Chinese Learning Resources for an absolute beginner!

I always wanted my kids to learn Mandarin! There is so much to be said for the potential, job opportunities and cultural/travel opportunities. My husband learned Cantonese when he was a child, and I had some exposure to Mandarin during my travels, but neither one of us knows Mandarin enough to teach it to our children.

Of course, language immersion ( as in traveling and living there) is always an ideal, but short of that would finding effective good quality programs, and just exposing your children to the language as much as possible. There was very interesting article recently on how language which children were exposed to in infancy left important and unique neuro-connections in their brains for the rest of their lives. Even before reading this article I was a firm believer of developing linguistic ear early in life, as I have seen how useful it was for the children in their future studies.

Here are some interesting facts and useful resources for those parents who do not speak mandarin at all ( or very little) and looking for a way to introduce this beautiful and mysterious language to their children.

Traditional or Simplified? When we talk about Traditional or Simplified we refer to the written characters and not spoken language. Traditional Chinese refers to the characters used before the simplification reforms during the second half of the 20th century in Mainland China. Mainland China uses Simplified Mandarin. Taiwan and some foreign Chinese speaking communities still use Traditional Written Chinese. But even in Taiwan there are some changes being implemented recently towards simplifying official documents. So majority of those starting to learn Chinese would be choosing Simplified Mandarin. Simply because it is more commonly used. The exception would be if you are planning to learn Mandarin specifically for moving to Taiwan, then you might opt for traditional.

Little Reader Mandarin Curriculum is hands down best well-rounded program for young children out there. It uses Glenn Doman learning method, and combines pattern learning, a lot of media, illustrations and variety of awesome features (Make sure to upgrade to Professional Version to benefit from every feature of the program!).

It is a great choice for parents who are not fluent in language, as everything in the curricula sounded out by native Mandarin speakers. There is variety in voices (male, female and child), characters, words and phrases are written in various fonts and colors and illustrated by a variety of animation, pictures and videos for each word and phrase.

Chinese Curricula for Little Reader uses an immersion method, which is the best way to introduce foreign language to a young child. We used this curricula with 3 of our own children, and I highly recommend it! If you are to chose just one program, I would suggest it would be Little Reader Chinese.

Here are some other resources we used to supplement our Little Reader Lessons, they are optional and  you can chose one, few or none. But I am happy to share with you what worked for us and what resources were a good choice.


Little Pim Mandarin — We loved these as a fun supplement to our Little Reader lessons. There are 6 DVDs, and each DVD is a collection of short episodes. We usually would watch a few minutes of it every night for the first few months of learning with Little Reader. That would cover 1-2 very short episodes at a time. It is in no way a stand alone curriculum, but it is a nice supplement. First 3 DVDs we liked a lot. In the second part of series LP creators switched from Mandarin Characters to Pinyin ( Latin transcription), which I particularly did not like.

Sing and Learn Chinese with Mei-Mei and Dance and Learn Chinese with Mei-Mei – we got these DVDs from Taiwan. My kids love dancing, so DVDs with lots of dancing and singing were a good choice for us. I also liked that kids recited songs slowly for viewers to understand after they sing it.

We also liked Follow Jade series – follow Jade to the market, lets visit Chinese kindergarten…

There are many good Chinese learning resources for children in (Chinese version of youtube), you can try searching with 幼儿识字 (Baby learns to read).

One method, that I am particularly impressed with and happy to recommend is called  全脑通识字 (quan nao tong shi zi).  Each character is explained with animation how it is derived. Children not only learn the characters,  but they also learn to appreciate the beauty of the Chinese language. It is a good series to show, along with your Little Reader Course.

For fun and language exposure we also watched Chinese Encyclopedic Knowledge series called 洪恩宝宝看世界 (Hong en babo bao kan shi jie). From what I learned, these programs only can be bought from China but many video clips are shared here

Some people I know also watch popular cartoon series, which were translated to mandarin. Because we limit our children’s TV viewing time, we have not done that. Those people that I know would show English version of cartoon to their kids once and then would watch the same cartoon in mandarin for a few days in a row.

Another great idea is to look for exchange students from China in your area, you can arrange for them to come and play with your children, while speaking only Mandarin ( of course, make sure that they speak the dialect that you want your child to learn); or playdates with children from Chinese families.

All those seemingly small things would leave lasting impressions!


PS If you like our reviews and ideas, and would like to help us to keep this blog running, use our partner code if you decide to buy any of BrillKids learning curricula, including Little Reader Chinese. You will receive a 10% discount and it will help us in our educational adventure with 3 kids! Code – BKAFF13608  Thank you!