Teach Chinese with Music {Product Review: A Little Mandarin}

Music is a very special gift for everyone. We have eyes to see, nose to smell, ears to hear, a mouth to sing, and a body to touch and feel. With through senses, we have been gifted a powerful second language, the language of music .

As a pianist and a mother, I understand the power and benefit of music, having regular music class and singing nursery songs are included in my homeschooling schedule. As a language teacher, I believe learning languages through music is one of the best ways to learn languages, especially for children.

So, today, I would like to introduce you to A Little Mandarin, a Chinese Children’s Classics children’s album.

 

 

* Disclosure: I was sent these items to review free of charge from A Little Mandarin. All opinions in this post are my own. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

 

Background


A little
Mandarin was created by a Shanghai-born NYC mom, Toni Wang who was raised in a musical family. She decided to raise her family in a trilingual home, she couldn’t find any high-quality Chinese children’s music for her little ones and so Toni created it herself and launched in October 2012.

 

Awards

 

A little Mandarin is not only an album to entertain, but it also combines modern sound, pop, dance,  and hip-hop to a collection of traditional Chinese children’s songs. Because of this creative product, it gained the awards: “Dr. Toy Best Classic, 2013″, “Parent’s Choice Silver Honor, 2013″, and “Creative Child CD of the Year, 2013″.

 

My Experiences with A little Mandarin

 

When I taught Chinese classes back in Utah, U.S.A., I found the album “A little Mandarin” in Spotify as I was searching for some Chinese children songs to use with my class. As I  listened to it, I was amazed how clear, simple, and fun they are. I have found other Chinese songs that had very thick Chinese accents, difficult terms, or unfamiliar melody. I noticed those were hard for those little American Chinese immersion kids to catch on to. However, that was not the case with “A little Mandarin”. It left a great impression.

Now, I’m homeschooling my little ones in Hong Kong and even though teaching Mandarin to my children isn’t my focus (because learning Cantonese successfully is), sometimes I play Mandarin music for them while they are playing legos, drawing, or just playing.

A couple of months after I started my blog, I was able to get in touch with “A little Mandarin” through Twitter, since then we have exchanged products to review. I feel very honored to have them review my work.

 

My Opinions of A little Mandarin

 

I agree this album A little Mandarin is a great product and tools for teaching and learning Chinese.

  1. Melody: Two words = Simple and clear. Those 15 tracks are familiar children folk songs with both slow/gentle and fast/fun melodies.
    {My kids’ favorite: “Scale song” in light and fast pace, and it’s perfect for dancing. “[Twinkle Twinkle] Little Start” is very gentle, sweet familiar songs to sing along.}
  2. Lyrics: It is perfect for beginners and children. The songs are simple, easy to follow, and have great meaning.
    {E.G.: “Make A Phone Call” contains a conversation between two dolls, “I Have A Pair Of Little Hands” teaches about the body and gets everyone moving.}
  3. Content: The 15 songs are about animals, school, friendship, nature, activities, and daily life. They are perfect themes for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and any beginner.
    {For me, I combine these songs with my Chinese Pre-K/ Kindergarten Theme Packs when teaching the same themes. Adding music to themes makes them much more enjoyable.}
  4. Arrangement: Using traditional foreign songs sometimes can be tricky, the melody and musical instruments may be too different and young kids may not fall in love with it right away. I love how modern music elements are included.
    {I also love the harmony and background voice which is in some of the songs.They made the album so much more interesting to listen to.}
  5. Voice: Toni has a beautiful alto voice. It is clear and sweet.
    {I  love how crystal clears the voice is, and it helps beginners follow along. * The only suggestion I have is, as a Chorist for children choir back in Utah, I think the melody is a little too low for little children to sing along with. Little children have quite high voices, so it may be a little hard for kids to match the right key and to sing along. (it is for my kids)}

 

 

 

What I Suggest to Teach with A Little Mandarin

 

Movement and Dance

All the songs in “A little Mandarin” are perfect for kids to dance or add move to. No matter if it is a fast or slow song, you can either let them create their own dance moves or teach them some movements to learn the vocab in the songs.

{E.g.: “Phone Call” : Make your hand into a phone, then pretend to make phone calls.
“Two Tigers” : Everyone pretends to be a tiger, then run around the classroom as the lyric mentioned.
“Scale Song” : Everyone pretends to be an opera singer, and then use solfege hand signals to sing along.}

 

First Day of School

I’m sure everyone is super nervous on the first day of Chinese class. Little ones are afraid of the unknown language, and teachers are also nervous about making everyone happy.

I suggest playing “A little Mandarin” as background music as the students walk into the classroom. Music will instantly create a friendly, comfortable, and fun environment that all the nervousness and unknown will disappear. As the students are waiting for class to start, they are able to enjoy the music and focus on the Chinese sounds and tones.

 

Introduce Yourself / Help Kids to Make Friends

When you need to introduce yourself or allow students to introduce themselves, instead of trying to teach them to speak in Chinese for the first time, I highly recommend to simply to play a game and teach them the song in “A little Mandarin” tilted: Find A Friend

What to Do:

  1. Have everyone stand up and make a big circle.
  2. Then, start the song for the first time. As the music is playing, follow the lyrics and wave to everyone while walking around inside the big circle.
  3. When it is time for you to find a “friend”, stop in front of a student, bow and shake hands with a student.
  4. Then, bring your “friend” out into the middle of the big circle.
  5. After you find your first “friend”,  they can follow you and find another friend as the song is playing.
  6. Wait until everyone has found a friend to be done.

 

Collaborate Songs into Lessons

I am planning on using the songs from A little Mandarin and mix and match them into my Chinese lessons this year. I would highly recommend using these songs with my Chinese Theme Packs.

A Sample Lesson Plan (A little Mandarin + Chinese Theme Packs}:

  1. Play songs related to the Theme as a background music
  2. Introduce the theme and new vocab with the Matching Game Card in the Chinese Theme Pack.
  3. Expand the Theme and practice the vocab by singing songs from A little Mandarin.
  4. Bring out prepared materials and hands-on activities from the Chinese Theme Pack (e.g. matching game, flashcards, math clip cards, Chinese color cards…) while playing A little Mandarin as background music as well.

* You can also plan your Chinese lessons according to A little Mandarin’s theme, or with Chinese Theme Pack as well.

 

You Might Be Interested:

    1. A Little Mandarin‘s Offical Website
    2. Download all the Lyrics of the album in Chinese, English, and Pinyin
    3. You can purchase A little Mandarin’s album HERE (hard copies or in digital).

 

     

 

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