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Homeschooling a second language

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    For some time now my nine year old son has expressed a desire to learn Mandarin. His reasoning is that “because China is growing so fast I will need to learn Mandarin in the future”. I found this pretty amazing and emboldened by his enthusiasm, started looking around for a Chinese course.

    Unfortunately my first port of call (local secondary international schools) wanted to charge a motza (like, $60.00 per hour, which is ridiculous for a nine year old), or just went “huh?”, so I’ve been scrounging around on the Board of Studies website, TAFE, Universities, Co-Op bookshops and the like, trying to find some sort of “learn in your own time the basics of language X” yet to no avail. The Board of studies helpfully has a syllabus for K-6 but no further details as to how to source course material.

    In addition, I found that for most courses, you have to attend campus to do (TAFE) for example, at late hours, which is out of the question for a boy of nine.

    I’m at my wits end – the last thing I want to do is dampen his enthusiasm for learning because I can’t find the appropriate material.

    Do you have any suggestions?


    Ni Hao, Sprite. Wow. what a grown up 9yo you have. i studied mandarin for a while and it’s a lovely language. no, sadly not offering to tutor him because i can’t remember much.

    i was looking at adding a language to our homeschooling and have the primary LOTE catalogue from Abbey’s in Sydney. i’m happy to copy the relevant pages (there are 7, so lots to choose from).

    you get a local chinese person to tutor him. i don’t know anyone, but could ask around.

    my final suggestion is a podcast. i was listening to an italian one for a while and it was pretty useful. you can listen online, so don’t need an ipod. they are geared towards adult learning.

    good luck. let me know if you’d like the catalogue copied.



    Wow – what a forward thinker!

    Would you ba able to start with onlne courses? Lots of my friends in Japan learn English this way – I can’t recommend sites, but here are a couple off google..

    You can also buy language kits on CD or as software pretty reasonably these days. Not as good as an actual tutor but a good stand-in until you find someone. Maybe you could swap something for lessons – veges, lawn mowing, whatever.


    I know quite a few home edders who use Rosetta Stone software for languages. They are interactive and seem to teach more like you’d learn a language living in the country. Check out their website They also have home schooling versions. Downside is they are $300, but that is for 2-3 years worth of lessons.


    i just tried rosetta stone (arabic) and it was really good. the voices appear to be native speakers even if the introduction is all american. worth a look



    My DS wanted to learn German (so he could converse with his Opa) when I homeschooled and we used a cheaper CD_ROM language programme whilst saving for the Rosetta Stone series. My sister in NT is a teacher of Mandarin I’ll email her to see if she knows of a better programme.



    Hi Sprite,

    I know the Brisbane School of Distance Education provides chinese lessons for Year 8 – 10, but that’s past 9 years old…!!

    Most local chinese temples will provide Chinese lessons to foreigners, usually they’re catered for adults but they’re so simple that that doesn’t really matter………..

    I’m decently fluent at chinese so I don’t mind playing e-mail tutor for free if you’d like (you’d need to install the Chinese IME from so he can type the language) but I don’t feel comfortable with teaching somebody the very, very basics of a language. But the offers there to help him out with homework.

    We used the ‘Ni Hao’ textbooks in highschool which were quite good – there’s a lot of characters, but if you get daunted by it he will, so just take it as ‘Oh wow, there’s a lot of characters in Chinese isn’t there? Let’s learn them!’ rather than ‘OMG HOW DO I READ THAT!?!?!’ (this is where many, many students of Japanese fall on their faces).

    We did use the Nihao textbooks as our very, very beginning books and we learnt quite well from them… You can get them online here from the US, or here from Australia: (which seems a LOT more expensive because the conversion’s almost 1:1 right now, but check the postage costs first). As you can tell, they’re my reccommendation =)

    You can probably teach yourself from them if you have somebody to help – trying to find a local native speaker would be best, Uni students are usually quite happy to tutor for $15 – $25/hour. check out local language exchange boards and sites like ‘gumtree’.

    one thing with Chinese is pronunciation – unfortunately, your son’s pronunciation WILL be shocking until he’s been learning for a good few years (and even then some, judging by a few people I know =S ). If he can just not sound like a ‘ben ben waiguoren’ (stupid foreigner/white guy – yes, there’s an accent used specifically by us!) he’ll gain a lot of credit later on. Subtitled movies and cartoons are really good for learning the rhythm of the language (improves his English reading, too!) and Chinese music is quite good for learning how to make the sounds of words (Chinese is Tonal, so music doesn’t help with that, but it’s bloody hard to pronounce tones aside, anyway. Singing along is good because it’s repetitive and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what it means).

    Hopefully this has been helpful, shoot me a message if you have any more questions!:lol:

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