Where Do I Start?

After deciding whether to teach simplified or traditional characters and what pronunciation guide you are going to use (see Traditional vs. Simplified Characters; Pinyin vs. BoPoMoFo), the next step is knowing what resources are available to you. If you have access to the internet, then you have lots of choices. However, there are other places you can go.
  • The local university, which often has international students- some of whom would love to teach you Chinese in exchange for help with their English. Many of these students just need a low-pressure person to talk to who will gently correct grammar and pronunciation without criticizing. If you find someone like this, be sure to ask them where they grew up so that you know what pronunciation of Chinese you are learning (Beijing pronunciation is the standard that is taught at schools in America).
  • Check out community colleges and universities for Chinese classes intended for families. 
  • Look for a Chinese Heritage School. But no one in my family is Chinese, you say. That's OK. Most likely you will still be welcomed as long as you come with an honest interest in learning Chinese. Just be aware that you will need to put some time in volunteering at these schools (most heritage schools have low funds) and in learning the material your children are expected to practice at home.
    • There are two Chinese Heritage Schools in the Iowa City area.
      • Chinese School of Iowa City- This school teaches simplified characters and uses the pinyin pronunciation system. You can contact Director Peter Chen at his home at 341-5910.
      • (Traditional) Chinese School of Iowa City- This school teaches traditional characters and uses the 注音符號(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) pronunciation system. If you are interested in this school, you can contact the principal at cstinic (at) gmail (dot) com for information.
  • Look for classes offered through the local community college or outreach program through a local university. The Confucius Institute is a global network of non-profit, public institutions (such as universities, colleges, and secondary schools). The Government of the People's Republic of China provides funding to these institutes in order to promote Chinese language and culture. These classes typically are low-key and family friendly. You can do a search online to find out if there is a Confucius Institute program in your area.
  • Check out the local public schools.
    • Kennedy High School has a well-established Chinese language program for high school students.  Check out this article.
    • Mid Prairie exposes its students to Chinese at the elementary and middle school level.  Check out the Mid Prairie Chinese blog.
  • Check out bookstores for textbooks and stories that teach Chinese.  
    • Be aware that the local stores will have more available online.
    • College book stores will have books that teach foreign languages. You can purchases textbooks there if your children are able to handle a ridged format or if you have the time to modify the material.