里(里面), 气, 十, 这, 字 & 2 Short Stories (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 16- 来, 你, 听, 只, 做, 会, 女, 去
    • Unit 17- 见, 今, 男, 鸟, 说, 坐, 期, 走
  • Content Package 5 (Lessons 36-45) 
    • Unit 18- 鱼, 早, 车, 飞, 鸡, 绿, 青, 雪 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
      • Note to 2Kids Publishers:  The last two characters in this list cannot be seen when you first go to the "stories" icon at the bottom of the page and then to the "flashcard" icon at the top of the page.
    • Unit 19- 他, 夏, 秋, 春, 冬, 跑, 要, 们
    • Unit 20- 李, 狗, 也, 真, 开, 蓝, 猫, 都
    • Unit 21- 黑, 关, 哥, 马, 米, 姐, 面, 出 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 22- 跳, 着(睡着), 了, 又, 弟, 妹, 东, 就(就是他的)
  • Content Package 6 (Lessons 46-60)
    • Unit 23- 快, 还, 得(得到), 西, 乐, 到, 起,玩 and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)
    • Unit 24- 捉, 迷, 球, 很, 高, 鸭, 方, 兴 (高兴), 
    • Unit 25- 向, 对, 能, 叫, 晚, 问, 电, 门
    • Unit 26- 只(一只), 打, 冷, 热, 新, 再, 回, 急
    • Unit 27- 请, 过, 吗, 左, 右, 前, 外, 里(里面) and a Short Story (see Update 3 below)

Update 3- I'm becoming more and more impressed with this program. Starting in Lesson 5, children are occasionally given a short story to read. My daughter was giddy with delight to realize she can now read a short story in Chinese.  Here is the "story."  The characters that aren't covered by the iPad app lessons have a speaker icon above them.  The kids can tap on those characters and the word is read for them.

Update 4- This app is going on my top recommendation list!  Starting in Lesson 6, the user is asked to retain in memory a short sentence that uses the characters taught in this app.  The user is then suppose to arrange the characters in the same order as the sentence.  What a great way to practice listening skills!

Comments-  My son has now completed all six of the currently available Content Packages.  So I've decided to make some comments about my observations.
  • The purpose of this app is to teach character recognition and that is why I decided it was still a good buy for my son who is learning the characters introduced here as a second language.  However, I've noticed one issue that parents of non-native Chinese-speaking children should be aware of- Sometimes a character is introduced with one meaning within the flashcards, but then is reused as a word with the same character BUT A DIFFERENT MEANING later in the Unit.  For example, 得 is introduced in the flashcards as being related to the phrase "得到".  However, later it is used as part of the phrase "我们玩得很高兴。"  In these two instances the "得" has a different meaning, a different grammatical function, and a different pronunciation!  Native speakers would probably assimilate this just fine; however, it can be a bit of a hang-up to non-native speakers.  Where this has occurred within this app, I've tried to make note of it below:
    • 得 introduced as "得到" and later seen in phrases such as "我们玩得很高兴。"
  • There are a couple of places where the same character (same pronunciation and same meaning) is repeated:
    • Unit 15 and Unit 27- 里


  1. Thanks. For your tips.. I am too the weaker link learning Mandarin as a 2nd language until grade 6, growing up in Singapore. now I live in Vancouver. tough to teach kids especially my youngest who is 8...we are attending a language camp this summer in Taipei.....

  2. For anyone who would like to, information about summer camps in Taiwan can be posted at