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Better Chinese


My First Chinese Reader

Early in our homeschool journey, my daughter expressed the desire to learn to speak Chinese. I spent a year exploring options and trying a variety of free online tutorials. In the fall of 2008, we were fortunate to stumble upon an immersion style preschool/kindergarten. She enrolled and enjoyed the class for a year. In 2009, however we opted to change as she was entering 2nd grade and the majority of the other students were much younger.

We then began to meet with the instructor one-on-one for private lessons. We tried a Chinese curriculum through Singapore Math but I was disappointed in the lack of materials available for practice at home. Through the immersion program, she was already familiar with My First Chinese Words so we finally settled upon My First Chinese Reader by Better Chinese.

The My First Chinese Reader series is perhaps the finest curriculum available for elementary school students to learn Chinese. Specially designed for children living in non-Chinese speaking communities, these books feature a spiral-up lesson structure that builds upon and applies previous material, so children can learn Chinese naturally--the way they would in a native environment. Better Chinese is available in either Simplified or Traditional characters. We chose to go with Simplified so the samples hear show that.

Please join me as I explain how we use the curriculum materials from Better Chinese.

Our Week Begins

Throughout this past school year, my daughter has had private lessons with a native speaker on Wednesday afternoons. When they are together, they work through a lesson in the textbook. The instructor supplements the lessons with other resources as well, concentrating on her pronunciation skills. At the conclusion of the lesson, my daughter is assigned workbook pages to complete as homework. I'll share with ya'll a little of how we do that here.


Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

This is an excerpt from lesson one in the first volume. Sweetie enjoys the colorful, vivid pictures. I like that it features both the pinyin (Chinese phonetical spelling of the words) and the characters or symbols. As she progresses through the text, the pinyin for words that have been introduced previously is no longer used ... thereby ensuring that she learns to recognize and read the characters as well.

Workbook B

Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

This workbook includes a variety of activities ... matching, connect the dots, fill in the blank, puzzles, etc. Sweetie enjoys them but occasionally, She needs a little assistance to understand what she is expected to do. Some of the exercises are a little difficult but I strongly feel this is more due to our lack of diligence and follow-through than to a poorly developed practice sheet. We just haven't adhered to the practice schedule as much as we should. Practice makes perfect, right?

Workbook A

Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

Excerpt from Volume 1 Lesson 2

This is an excerpt from Workbook A which focuses predominately on reading and writing the characters. The stroke order is shown and grids are provided for easier practice. In the back of the workbook are numerous cards with perforated lines meant to be torn out and used as flashcards. Sweetie enjoys this book and never fails to complete these lessons on her own.

Online Games & Activities

During the weekend, I encourage Sweetie to play Mandarin games online. This list provides links to the various online resources that we frequent.

Scroll to Continue
  • Zon :: Virtual World
    Zon is an unique interactive massively multi-player online role playing game for learning Mandarin Chinese.

Ni Wa Wa - A delightful Chinese children's song

Movies w/ Mandarin Audio - and optional English subtitles

  • Mulan
    To save her father from death in the army, a Chinese maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China's greatest heroes in the process.
  • The Secret of the Magic Gourd
    When an inquisitive 11-year-old discovers a mythical, magical gourd while fishing, he has no idea of the trouble that lies at the end of his hook. With the ability to grant any and every wish, The Magic Gourd attempts to make all of the boy's dreams

Review Textbook Lesson w/ Audio CD


We purchased the Audio CD companion to Volume 1. On Monday, we review the textbook lesson that her instructor introduced the previous week. It features a native speaker reading through the lesson just as though they were in the room with her. It moves a little fast but otherwise provides a great review of the material.



We didn't purchase the CD-ROM with the first volume. However, we will certainly do so from here forward. The stories are cute and engaging while simultaneously reviewing the characters and spoken Mandarin Chinese introduced in the lesson. I think this is one component that we would use most frequently to practice.

My First Chinese Reader by Better Chinese

Where Can I Buy Better Chinese?

  • Better Chinese
    Better Chinese is the premier provider of Chinese educational materials for ages 3 and up. Colorful and easy to use books, animated story CD-ROMs, DVDs, Chinese teaching aids, classroom posters, and subscriptions to our complete online curriculum fo

Comments on my page? - Thanks for reading!

Michelllle on April 02, 2013:

I think it is great that your kids are learning Mandarin. It might take longer to become fluent, but starting when young is definitely the way to go. I figure, the brain stimulation, the discipline learning how to study, the appreciation of another culture and language structure- all these things make it worth while. Great lens.

Eva Varga (author) from Oregon on December 19, 2012:

@china newz: Indeed, living in the country of the target language is the most ideal way to learn another language but as you said, that isn't always possible. We hope to someday provide that opportunity for our children ... hoping also to host an exchange student someday ... until then, we'll continue to build upon the skills they have developed thus far. :)

china newz on December 15, 2012:

Learning Mandarin, or any other language, by self study, tapes, and occasional meetings with native speakers will be an arduous path to learn the language. Heard that it takes 3,000 hours to become fluent in Mandarin. In San Francisco, know there are some Mandarin language programs where K-8 students learn all subjects in Mandarin, but by far the best way is to study abroad. Probably not realistic for a K-8 student. Maybe get an exchange student to live with you from the local college.

tandemonimom lm on May 23, 2010:

This looks like a wonderful program! Thanks so much for sharing it with The Homeschool Club!

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