General consensus is that childhood is the best time to teach foreign languages. (I took three semesters of Japanese in college and I can vouch for this.) Little minds are more flexible and able to absorb new sounds and words naturally, as opposed to the adult learner who has to disregard their native language and re-learn new grammar and vocabulary.
Teaching kiddos multiple languages simultaneously can also have positive cognitive side effects, resulting in higher performance in grade school and beyond. Multilinguals also display better multi-tasking behavior and increased memory retention. (Not to mention the bragging rights you can have on the playground when the other parents are gabbing about little Johnny or Jane – “Well MY kid can order General Tso’s in Mandarin Chinese, so there!”)
There are dozens of language-learning apps meant for young players, but not many are based on language skills research or well-executed. Fingerprint Digital has a long-standing history or producing stellar educational apps for kids that make learning fun. Kids Learn Mandarin is one title in their extensive library of titles, and it uses progressive mini-games to teach the basic fundamentals of Mandarin Chinese to players ages 2-8.
Kids Learn Mandarin starts off with simple numbers and every day vocabulary, like 10 and “tree”. Across 12 different lessons, the app teaches kiddos to speak, write, and read over 200 words. The levels get progressively harder to match the skills being learned, and the adorable graphics and voice narration only reinforce the language being taught. Lessons aren’t dry or boring – they are game-based and interactive, with a strong emphasis on matching.
My daughter is three and loved playing these language games. Either her brain is in an optimal developmental stage for learning new language or she has a gift (“My little girl can navigate through Chinatown like a pro!”), she has actually learned and used – in context – a few words of Mandarin. She loves the cutesy graphics and enjoys playing games, and I highly doubt she knows that she’s actually learning a new language.
You can download a lite version of Kids Learn Mandarin for free, which includes only the number lesson. This way you and your kiddos can try it out and see if it’s a good fit before purchasing additional lessons for anywhere from $1.99 to $9.99; the complete package will run you $12.99. It’s definitely worth it if the goal is to help teach kids a non-native language. Besides, it’s cool to be the only kid on the swings counting in Mandarin.
– Teaches kiddos a new language in an engaging way
– Progressive game format makes learning fun and natural
– Offers over 200 basic Mandarin words that are part of every-day vocabulary
– None, this app will give you bragging rights on the playground (“Well, my kid knows Mandarin Chinese!”)