Review: Elementary Chinese 1 from Middlebury Interactive Languages

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I’ve got another foreign language curriculum to review for all of you!  I’m excited because too many of us moms sadly grew up in the American school system where we might have gotten a few years of Spanish or French and then promptly forgot it all 10 minutes after we walked out of high school.  How do we tackle teaching our children a new language?  This makes me sweat far more than the idea of teaching upper level math (and that’s saying something considering I was a pre-calculus dropout).  I’ve actually had the chance to review for Middlebury Interactive Languages in the past.  That time we took up the opportunity to their German class  but this time we took on what, in my mind at least, was a much bigger challenge… Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5.

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Why would I choose Chinese?  Of course we love to stretch ourselves and experience new things.  We are also studying the Eastern Hemisphere this year and we started with China.  So this review felt like a great fit.

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I used this program with my 8 year old son Ezra but his older brother Noah often looked on.  He couldn’t help it as it sort of draws you in.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion approach to teaching children foreign languages.  I LOVE this approach.  I despised my experiences with learning foreign languages because for me it was always very dry, memorizing long lists of on sort of related terms or phrases.  Then we tried to apply those terms to stilted made up “conversations” within the classroom.  Middlebury takes an entire different approach by introducing children to the language within the context of every day life or through memorable stories and this makes it all… well… memorable.

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All of Middlebury’s courses are completed online.  You choose your course based not only on the language but by both the grade of the student and their level in the language.  Elementary levels are broken down by grades k-2, 3rd-5th, and then you enter the Middle School and the High School levels.  It is easy for children to start early with a language and work their way up until the gain fluency.  All of this is done through the use of cultural stories, songs, art, and more.  If you are diligent your child will learn to read, write, and speak the language of your choice.

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How We Used It

About three days a week Ezra would log onto the website and begin his lessons.  Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5 is broken down into 16 units and each unit contains 6 lessons.  Through these units your child will learn the Chinese words for things like, food, places, animals, etc.  It begins with numbers.  All of the units contain a variety of activities including a speaking lab (where children record themselves saying the words and then play them back – microphone required), matching the Chinese words to English words, learning Chinese characters, and lots of review.  Most new materials is presented through cultural stories (like legends or folktales) and songs.

The language the children hear and copy is all taught by native Chinese speakers.  At this level it is assumed that the child has no previous experience with the language and they begin with the basics.  Included are some printables for use as well.

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Ezra loves this program.  He finds it a challenging yet fun.  He retains the information he’s learned well enough but the built in review is essential and he appreciates it.  The program itself functions well. Navigating to lessons or through lessons is pretty intuitive and we didn’t experience any technical issues.

I love this program because it is so easy on me! I have nothing to plan or prep or research.  My son is learning a language that I don’t otherwise have the resources for him to learn.  He is also learning more about a great culture of the world.  Everything is self-graded and I, as the parent, can log in and review his progress whenever I’d like.  Can there be anything better?

If there is one thing I’d change about this program I’d ask for more time with it.  You are given just 6 months to complete the course and with a language this difficult I’d really like a 9-12 months.

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