Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chinese Writer iPad App Review

Our 4 year old son has learned how to read and write 46 Chinese characters over the past several weeks. How? By playing with an app on the iPad called Chinese Writer (it's also available in the Google Play store). It's a pretty amazing little app, and we highly recommend it.

Some of the Chinese characters that our son has learned over the past few weeks with Chinese Writer

The app has a practice mode and a game mode. In the practice mode, you see the stroke order of a character, and then you can either trace it or write it from scratch. It's easy enough that even our 2 year old can do it, and you can make it harder to increase the learning retention. If you write the character incorrectly or get the strokes in the wrong order, it won't let you go forward. One character is on the screen at a time, and whenever you go to a new character it automatically reads it out loud for you.

This is an example of a character in the practice mode. It's in trace mode, so you trace over the white parts that turn yellow when you finish. But you have to do it in the right order and right direction! You can turn the tracing mode off and write from scratch, too. There are arrows you can turn on that make it even more clear what the next stroke should be.

When I learned Chinese, I basically copied characters out of a dictionary and memorized them. I didn't have stroke order, so my writing was terrible. Using this app, our 4 year old has already started to get some great fundamentals down about writing characters. I've been surprised how fun it is for him just to do the practice mode.

The bad part about this app is that kids won't learn what the characters mean unless you tell them. There's no pictures, and young kids aren't going to read the definitions that are given above the characters. Just by telling our son what the characters mean a few times as he goes through them, however, he's learned not only how to write and read them but also what they mean.

The game that the app has is pretty fun as well. Characters fall from the screen, and you have to click on them and write them correctly before they fall to the bottom. You get points for each stroke you get right, and if 5 characters fall to the bottom before you finish you lose.

An example of the character falling down the screen in the game

Our son has been practicing one of the free sets that come with the app, one of the HSK1 sets. It's 46 characters. It also comes with some characters from HSK2 and HSK3. To get more characters you can pay about $10 for all of them, or buy smaller sets for $1 a piece. We are cheapskates, but I think we might end up buying some of the packs. 

Another feature that we will probably utilize in the future is creating your own custom packs You buy HSK packs, and you can choose a pack at a time to practice or play with. Alternatively, you can choose which individual characters to put into a new set to practice to make your own custom pack.


  • Includes some free character packs
  • Great for learning stroke order
  • Fun for kids
  • Can be easy or challenging
  • Relatively cheap to get more characters ($10 for all characters)
  • Has simplified and traditional characters


  • The game could be a bit more interesting, although it's still fun
  • No pictures to help kids learn the definitions (developers, you should add an option where kids can press a button to read the English definition outloud)


  • It's a great bargain, the best way we've seen for anyone to get the hang of characters quickly
  • Not perfect, but way better than anything else out there we've seen
  • Our rating = A

EDIT: Months later, I want to confirm that this app is well worth the money. Spend $10 to get all the characters. When you're reading books with your child, playing an app with them, or helping the to read and write Chinese, you'll notice that there's some words you think they should know but don't. Maybe they forgot. When that happens, you can go to this app and add that character to a list. Then your child can spend 20 minutes playing the little game in this app with those characters and learn them super good. I don't think there's a better way than what this app provides. It's awesome!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Arch Chinese -- A Chinese character practice sheet creator

Arch Chinese is one resource that we found when we looked for ways to teach our kids Chinese. It's not one that we chose to end up using for reasons we'll discuss shortly, but we think it's a great resource nonetheless. We definitely wanted to blog about it in case it seems right for anyone else.

Arch Chinese is a paid service. It's a website that you sign up for, and it costs $70 or $80 or $100 for an 18 or 24 or 36 month membership. The main benefit of this membership is that it allows you to use their Chinese character worksheet creator. At first, you might think this is a free service. However, when you try to use it, it asks you to sign in if you try to make anything other than the sample worksheet. Here is the sample worksheet I made:

You basically just put in the characters you want to appear on the worksheet, and it makes one for you that you can save as a PDF. You have a little bit of ability to modify the settings of the worksheet, but try as we might we couldn't figure out how to make the boxes bigger. Here is another example of the type of worksheet you can make. You can also make flashcards, and there's online testing features and stroke order animations and sound files that sound out the words. However, the fact that we couldn't seem to make the practice boxes bigger meant that it would be way too small for little kids. For older kids or even adults, though, it's clear that this would be a great resource.

We believe that younger children need pictures and bigger spaces to write. Otherwise, they will probably get bored and frustrated and start to hate the idea that we're making them do the worksheets.


  • Easily make worksheets for any character, set of characters, or words
  • Other resources like stroke order, quizzing functions, and flash cards


  • $$$ -- going to cost you at least $70
  • Not great for kids. No pictures, writing spaces are small


  • Might be a doable option for parents that have older children around ages 10+ and are able to strictly force their children to plow through worksheet after worksheet. For many tiger moms out there, this is doable and Arch Chinese might just be a good resource for you!
  • Our rating = B-

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chinese Character Practice Sheet - I love my family

Family is the most important thing in our lives. We don't always have the same structured family, some families are big and some are small. The other day we were driving home from church and I asked my oldest son E how many people there were in our family. He counted and of course forgot about himself, he eventually told me "4!". We laughed at him a little and told him that he forgot about himself. He laughed too. It was cute to see him count again and this time he counted himself as the fifth person. We are a family of 5, with three little boys. The words we often hear at our house are "brother", "older brother" and "younger brother". In Chinese, the characters stand for older brother and younger brother are totally different. Same with the characters that stand for older sister and younger sister. See my practice sheet for the actual characters:

Click on the picture to download the PDF of the I Love My Family
Chinese character practice sheet

As with all of the practice sheets that I make, I found they work best if you put them inside a sheet protector. That way, your kids can practice over and over again with a dry erase marker. In no time at all, they will become competent at writing Chinese characters!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Chinese (小星星)

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is an easy song to sing in Chinese and English. We've always sung both versions to our kids. They've picked it up without an effort on our or their part. Songs are a good way to get kids familiar with Chinese. Twinkle Twinkle little star is especially good because it's one you probably sing every night! If you don't know the Chinese version, just watch the video below!

And just because I love our kids so much and think they're the best, here's our kids singing the English and Chinese version.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How my oldest son learned to write 1-10 in Chinese Charaters

Today I told my oldest son E who has just turned 4 last month to practice writing Chinese Characters 1-10 and I told him that if he can write them out without any help then I'll give him a dollar. I was thinking there was no way he can do that just yet, so I was pretty confident that this task will occupy him for a good hour also. I printed out the practice sheet from my previous post. Covered them with plastic protecting sheets and gave my son some dry erase markers. It didn't take him long before he told me that he was ready to take on the challenge. I didn't think he could do it but still pulled out a piece of paper and gave him a pen. I was really surprised to see that he actually wrote down all 10 characters and they even look decent. Here is a picture of him:

E and Chinese Character 1-10

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chinese Character Practice Sheet - Numbers 1-10

A facebook friend suggested me to add stroke orders to the character practice sheets, and it was a great idea. So with the help of my husband, I finally figured out a way to add stroke orders. Believe me it was not easy! So here you go numbers 1-10 practice sheet.

Numbers 1-10 practice sheet: 

Click on the picture to download the PDF of numbers 1 - 10
chinese character practice sheet

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chinese Character Practice Sheet - Animals Part I

Hi, I'm Miao Miao. I have three boys who I want to teach Chinese to. Unfortunately, I didn't find materials I wanted online, so I started to make my own. Stay tuned to all the fun practice sheets I'm going to post in the future. And comment to let me know how you like them and if you have better ways to improve them. Please know that all the materials posted on this blog are made by me and owned by me, please refer to the source when you repost.