Thursday, December 19

Our Struggle to Learn Mandarin...

Middlebury Interactive Languages  is an online, self-paced, language course for grades K-12.  Middlebury uses the immersion approach to teaching languages. The program was developed by highly academic and linguistic experts to not only master a language, but to learn about the culture. The course engages students through various tasks, and has won several awards for their innovation in digital education.  They offer courses in Spanish, French, Chinese and German and have the following levels available:

Since the advent of Ninjago, the kids have been wanting to learn Chinese. When the opportunity to review Middlebury Interactive Language arose, and I saw that they offered Chinese, I jumped at it and they were ECSTATIC! We received a free six month subscription to the Elementary Chinese 1 course for the purpose of this review. The normal pricing for this course without a teacher is $119 (what we have) with the option of having a live teacher for more.
The Chinese course has seven units, and covers numbers, greetings, family, colors, foods, adjectives, and school topics.  It is very user friendly and they can easily navigate the lessons and get from one to the next.  At first, they wanted to do it every day, but now they typically use it about three days a week.  Not only does this cover language, it covers some culture too, which is pretty fascinating.

Each unit begins with a video about a Chinese legend or myth surrounding the lesson being taught. Then, there are a few games and lab exercises which allow you to explore, practice, remember, and speak the language.  For the speaking lab, the student will be asked to speak and record himself saying the new words he has learned. The microphone should be enabled for this exercise.

The learning isn’t limited to the speaking and listening area.  There are also some video lessons on Chinese culture like social customs, home customs and being a good host. Chinese character formation and stroke order is also taught throughout the lessons.

For every practice and test activity, there is an automated checking. Then the program automatically records the results and you can view the results when you click on Gradebook at the menu upon log-in.

The Elementary Chinese 1 course has a total of 45 lessons broken into 7 units:

  • Numbers
  • Greetings
  • Family
  • Home
  • Adjectives/Colors
  • School
  • Food
Chinese is a harder language to learn but the pronunciation was very distinct and my kids really enjoyed learning to write the characters, which is an element that is usually not included in most foreign language programs.

Extra points:

  • There are several documents accessible in PDF format to print and store in a course notebook. 
  • The program teaches stroke order and Chinese calligraphy. 
  • You cannot go back and re-do tests and quizzes once they are finished.  It would be nice if you could remove the red check mark for finished lessons when you want your child to go back and review that lesson. 
  • Other than the price, I am thrilled with this program, and it is one I am likely to purchase in order to continue.  I like it much better than the other language programs we have reviewed over the years.  
  • To get an overview of what Middlebury Interactive Languages is about you can watch this video.  To find out if your system meets the requirements, you can check the FAQ list.

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