Monday, September 26, 2011

Learning Chinese Mandarin as a Second or Third Language

With our desire to have our children learn another language(other than English and Afrikaans), we opted for Mandarin.  Not a natural choice, as the only Chinese in our areas are the ones that own a few retails stores or the buses that bring in scores of tourists to our beach where they subsequently take numerous photos of us standing next to them.  In fact many would say - what is the relevance?  Well the answer would be....none - unless you are part of this family.  Sean and I would love to live in China and the east and so we thought, how better to prepare our children than to get them studying the language?  And we really noticed how difficult it was on our recent visit without this tool.  Unlike a lot of countries where English is a second language, many Chinese don't even understand the most basic English.  Not because they don't know English on paper but how we pronounce a word is not the way we pronounce a word.  You can understand this if you think of the word minute(60 seconds) and minute(tiny).

We approached learning Mandarin in a number of different ways:

1.  Online

There are so many online resources out there, you could just get lost in that Mandarin jungle.  However it is very possible to learn if you are motivated, without paying a cent.  The only down side is that its not really user friendly for children which means you need to have a very hands on approach.  And of course I am naturally a little suspicious of any sites with too much "action" on it, my overcautious brain worries about viruses.  And most of these sites are like that.  They also seem to be a little random in terms of what you learn.

2.  Tutor 

We tried a tutor in the beginning, a very sweet local Chinese man who came once a week and attempted to teach all of us at the same time -  but we felt almost like we needed to constantly be memorising words and within a week we had forgotten all of them.  Especially when we were lazy and didn't even bother. (that would pretty much be most of the time).  The children lost interest after 10 minutes and were frustrated that they had to do this on a Saturday. 

3. Rosetta Stone
So after we had researched a number of options, we considered all the online options - and there are a lot, but in the end we settled on Rosetta Stone.  

We love the way this system works.    What I have found with this computer program is that most of the lessons are 5 to 10 minutes long.  You learn words through pictures and drawing your own conclusions about what you are looking at.  (Which is the way we learn when we are children - we don't normally translate when teaching our children. )  

The one I bought is a the Homeschooling Edition which allows you to monitor how long each child spends on a lesson, what result they got and how far they have progressed.  In fact you  can print off a report for each child.  Which of course is ideal for those of you that need to keep records.  It allows up to 5 registered users at the same time, so both Sean and I are obviously learning too, but at a much slower pace:) 

We have included this as part of our school curriculum and the children enjoy it.  They love progressing through the system.  You can even tailor make your program based on where each child is at in terms of age, reading skills.  So for a child who cannot read you could start them just on the speech and pronunciation.  Its a year long program but you can reduce that to less if you want something more brief.  

As a South African this does not come cheap because though the program for Level 1 costs $159(though if you order a number of levels, there are specials on bulk buying), there is also postage which is $50 (though it does mean the program arrives 3 days later - literally on your doorstep) There is also an import tax which needs to be paid which is about R200.  But but dare I say that I still think its worth every cent!  For those of you based in the States, its definitely a lot less as there are no shipping fees and then they also allow you to pay with your credit card over 6 months - which is a real bonus.

I have heard that there are other programs out there, and I am sure that there are those that are better or worse.  But this is what our family is using and we are thrilled with the results.  

They do have an online demonstrations so you can get a sense of the way they present the material.  Of course if you are not interested in Mandarin they do offer a large variety of languages and once you get to the higher levels there are interactive live sessions.

Please note that this is not a recommendation because we get a cent from Rosetta Stone or that they even know who I am - but my kids love them, and so do I - So how's that for a bit of free advertising?

Mother Matters

We had our first very successful webinar last week, with Bronwyn Ansell as our guest speaker on the topic of Homeschooling with Cambridge.  Its was an interesting session with lots of questions.  It was an hour long session but there was so much to ask, it could easily have continued for another hour.

A few of you sms'ed and emailed to say that you were struggling to connect to the webinar.  If you need assistance because you are not sure how to do all the "techno stuff" - don't feel embarrassed.  My wonderful husband is on technical support and he's great.  He's very patient and is happy to chat you through the process.  We will be online at the meeting 30 minutes before we start, to ensure that any of you need help you can call us, or skype us.

The contact details for Mother Matters are:
Landline:  +27 21 788 2809
Cell:  082 5777 340
Skype:  mother.mel

So this week we are looking forward to our second session and to you joining us for this event.

Wednesday 28 September 2011 8.30pm-9.30pm

 Topic:  Homeschooling: Large Families
"I would like to share with you my experiences on my journey to become:  A submissive wife with a gentle and quiet spirit; An encouraging, loving mother who wants her children to become everything God intends them to be; A home schooling mother of eight, who uses the tool of education to grow godly character; develop life skills; discover their gifting, talents and godly calling; An excellent cook of healthy, nutritional and tasty meals to enable my family to live a long and productive life and fulfill their Godly calling."

Topics on the Agenda will include:
*  How to teach across the big age gap (multiple levels)
*  What to do with toddlers when their siblings are learning
*  Single salary and Budgeting
  *  Practical home management tips including:  snack times, meal prep, socialisation (so many children to take to so many sporting or music activities)
*  Chores and training up children to be part of the household
To register:  Click here
(This webinar is free)
This webinar is sponsored by Slingshot Joomla! CMS Specialist

We would love to have you join us at Mother Matters! See you all there!

To view our webinar schedule for the upcoming month click here


  1. Hello Friend,
    Lots of good information about Learning Chinese Mandarin as a Second or Third Language. The first language is the earliest language acquired by all after they are born. But the second language is the language learned and used in the target language environment, without using the first language. For example, when foreigners come to learn Chinese in China, the Chinese language is the second or third language for them. The second or third language teaching is to cultivate students’ capability of applying the target language to the daily communication. Thanks to share it ...

  2. Jy is baie braaf... ek is 'n homeschool mom van Suid Afrika en ons woon tans in china. Ek het ook Rosetta Stone se HS edition gekry, ek is baie gelukig met my keuse. Waar in China het julle in gedagte vir 'n toekomstige woonplek?
    Jy't 'n baie oulike blad, dankie daarvoor.

    1. I would love to chat to you about China, we don't actually know where yet but it looks like we will most likely start in Xian? Please send me an email so that we can chat more. mel at mothers dot co dot za


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