Life at Warp Speed

life, faith, food, parenting, homeschooling and just about anything else that is on my mind

Guess How Much I Love You App – free for a limited time! July 19, 2013

Filed under: Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 6:18 pm
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Gone free again today!

Life at Warp Speed

Guess How Much I Love You – Interactive Episodes for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Our family loves the classic Guess How Much I Love You story by Sam McBratney. This is a lovely story about the love between a father and his son. I love the playfulness of the story, and the fact that it is about a father. For some reason, children’s stories seem to often feature only the mother and children with the father frequently missing. Anyways, I can easily recite this from memory due to the many, many readings to my son. I always decided to have M’s aunt record this story in the Hallmark recordable book so that he could listen to her read the story. (This is a wonderful way of keeping far away loved ones near and present for young children). Even though you can do this easily with many e-books…

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The Pig’s Day e-book – free for a limited time! June 6, 2013

Filed under: Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:08 pm
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The Pig’s Day for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Sorry, no time for a detailed review. This is an award-winning storybook that has gone free today (Normally $0.99). This e-book by Carolina D’Angelo is supported in Chinese (simplified and traditional), English and Spanish.

Recommended for ages 4 to 8.



i write chinese app – free for a limited time August 17, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Homeschooling Apps,Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 5:32 pm
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easy chinese writing (simplified) – i write chinese for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

This is a pretty nice, attractive Chinese writing app produced by Uniproducts Company Ltd. The full simplified version (normally $1.99) is being offered for free download for a limited time. There are free lite versions that you can try if you miss this deal. There is also a traditional character set which is not free right now. This is a departure from most Chinese writing apps which are organized by the root radical or stroke difficulty. Since the character sets are organized topically and not in graduated difficulty, this app is more suitable for learners 7 years or older.

The app covers 205 characters. Each set includes 17 characters and 5 compound phrases. Every character show what the character looks like stroke by stroke above the tracing order. There is audio for the correct pronunciation and pin yin.  It is really helpful that the tracing practice is numbered with arrows so that your child learns the correct stroke order and direction. I really also like that English, French and Spanish vocabulary is included at the top of the screen with accompanying audio. The only thing that I wish they included would be some sort of a tracing feedback for accuracy.

The topics covered are:

  1. Numbers – 1 to 10, 100, how many, etc
  2.  Nature – sun, moon, sky, etc
  3. Size – small, big…
  4. Family – mother, father…
  5. Direction – up, down…feed
  6. People – he, she…
  7. Food – rice, meat…
  8. Transportation – car, door…
  9. Color – white, pretty…
  10. Fruits –banana, tasty…
  11. Body – eye, listen…
  12. Weather – rain, snow…

Recommended for anyone ages 7 and up. Grab this while it is free!



Chinese (and other languages) e-book Apps – Free for a limited time! June 6, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Book Apps,Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 2:44 am
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App Store – RyeBooks: Mulan -by Rye Studio™.

This has been a very good week for apps, especially Chinese learning ones.

Rye Studio has developed a fairly large library of their RyeBooks Apps. In the world of Chinese storybook apps, these are some of the most visually appealing apps I have come across. Rye Studio is currently offering a large portion of their collection for free download for a limited time. Normally, their book apps range from $0.99 to $1.99.

One of the worse things about many of the Chinese e-book apps out of the market is that their English translations are really awful, the poor quality audio, or heavily accented. Rye books avoids all of these pitfalls. You will have to personally judge whether or not you like the individual stories. I find them to be acceptable, but not stellar from a writing and story telling perspective. However, for my personal purposes, I am not expecting great literature, just something acceptable to use for learning Chinese.

One the nice features about these apps is that you can toggle the text to be English, traditional or simplified Chinese with pinyin, traditional Cantonese with Wade-Giles, and even some other languages like Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, French, etc. You can have audio in these various languages as well. Every book has English and Chinese, but the additional languages vary from book to book. There is also a page of just the story text without the animation which is really useful for reading practice especially since the pinyin can be shown with the characters. You can also record your own audio for the app as well.

Recommended for ages 2 and up.



More free Chinese Apps for Kids. June 3, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 4:27 pm
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宝宝识字1 for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

I found these Chinese learning apps a few months ago, and just remembered I never posted about them. I have no idea what the name of the developer is since it is only in Chinese. These learning apps are developed for the Chinese educational app market, so keep in mind that there is little or no English support for these apps. Currently, these app are free for download.

The first set of apps (1 of 8 linked above) are good vocabulary apps aimed at the advanced beginner/beginning intermediate level learner. I would estimate aimed at 1st through 3rd grade Chinese students. Each app contains 9 lessons each of which covers a set of 12 characters. Each lesson has a character overview which includes the pinyin, pronunciation, picture, words/phrases that use that character, and sample sentences. Keep in mind, there is no English translation. There is also a multiple choice quiz where you are asked to select the correct character when shown the pinyin, audio and picture hint. The proper stroke order is demonstrated and you can practice tracing over the character. If you are not fluent in Chinese, you can easily find the definitions of the words online.

宝宝识水果 for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

These are some of the best and most comprehensive free Chinese flashcard apps that I have found which can be used with young children. So far, there are current 17 flashcard sets. Each app includes 3 sets of flashcards on the subject matter. Every flashcard has a picture, the word in Chinese, pin yin, and English, pronunciation in both Chinese and English and an accompanying text and audio about the object. The final page of each set has all the pictures from the set which can be tapped on to hear the audio naming the object. For most of the apps, there is also a listening game where you have to match the audio to the correct image. What is nice about this is you can increase the difficulty of the game by increasing the number of images from 4 to 6 or 8. I also like that the game does let you keep trying to match the correct answer. There is also a hint button if you need help.

These are the current vocabulary sets being offered:

  • Vehicles
  • Car Brands
  • Military Vehicles and Weapons
  • Food
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Furniture
  • Household Electrics
  • Common Household Items
  • School Supplies
  • Weather/Nature
  • Flags and Countries
  • Common Signage
  • Games and Sports
  • Animals
  • Dinosaurs
  • Insects

I have linked one app from each series for you. From there, you can get to the developer’s page to see all 100 plus apps. They have a lot of Chinese e-book apps as well that you can browse through as well which you have to weed through since not all of the stories are good. For the vocabulary, just look for the icons with the bug with the pointer and a number. For the flashcard apps, look for this phrase at the beginning of the app name 宝宝识 and tagged as education. There are four of the vocabulary apps where the game feature is not embedded in the app. You will need download the matching app that has the i人 pictured on the icon.

The flashcard apps are recommended for children 2 and up. The vocabulary apps are recommended for advanced beginner/beginning intermediate learners ages 5 and up.



Chinese learning apps for Kids – Free for a limited time! June 1, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Book Apps,Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:26 am
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Updated on 6/4/12.

幼小衔接:魔法拼音-2 for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Cheerz Kids! is a Shanghai based developer of learning apps for children. They have developed more than 70 different learning apps for the Chinese market (using simplified and pin yin). Currently, they are offering a wide array of their apps for free download (Normally, they are $0.99). Many of the apps will not be that useful since they are geared toward the Chinese market for educational apps for young children.

There are some that can be useful if have children learning Chinese even though there is no English translation or support. The first one linked at the top is one of two Chinese phonetic flashcard apps. This one focuses on the finals This is pretty useful since it offers an array of flashcards with pictures grouped by sound (i.e. a, o, e, an, ong, etc.). You can find the other app that focuses on initials (i.e., b, p, m, f, etc.), it is green with a dog holding a pencil with the letters b, f, and p by either looking on the developer page or by clicking on the “more” button and then the “4-7” grouping. I gave up on trying to link it here since iTunes is mind-numbingly slow in loading, and my written Chinese isn’t good enough to do a specific search. The interface is fairly easy to use and figure out even though it is geared for Chinese users. I really like the while in the flashcards, you can toggle a scrolling menu to select the sound family that you are working on. Keep in mind they only offer 4 flashcards per sound. You can probably work out the meanings of a lot of the flashcards, but there are plenty of Chinese dictionaries and translation tools out there that you can figure it out.

幼小衔接:四五快读学汉字-1 for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Now this series of seven graduated “1000” apps is geared for more of the intermediate Chinese learner since these are designed to by like the equivalent of Chinese early readers for their 1st or 2nd grade children. This will be a little harder to navigate since it is a more complex learning app. These apps are designed to build on vocabulary in a series of stories. Each story builds on difficulty, and each successive app increases in difficulty of vocabulary. Again, keep in mind, there is no English translation, so you will not necessarily want to use this with a beginning learner.

Each “story” starts with vocabulary with stroke introduction and practice. For example, in Collection 1, the first reader focuses the characters for 人, 大, 中, 小, and 一 (person, big, middle, small, and one). Then you go through a series of picture flashcards with pinyin of common words or phrases that use the featured characters. Then there is a simple test to match the characters to pin yin and then fill in the correct character to complete the word that was introduced earlier in the flashcards. This part is fairly forgiving since it will let you keep trying until you select the correct answer. In the later readers, you will get simple sentences that will tell a simple story and more difficult fill in the blank matching. The one thing I didn’t like is that for some of the testing, there is no audio button for the phrase for hints and you can’t go back or skip forward. I also thought that with the reading section would be more useful if there were pictures to accompany the story so that you could puzzle out the meaning. I suppose that since it is geared to a Chinese market, they assume that the child will understand the meaning from the accompanying audio since they are using simple sentences and vocabulary.

You can find the entire series of “1000” apps either by looking on the developer page or by clicking on the “more” button and then the “4-7” grouping. The icons are similar to the one above with a different number in the lower right. Regarding the rest of the apps, the only ones worth considering are the “dragon” (series of 4 right now) ones, the flashcard (preschool level concepts) apps (series of 5 – icons have 3 cards to the left and a dog to the right), the Chinese songs app (series of 4, icons have music notes and dog), and the story ones (have to look for those) which are at an picture book/concepts level. Unfortunately, it was too hard to get links to the specific ones, but they are grouped with the “4-7 ” apps (preschool flashcards grouped with “3-6”). If you look carefully at the list of apps, you will see some labeled with English, these are the English version of  stories. The matching Chinese ones have similar icons with a slightly different design. (see below for the list of the English version titles.) These will be the most useful if you are not fluent in Chinese. The “dragon” apps are a far more difficult reading apps with learning activities. I would estimate that you probably need to be reading at least at their 2nd or 3rd grade level to manage using these apps. The rest of the apps are not that useful since there are plenty of English language based apps that do a better job of early learning concepts.

Phonetic and e-book apps are recommended for ages 3 and up. Chinese songs and flashcards series is recommended for ages 2 and up. 1000 series is recommended for ages 5 and up for beginner Chinese learners. Dragon series is recommended for ages 7 and up for intermediate Chinese learners.


E-book titles:

  • Silly Suzy Goose
  • It’s a Book
  • Pepo and Lelo
  • Domino
  • Sometimes
  • You
  • My Uncle’s Donkey

Better Chinese – My First Chinese Words (PreK to 2nd) April 26, 2012

Filed under: Early Elementary,Learning Chinese,Preschool — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:55 pm
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Better Chinese – My First Chinese Words.

The age-old dilemma of American born Chinese parents everywhere is how can I possibly teach my child Chinese when I can’t speak or read myself. I have researched tons of Chinese curriculum that is out available for purchase. Universally, all of that curriculum is pretty near impossible to use unless you are fluent yourself, and you pretty much better be able to read Chinese. Also, most of the time, the curriculum was developed to be used overseas and hasn’t been adapted for Western learners and sensibilities. So, you will frequently find the material to be just plain off putting, questionable, or too foreign with very strange English translations. I also found the emphasis was frequently heavy on rote memorization.

Enter the answer to my prayers. I have put off writing this product review for quite awhile, mostly out of sheer laziness since I knew that it would take a little more time and effort to write. Better Chinese is a well developed curriculum with a thoughtfully designed pedagogy. It is the only one that I have found that was intentionally developed to also be used by non-native learners. I have My First Chinese Words set right now. I really love that this is a context/story based curriculum which is really helps children from a non-native speaking home. It does not assume previous exposure to Chinese or that the parent have any exposure in Chinese.

I did purchase the Homeschooler Starter Kit which is linked here: I started using this curriculum with my son when he was 2 years old (now 3 1/2). I have not introduced the workbooks yet which introduce writing exercises. I mostly concentrate on using the 36 My First Chinese storybooks and pull out the relevant flashcards to introduce them to him. I plan to spiral back when he is ready for more formal learning exercises. We listen to the songs that support whichever storybook we are reading this week. I actually spend about 2 weeks per storybook since repetition is key. If you can’t speak or read, there is an audio CD that you can listen to with your child so that they can hear and practice the correct pronunciation. The stories are colorfully illustrated and are designed to help your child make visual and auditory associations. There are sample lessons that can be downloaded for you to try out as well.

The curriculum is offered in both traditional and simplified Chinese with standard pinyin which is really rare to find these days since most traditional Chinese curriculum uses bopomofo (the Taiwanese phonetic system). There are a lot of great supporting learning supplements with this curriculum like their DVDs, online learning activities and videos (over 1,400), and games. If you order this, you need to remember to specify that you need the English instructor’s guide otherwise you may get the one written in Chinese. This can be exchanged, but it just saves the hassle of exchanging later.

The challenge that I have found with Chinese language schools in areas with larger Chinese populations is that there are frequently huge gaps in ability since you have students from native speaking homes and non-native speaking homes. Frequently, these teachers are strong Chinese speakers with limited English abilities which makes it a huge problem if they are unable to adapt for students from English speaking homes. It can be pretty hit or miss with various schools with their curriculum choices as well. If you are very lucky, your school segregates classes based on exposure to Chinese. To be quite frank, I am pretty hesitant about a lot of Chinese language schools since the instructors frequently use teaching and classroom methods which I dislike for philosophical reasons. I really don’t like shame based classroom discipline style, and I dislike dictatorial teaching styles which I don’t think helps to foster any love for learning. So, I am leaning towards delaying formal Chinese school until my son is much older.

Better Chinese has also been adopted as the standard Chinese curriculum in many school districts (like San Francisco) and states (like Texas). It is even being used in a number of weekend Chinese language schools now as well. I found the curriculum really refreshing and quite easy and enjoyable to use. I look forward to continuing on with Better Chinese My First Readers (ages 7 +) when my son is a little older. They also have middle school and high school/AP level curriculum available as well. I am fluent in Cantonese which is entirely the wrong dialect if you are trying learn or teach Mandarin. However, I do have one year of college Mandarin which helps me since as long as I can read the pinyin, I can master the vocabulary with some practice.

Highly recommended for pre-K to 2nd grade. This is a really wonderful curriculum for homeschooling families or families who want to start teaching Chinese while their children are still young.


ETA 2/21/2016: After completing 36 storybooks, my main focus was speaking and listening. I decided to loop back through, and this time he was older. I chose not to move up to the next level yet because I didn’t think he was quite ready for the writing output required.

I focused this time more on character recognition working with reading the storybooks and the flashcards. I would ask him to use the flashcards to make new sentences. This was really helpful to him to begin to put together new sentences and be able to visually see the sentence he was composing and made it easy for him to read it back to himself and double-check the grammar of his sentence and easily correct himself when he realized his errors.

I started him on practicing a little writing by picking one character to practice. You can use this free printable. The rice grid version is helpful to young children with proper positioning when writing their characters. I would take a character and write out a step by step example with arrows across the top row of the practice paper adding in the next stroke with each box. I also wrote it out using color to show the next new stroke that was added.

After we finished our loop back through, we worked through the 12 book series “I Love Chinese” and PinYin for Everyone from Better Chinese.


Learning Chinese HD App – free for limited time! April 18, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Kids,Learning Chinese — lifeatwarpspeed @ 12:17 am
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I am finally back online after an exhausting end to this year’s tax season. I was just going to relax tonight, but I saw this free download pop up for iperfect’s Learning Chinese HD app which is normally $0.99. There is a free lite version.

My son just loves playing with this app. He is inordinately amused by the idea of Chinese phonics. Most Chinese learning apps are focused more on learning to write or vocabulary. This app focuses only on the pinyin standard for Chinese phonetics. I really love how this app turns the dry practice of b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, etc. into a more enjoyable interactive learning app with cute animated “movies”. I love that it also covers which would be the various combinations of sounds and uses examples of the phonetic sound with actual characters. This app is not designed for English speakers, but it is simple enough to figure out even if you can’t read the descriptions.

Highly recommended for ages 2 to 7. Worth the $0.99, if you miss this deal.



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