AppStore User Rating:
Monki Chinese Class is a simple and straightforward app that will help elementary children learn a few basic Chinese characters. The app includes 20 ideographs for users to hear, say and trace.
- Tracing feature includes error correction and sound effects
- Illustrations and animations to aid memory
- Audio recordings of spoken words
- 3 levels of difficulty
- 3 tracing speeds
Monki Chinese Class delivers exactly what it promises-a quick and easy system for learning a few Chinese characters. The app is easy to use, so children should not get frustrated with it. There is an options control section that allows users to turn music on and off and to change the tracing speed, as well as reset the app back to the beginning. The parents’ section gives information about the app, as well as extension activities that parents or teachers can use to reinforce the learning.
Monki Chinese Class is an interesting diversion for children with an interest in the Chinese language. Users can see Chinese characters, trace them, see the English word, hear the Chinese word spoken aloud, and see the transliteration using English letters. Each simplified character is drawn, and then users can trace the strokes. The app repeats each character three times, and on the third repetition, removes the tracing lines and has the user make the same strokes from a starting point to the correct ending point. After each trace has been completed, the app shows a stylized graphic that represents the word and generally incorporates the character into the picture in some fashion. For example, the character for “mouth” is mostly square, and the drawing of a square mouth with teeth is formed around it. The figure will “snap” at the spot on the screen where the user touches. Most of these graphics add to the memorable-ness of the character.
The app includes twenty characters with a recorded voice saying each Chinese word. The transliterations are somewhat useful, but some have very little relation to the sounds of the word in Chinese, particularly those that include the letter R. Transliteration, by its very nature, is extremely difficult because the Chinese language includes sounds that simply are not part of the English phoneme set and do not have letters or combinations of letters to represent them. However, the recordings appear to capture the tonal nature of the language, which is one of its many difficult aspects.
While the techniques used to help users commit these characters to memory is very effective (the seeing, hearing, and movement coupled with repetition and memorable animations), the developers’ choice of vocabulary (and the limited list of words) leaves something to be desired. There are some very common words included, such as “tree,” “big” and “door.” However, there are some very uncommon words included as well, such as “saliva” and “landscape.” And there is no indication or instruction about putting these words together to express ideas, so aside from the novelty of memorizing a few characters, there is little practical use to the program.
Tracing each word correctly reveals a stylized graphic that generally incorporates the Chinese character. Tapping the screen animates the character. When the user completes each repetition of the tracing activity, a reward sound plays and a small smile face flies to the edge of the screen to show progress through the three levels.
It would be nice if the app included some reward sequence (perhaps after completing a screen full of characters) that allowed users to label pictures or to incorporate or use their learning in some fashion. As it stands, though, many children are likely to get bored with the repetition after one or two sessions.
The app is currently free, but without more extensive content or a more engaging activity, is not likely to have much staying power with young users. It falls into the category of novelty, and as such, may keep youngsters engaged for a while. It will be interesting to children who are already intrigued with the Chinese language, though, and will definitely give users a small taste of what it is like to use a completely different, non-phonetic based language system.
Monki Chinese Class has no outside advertisements. There is a parents’ section that is accessed by swiping two fingers across the screen as directed by screen instructions, but this is not likely to be much of a barrier to children who can read, as the intended audience can. The parents’ area opens onto the unprotected internet, to the developers’ webpage that contains information about the app, extension activities for adults and children to share, a sign up form for an email list, and social media links. It would be wise for developers to make this section more difficult for unauthorized access. The app also has an in-app purchase opportunity protected by the same system as the parents’ area and opening to an app by the same developer in the App Store that costs $1.99. This should be better protected from unauthorized access, as well.
Monki Chinese Class offers a unique opportunity to learn a select few Chinese characters in a multi-sensory environment.