My kids have been learning Chinese for six years now, and I have researched and experienced so much through this process.
When I first heard about Lingo Bus, I was skeptical about online Chinese lessons. I have wasted a lot of money on Chinese tutoring in the past. My kids go to a 2 hour/week Chinese class that has worked really well for us, and I supplement at home a lot, but when I have tried to supplement with tutors I felt like I did not see a lot of structure or progress – especially considering how expensive it was. I also felt like it was hard to follow up at home to support whatever it was that the language tutor was doing.
I had so many questions about Lingo Bus before we signed up, because I didn’t want to waste more money on ineffective tutors. Lingo Bus ads kept popping up in my Facebook feed (I’m not surprised, given my interest in Chinese and homeschool!). Finally, I went ahead and signed my oldest child up for a free placement lesson.
Before I signed my kids up to try Lingo Bus, I had these questions:
Now that we’ve done 20 lessons, I’ll also tell you:
These were all the things I wondered about, but I just couldn’t find anyone talking about what I wanted to know. There are very few Lingo Bus reviews out there, and nothing gave me the details that I need to know. So, here I am, giving you a very lengthy review, after getting through 20 lessons with my kids.
Who am I?
To start with, I’ve been teaching since 2000, in one way or another. My parents are both retired teachers, so I feel like I’ve been in education my whole life. And, as I mentioned, Chinese has been part of our homeschool for six years. We started French last year and it went well. I’m amazed at how much progress my kids have made, considering I’m homeschooling languages that I don’t speak. I wrote a book about homeschooling foreign language, which is basically about all the things you can do at home to teach a foreign language even if you don’t speak it.
Lingo Bus and VIPKid are connected to each other, so you may hear of moms who teach for VIPKid getting to have their kids try Lingo Bus. I already work from home as an attorney, so even though I taught English as a Second Language for seven years, I don’t work for VIPKid. I was not paid or compensated for this review. I was not sponsored by Lingo Bus. I’m a regular, paying customer and my kids are just regular students. Lingo Bus didn’t know I’d be doing a review. This review is our honest experiences with Lingo Bus.
You may be wondering…
VIPKid offers English classes online. “VIPKID, founded in 2013, represents half of the market share for online K12 English language learning in China, currently teaching more than 200,000 students with over 20,000 teachers.”
VIPKid has taken the homeschool mom work-at-home world by storm, with so many homeschool moms earning good money teaching English from home. As far as I can tell, you just need a college degree and a year of teaching experience to qualify. I think homeschooling counts as teaching experience, which is another reason why so many homeschool moms seem to love the chance to work from home as a VIPKid teacher.
From what I’ve read, Lingo Bus came about as the flip-side to VIPKid. Instead of kids learning English online with VIPKid, now you can have kids learning Chinese online with Lingo Bus.
Quite honestly, at this point I’m picky about paying for language teachers for my kids. I don’t want to pay someone who doesn’t have really good teaching skills. A good teacher really does make a difference!
One of the things that Lingo Bus improves upon vs. VIPKid is that Lingo Bus teachers are required to have more training that is specifically in the area of teaching Chinese as a Second Language. Lingo Bus requires teachers to have teaching experience, degrees, or specializations in either international Chinese education or teaching Chinese as a foreign language. I read that Lingo Bus hired 100 teachers to begin with, but has lofty goals for expansion. I hope that they can continue to find qualified teachers.
As a former English as a Second Language teacher, and with all of my and my family’s experiences with learning foreign languages (it’s a lot), I’m really impressed with the quality of the teachers at Lingo Bus. I’ve observed many teachers. Lingo Bus teachers are very good at what they do. They’re experienced, practiced, and well-trained. They handle my quiet, reserved (online) 11-year-old, my teacher’s pet 8-year-old, and my very hyper and distractible 6-year-old.
The teachers use exaggerated movements and gestures that show up well on the smaller window showing the teacher’s video. The teachers are extremely encouraging, very expressive, and VERY practiced at what they do. They’re like theater artists. All of our teachers were in a range from great to incredibly great. The teachers have different styles and my kids have eventually gravitated towards their more favorite teachers, but they agree that all of the teachers are “good teachers.” My kids don’t all have the same favorite teachers, either, and I think we all know that certain personalities mesh together better than others. More about that later.
When you start out at Lingo Bus you must take whoever is assigned until you’ve had a couple of lessons with the same teacher. Then you can start to choose lessons from your favorite teacher. More about that later.
But these teachers must be very expensive…so…
“My 4-year-old has been doing Duolingo for a month, why can’t she speak Spanish yet?”
“If I pay for three months of lessons, my 5-year-old will be a fluent Chinese speaker at the end of that, right?”
The above quotes are real paraphrases of questions that I’ve gotten from people who just didn’t know anything about learning foreign language. Some of you might be puzzled, or laughing, or rolling your eyes, or nodding knowingly because you’ve gotten the same questions.
I know people have really different expectations when it comes to learning a foreign language. Especially Americans, because so few of us actually learn a foreign language. Did you know that less than 1% of Americans become proficient in the foreign language they studied in a US public school? So yeah, we as a country are really lacking in our foreign language expectations.
Lingo Bus is really good, but your kids are probably not going to learn Chinese entirely from Lingo Bus in isolation. This isn’t a knock against Lingo Bus. It’s just being realistic. They could get started and go a long way with Lingo Bus, and then you can support them at home, and also find other programs for them. If you want a breakdown on the cost to learn Chinese, I’ve broken that down here.
I’ll focus on just Lingobus for a while. The short answer about how much Lingobus costs is that it’s $20 per 25-minute individual lesson, and $28 per 25-minute sibling group lesson (there are also discounts offered periodically). But how many lessons will your child need?
It’s a good idea to educate yourself about the most effective ways to learn another language, how long it takes to learn a language, how you can support language lessons at home to get more progress for your money, and what not to waste money on.
It takes about 4000 hours of lessons and independent study for an English speaker to learn Chinese. It’s about half that time to learn Spanish. The truth is, there isn’t an easy, fast, cheap, convenient way for Americans to learn a foreign language. If there were, we’d have a lot more Americans who were fluent in a foreign language. There is no magic diet pill and there is no magic foreign language pill. It takes time. There are a lot of things you can do in your home for free to get in the study time your kids need, and the more you can do that, the more money you’ll save on lessons.
Foreign language lessons aren’t cheap, but for one-on-one lessons, Lingo Bus is reasonably priced. And, that is even more so if you can get one of the really good coupons that they periodically offer. I’d say if you are interested, sign up and then just keep buying a few lessons at a time and watch for when they offer a sale. Even at the regular price of $20/lesson, it’s cheaper than local in-person tutoring for me, and the Lingo Bus lessons are really well done. More about that later.
If you sign up, thank you for signing up through a referral link from someone else, and buying a bundle of eight or more classes, so that you can get two lessons free. *ahem* Thank you for signing up through my referral code. This honest, detailed review took a lot of effort and time including me sitting through the 20 lessons with my kids plus all the time to organize my notes and write it. Plus all of my years of research in experience in teaching and learning foreign languages. If you sign up through me then you get two free lessons and I also get free lessons, which is pretty great *ahem*. My Lingo Bus referral coupon code is 6DQP9A.
I have three children, so I buy one bundle of lessons and then I distribute them among my children in the way that I choose. Lessons eventually expire, but there is a generous time period to use them up. So, if I choose, I can have my oldest child do three lessons in a week, and my younger child do only one lesson. Or, they can all do no lessons that week and do extra the next week, etc.
I think Lingo Bus lessons are a very good value. We tried it and then I bought 100 lessons when there was a sale. I can distribute those 100 lessons between any of my three kids, which is good because my oldest child might want to do more lessons per week than my younger children.
When I take into account that the lessons include other materials to help at home (worksheet, online re-aloud library with pin yin and characters), it makes the price of the lessons seem even more reasonable.
And, don’t forget that if you sign up through a referral and buy a bundle of 8 or more classes, you can get two free classes (and I get free classes too, which makes me really happy) Once again, my Lingo Bus referral code is 6DQP9A.
Lingo Bus has online one-on-one and group lessons for siblings ages 5-12. I think the group lessons are a more recent offering. Group lessons are the same cost ($28/lesson) for groups of 2-4 kids, so if you have 4 kids it would be $7/child, but if you have two kids them it’s $14/child (as I’m writing this). Even with two kids, that’s cheaper, per child, than individual lessons.
The Lingo Bus guidelines say children in a group should have less than a 5 year age gap, and a similar Chinese level.
We decided against group lessons, for now, although I might eventually schedule some group lessons just to see how my kids do together. Group lessons give kids a chance to work together, and for some families it really could be a good solution.
My kids have different Chinese levels, and my 6-year-old is not capable of going through nearly as much material as my 11-year-old. They’re five years apart, after all. Even if I grouped my 8 and 6 year old children together, they’re still on very different Chinese levels, and my younger children have very different personalities.
The benefits of group lessons are that it costs less than individual, and you don’t need to allocate as much overall time. My kids like me to sit next to them during each lesson, so if all three kids do a lesson, then I’m sitting there for a minimum of 90 minutes. If they did group lessons I’d only be sitting there next to them for about 30 minutes of my time.
My kids played the games together after they learned them individually from their online teacher. If you have siblings taking individual lessons, you can encourage them to play in Chinese together and they can still get some of the group interaction benefits.
If you find that group lessons are not working, Lingo Bus says you can email them to switch to Individual instead. I’m not sure exactly how they transfer everything over.
Lingo Bus lessons are 25 minutes long. They’re 25 minutes of complete immersion, talking back and forth with the teacher. They’re intense. They’re achievable and they set the child up for success from the beginning. None of my kids have ever been bored. None of them have ever complained that they wanted to stop early. All of them have taken off their headsets at the end of a lesson and sort of deflated a little bit after all the intensity. They like the lessons, they’re having fun, but they’re working.
Before the first lesson/placement lesson, Lingo Bus has short introduction videos for the parent and for the child. I think it’s really important to watch the introduction videos with your child because it teaches the hand gestures that the teachers will use.
The Placement Lesson
You have the option to do a placement class, or basically a free first class if you sign up and indicate that your child has no prior experience learning Chinese.
Lingo Bus divides its levels into 1 (novice low), 2 (novice mid), 3-4 (novice high), and 5-7 (intermediate low-mid).
How accurate is the placement test? I ended up doing two placement tests for my oldest child, who is 11, and finally someone else went through and watched his last few lessons to get an idea of where to actually place him. So, even if the placement test isn’t perfect, Lingo Bus is pretty good about working to get a student into the right spot.
I think that it’s realistic to understand that placement tests aren’t perfect with children. Even if you have to adjust the level after the placement test, the lessons are valuable because the child is getting speaking practice and getting used to the format of the lesson.
There is a shared cartoon screen where the teacher and student can draw with the mouse (or with a finger on an iPad, I guess, but we have only tried it on the computer). The teacher has props (different teachers use different props but they all seem to have the main characters in a story). Some teachers have a puppet (my younger kids love the puppets, but my 11yo does not). The teacher speaks only in Chinese and leads the student through interaction and vocabulary by using a combination of Chinese, props, gestures, and the shared cartoon board.
Lingobus schedules new vocab and a new unit each time. I don’t know if kids ever repeat lessons, but there are period review/test sessions (my kids have all passed their reviews). Everything is scripted and when I schedule units the future coursework is scheduled by the computer. From the first lesson, students are quickly hearing, speaking, and reading full sentences, not merely individual words.
These lessons are dense. There is a LOT packed into the lesson, and it is a solid 25 minutes of real interaction. There is no lecture. There is demonstration, interaction and using the language. Really, all the things that a lesson needs to contain is here. Lingobus lessons are amazingly well scripted and well planned.
Professionalism and follow-up
Lingobus lessons and follow-up are highly professional. Lessons are scripted and the curriculum is planned. The curriculum is good and follows guidelines (more details on that below). You get a workbook and other study materials with each lesson. You can watch a playback of the lesson. There is a growth journal. There is a follow up report. All of these things help you, as the parent, help your child get the most out of the lessons you’re paying for.
A+++ for immersion.
Our of around 20 lessons, I only heard English one time when there was a small headset issue and the teacher told my 6yo, “Tell your Mom that the sound is not working.” (We had the sound fixed in a minute, that was one of four technical glitches we had out of 20 lessons).
I have dismissed many other online language learning programs as supplements because they were so limited in their approach and lacked the major ways that language is acquired. Lingobus is using so many of the recommended best language learning methods that I think it has an excellent chance of being effective.
It takes a long time to learn Chinese.
Even with all the intensity of the lessons, my kids have not complained that the lessons are too hard. Even though they’ve all studied Chinese for years, they were really apprehensive about talking to someone from China. They all told me, “Mom, we can’t really speak Chinese.” This is true. The 2 hour/week school they go to focuses on reading and writing. The kids there can already speak Chinese. My kids memorize things and have started to be able to express themselves, and understand commands, but they couldn’t have a back-and-forth conversation. They were all at basically a one-word-at-a-time level when speaking informally. They all have memorized songs and stories in Chinese, but had not made the leap into being able to do more than single words or perhaps two very short sentences back and forth.
What I’ve noticed is that for my children have each made progress in their ability to speak Chinese, and their speaking ability has improved more rapidly than with other methods and lessons we have tried in the past.
The short answer to this is that I don’t know because I haven’t tried all the online Chinese lessons out there. I’ve tried various Chinese language apps, computer programs, and self-directed resource libraries. Some of those are great supplements, but there is no comparison to the scripted, live Lingobus lessons.
I have tried tutoring through skype when my son was 8 or 9, and that was a disaster. We had technical problems, and even though the tutor was supposed to help him with his regular Chinese school homework, they were barely able to cover any of the material. Basically, Lingobus is vastly superior to other options we’ve tried online.
I’d be happy to try other online Chinese lessons and see how they work, too.
I’ve evaluated Lingobus using my own checklists. Lingobus provides so much of what’s recommended that it fulfilled almost everything on my checklists. The lessons provide live video with a native speaker and include cultural content – two things that are the most difficult to find in other offerings. The lessons are just really, really good. HOWEVER, there’s a caveat here. Lingobus provides things for you to use at home. There is a workbook, you can replay the recorded lesson, and you can encourage re-playing the games and singing the songs both before and after the lessons.
You can see my scans of my completed checklists for Lingobus (and you can also find more of these checklists to evaluate other curriculum or lessons)
Based off of my checklists, my concerns about Lingobus are:
I used my Foreign Language Lesson Checklist and my Curriculum Evaluation Table (part of the Curriculum Worksheet) to evaluate Lingobus. These worksheets are part of the book I wrote about homeschooling foreign language. The results are here, and you can also see the Bilingual Environment Worksheet and Supplements Worksheet, which are what I use to make sure I am getting the most value out of the lessons we do:lingobus worksheets
The checklists give a pretty good summary of what Lingobus covers, and what you might want to do to get the most out of Lingobus.
But wait, there’s more! I promised a long review, and I’ve got many detailed notes about the 20 Lingobus lessons that I’ve sat through with my kids…
Lingobus provides reading, speaking, listening, conversation, additional audio, sometimes games, songs (you sing in class and parents can access the songs separately on the website under “Chinese Chant”), flash-cards for self-review, a little game plus printable games (mostly for group use), and writing in the printable workbook. The resources section has a “Daily Chinese” one sentence videos to practice. The blog includes Chinese culture articles, which are written for the parent or an older child to read. There are many articles about holidays or food, two topics which my kids are almost always interested in. There is an online Lingobus library that will read books to your child and includes pin yin and characters (you can toggle a button on and off to turn pin yin on and off). The online library is more engaging and better written than I have seen before – although I have seen others that used a similar format. These books are written so well that even my husband and I were able to pick out Chinese words from context (we have never had Chinese lessons and I have consistently had a very difficult time picking out Chinese words from context for the past 6 years! I have a very easy time picking out words from context in Spanish or French, so I think these Lingobus books are a big deal. Especially considering that reading is considered to be an effective way to learn a language).
It’s really easy to make yourself completely unintelligible if you are sloppy with your vowel pronunciation. I noticed that the Lingbus teachers really take their time helping kids get these right, and that there are parts of the lessons that are designed to practice the contrast of two similar-sounding words. Some Lingobus teachers say my children are fantastic at pronunciation and others are pickier and say they’re good but they want perfection.
Lingo bus gets an A+++++ in conversation with a native speaker. From the start, there is a lot of back and forth going on during a lesson. My 8-year-old was very scared about talking only in Chinese, but at the end of the first lesson she happily said, “It wasn’t that hard to talk in Chinese. Sign me up for another lesson!”
Expect differences in conversational ability for your children. My oldest child, especially, was able to converse back and forth and express his own dislikes and form his own sentences. For example, my youngest child would just learn the words for family members (there are a lot of names for family members in Chinese that we don’t really have in English). My middle child would say something like, “She is the little sister. He is the big brother.” My oldest child, age 11, was able to say those things but also add in things like, “I am not the little brother. I am the oldest brother.” This was also similar when talking about things like food and play. My oldest child, partly because he is older and partly because he has studied Chinese for longer, was asked to express his opinions more about things and to really converse back and forth.
It takes a degree of study and skill for a native speaker to learn to teach a foreign language like this. It takes what feels like a long time for kids to answer questions. It takes training, patience, and good observation skills to know how much time to remain silent while you give a child a chance to think of an answer. The teachers obviously have had training and practice at this skill. When you are not yet able to speak easily in a language, this is a big advantage over trying to talk to untrained native speakers. Untrained speakers often get impatient and switch to English or finish sentences for the learner, which can be embarrassing or discouraging. Again, A++++ from me here.
In-Person vs. Online Chinese Lessons
When my kids took in-person tutoring I spent an enormous amount of time driving them back and forth, sitting there for the lesson, usually grabbing dinner at a restaurant, etc. I much prefer the online lessons, as far as time goes.
So, yeah, the Lingobus lessons are providing most of what I want to see in foreign language lessons, but what about the online format? Maybe you’re wondering if online Chinese lessons are easy to use…
We have only done the Lingobus lessons on a PC laptop. I also installed the Lingobus app on our iPad, but we only use it for the flashcards and online library. The app is cuter than the PC interface. I think you need to schedule classes on the pc because I can’t see where to schedule them on the iPad. The Lingobus PC technology works well. It was easy to get set up, and a “fireman” is ready to help you through the process. They were very professional.
The Lingobus user interface is great on both PC and iPad. We can watch video playback of the lessons later, and get a little progress video. The video playback is great, but the progress video is just sort of random snippets – sometimes it’s good and sometimes I’m left wondering how in the world that part of the lesson ended up being chosen. I’m sure it’s chosen by a computer. It’s fun for us as parents to re-watch the lessons. My 6-year-old loves to re-watch her lessons, and I think that’s going to be common for young children because they often like to re-watch tv shows and movies. For her, this is like a TV show with her in it. It’s valuable for them to re-watch.
It was a little confusing the first time we set up the virtual classroom because we didn’t realize we were supposed to click on the picture – we thought we were supposed to find that same thing somewhere in our settings. We were overthinking it. We finally realized we were supposed to just click right there, and it worked.
We had four minor technical glitches in 20 lessons. Once, for some reason my son’s headphones stopped working as soon as he turned on the classroom camera. The “fireman” (tech support) fixed it in a minute. Another time the teacher’s headphones stopped working, and a fireman fixed it in a minute. Twice during a lessons, there were a few times where everything reloaded and said the connection was having trouble. I think that took up a total of two minutes. So, overall, I think this is ok when you’re talking with someone on the other side of the globe. I’ve never even had one internet conversation that didn’t glitch at least once, so having 16/20 glitch-free lessons seems pretty good.
Technology is an issue with my 6-year-old. My 6-year-old is distracted by the computer screen, her headphones, her mic, the mouse, the cords, making some windows bigger or smaller, drawing on the shared cartoon board, etc. However, she is very hyper and distractible anyway. She would be distracted by lint on the carpet or dust in the air if none of the tech things were present. She does pretty well with following the lessons, actually much better than I thought, as I’ll talk about later. I think this is just an area where you shouldn’t be surprised that your young child is acting like…well…a young child.
If you’re using a computer with a mouse, the student needs to be able to use a mouse well to drag and drop, trace, match, and put things in order. If your five-year-old cannot do those things yet, have them work on learning how to do those things before signing up for Lingobus, or consider doing the lessons through an iPad, which might be easier for small children. I haven’t switched my 6-year-old over to the iPad but I am really considering it even though I’d rather keep my kids all on the same interface just for my own convenience of setting things up.
Take a look at the above checklists that I filled out so that you understand how to create a bilingual environment in your home, and what kinds of supplements you might want to add to Lingobus.
As I’ve talked about in my book, creating a bilingual environment is so important for language acquisition. You can do this at home (to an extent) by using the ideas that I go into detail about. Lingobus already includes so much that I think you don’t need to supplement much, especially not in a formal way. Use the Lingobus supplements that they give you to go with the lessons, and you are set. In my experience in teaching my own kids and other kids, the younger your kids are, the more they will need your help.
I’ve gone through and made notes on my worksheets (above), and my detailed notes are below…
I think Lingobus online lessons cannot provide the same type of relationship aspect as an in-person friend or teacher because of the distance and scriptedness of the lessons. The format of how you schedule lessons means that for me, my kids rotate through a few different teachers and sometimes try a new teacher. They have a couple of favorite teachers that I have never been able to schedule them with again, all due to the format of how scheduling is done.
My kids have really loved their teachers at their Sunday Chinese school so this not going to totally replace an in-person teacher or friend. My kids have Chinese names that their teachers gave them, after a lot of thought. Lingobus does not replace our in-person weekend Chinese school.
Lingobus has a “Chinese Buddy” available after your child reaches a certain level. We haven’t tried that yet. It would be cool to have the kids make a young friend in China, for the cultural aspects as well as language. The downside of our in-person language school is that all the kids usually speak English to each other. In this aspect, Lingobus could provide something great.
The lessons are scripted and practiced, which I think is a positive thing for this format. The lessons are similar, but not the same, for ages 5-12. My daughters, ages 6 and 8, are on the same lesson number for each lesson, but they have some different lesson content as the teachers adjust a little for their abilities.
I often get feedback from my son’s Lingobus teacher that the teacher added enrichment because my son knew many more words than what they were covering. As the lessons have gone on, I’ve started to get some of those comments for my middle child, too. It’s nice to know that the teachers are really watching and paying attention.
My son didn’t start out at the beginning (because I had him do a placement test). My daughters started out at the beginning, so I had the chance to see the difference in the first lesson for a 6-year-old who is not yet reading fluently, and an 8-year-old who is reading fluently. My 8-year-old was expected to copy more sentences rather than just a few words or phrases, almost from the beginning. My 6-year-old began to say a couple of sentences at the end of the first lesson.
My younger kids like the puppets, but my son does not. However, a lot of teachers start out with the puppet even though he’s 11. Some of the teachers can be “cutesy” with him even though he doesn’t want that. I wish there were just a little more adjustment for the fact that he’s 11 and not 6.
My girls already know all of their numbers, I think even my 6-year-old can count to 100 in Chinese, but to get through the beginning lessons they had to go through 1-2-3. It’s a limitation of the scripted lessons. Even with starting easy, my 6-year-old ends the lesson saying, “That was fun, Mom! Phew, that was hard work.”
My girls started at the first lesson, as I mentioned before. At lesson 5 there is a review and assessment. I sat next to my girls while they did their lesson, and my 8-year-old did much better than my 6-year-old. However, they both “passed.”
Why yes, thank you for asking. When you sign up there is a way to get two free classes. If you sign up through a referral and buy a bundle of 8 or more classes, you can get two free classes (and I get free classes too, which makes me really happy) Once again, my Lingobus referral code is 6DQP9A.
Lingobus also periodically offers discounts and sales on their classes. Lingobus had a really good Black Friday coupon in 2018, offering up to 50% off, and they again offered that discount the Saturday before Christmas 2018. There are other really good discounts offered at other times, so keep watching.
Now we get to the part where I talk about each child’s experiences with Lingobus, so you can see what it’s like at different levels and at different ages…
I have a very squirrely 6-year-old daughter. I was apprehensive about how my 6-year-old would get through a lesson. Asking her to sit still for five minutes is a difficult task, so getting through a 25-minute lesson…well…I thought it wouldn’t happen. But, she saw her brother doing his lessons and BEGGED to have a turn. She loves learning Chinese and going to her Sunday 2-hour Chinese class, so she’s motivated to do this.
Lingobus has some different allowances for when you sign your child up and they’re younger (I’m guessing 5 or 6). When you sign up a younger child you are asked if your child is already reading in English. My 6-year-old is reading above grade level but I chose “no” because she is not a fluent reader.
During the first class she had a harder time understanding what to do, spending a long time telling teacher Peggy, “My name is Peggy” rather than “My name is Annika.” Hah! She totally already knows these phrases in Chinese, but she needed to learn how to interact with someone without using English. She kept repeating everything rather than understanding and interacting, even when she understood the words the teacher was saying. I think confusion is normal at first for children this age.
She began speaking sentences during the first class. “This is my dad.” “I love my dad.”
There is a cartoon activity board that the students use during the lesson. Teacher and student can both see it and write on it.
My 11-year-old caught on to this very quickly. My 6-year-old has had times where she scribbled on it a lot, and the teacher erased it and circled the right answer. Eventually, after the lesson, I told her that the teacher could see her scribbling on there, and she was really surprised. She was doodling and just had no idea the teacher could see it! She could see the teacher’s marks but, being 6, didn’t “get it” that the teacher could see hers. The teacher’s marks are in red and the student’s marks are in blue. The teachers use a lot of redirection and my 6-year-old’s feelings were never hurt. The only time she has felt bad during a lesson was when the connection has glitched.
After her first lesson, she happily proclaimed that she got four “stickers” from the teacher. The teacher holds up a happy “sticker” to the camera and my 6-year-old was very pleased to see these. My 11-year-old feels a little embarrassed about them.
My 6-year-old consistently gets feedback that says she is enthusiastic but needs some more help from me, and that she does not understand the format of the class very well. I feel like maybe a “class format training class” conducted in English would help her. Overall, she just needs a lot more help from me. Finally, I taught her to say “I don’t know” in Chinese so that she could prompt the teacher to tell her the answer or explain again, and this has helped move things along a little. Otherwise, the teacher waits a long time (as is appropriate when a child needs more time to think of the Chinese word), but really my daughter is just sort of cluelessly wondering what to do, so she doesn’t need more time to think of the word in Chinese, she needs more explanation.
I think my 6-year-old will not be able to pick Chinese up as rapidly as my older children, especially my 11 year old, however she absorbs language in the way that young children do. As I’ve referenced before in my research, young children learning a foreign language in a classroom setting generally seem to not show lasting advantages over children who start later. This should not be confused with learning a true second language as a baby-toddler-preschooler.
The thing is, after a couple of Lingobus lessons her Sunday teacher, who didn’t know my 6yo was doing Lingobus, remarked that her speaking was suddenly much better. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not.
I think that if you have a young child and you want to try out Lingobus, if you can get through the first lesson at all, then you can try more. I think that to be fair, you should try at least a month’s worth of lessons to get your child used to the format.
There is a separate class to read pinyin, which my older two kids already know, but I am sure that my 6-year-old is not ready for that class.
My particular 8-year-old is one of those kids who does very well in a classroom setting. She’s a pleaser and she’s very often the teacher’s pet. She was very scared at first, feeling that she was afraid to make a mistake. She felt like she couldn’t do it. However, she’s loved every lesson. She’s super happy about Lingobus.
I started her at a lower level than I think she could have started at, technically, since I did not have her do a placement test, but she was very scared about trying to talk to someone from China on the computer and I wanted to reassure her. She did incredibly well from the first lesson and other than a bit of shyness at the beginning, she was fine.
She has started to add in some extra things as she gets more comfortable with the format.
Like with my younger child, time to get used to the format was necessary, but the difference isn’t as dramatic as it was with my younger child.
My 8-year-old loves the online Lingobus library the most. She’s at a really good age for them even though she reads at an adult level in English.
At age 11, and in his sixth year of Chinese through a local 2 hour a week school, my 11-year-old is showing the most rapid progress in Lingobus. He is shy on computer, very reserved, and sometimes feels things were a little silly. But he also understands that the movements help him retain the material.
My son is like many people when they learn a language – he is shy at first, and shy to speak to people he doesn’t know.
Speaking full sentences is a hurdle that my son has struggled to get over in the past. He has been able to memorize individual characters very well, and he understands a lot of Chinese grammar, but putting a sentence together or filling in a missing word in a sentence is still hard.
Did I skip my child ahead?
Not at first. As I noted when I talked about the placement lessons, this is an area where I expect some adjustments as we go. For the first seven lessons, I let him be, even though at his first lesson his teacher noted that he could possibly skip further ahead because he seemed to know a lot. But. Even though he knew almost all of the vocabulary covered, he did not know how to have a back-and-forth conversation. He usually speaks only one word at a time. His speaking fluency was much lower than his listening ability, which is the reason why I had him try Lingobus. I think the Lingobus format is very good for encouraging speaking fluency and noticed a difference right away in all of my children. Keep in mind that my children all have some prior experience and have a vocabulary background. I noticed that at the beginning of his first lesson, and during his first placement test, his speech was much more halting, but by the end of the first lesson he was stringing a sentence together better. Finally after lessons 7, my 11yo said he was feeling like it was really too easy for him, so I chatted with Lingobus, who said they would put the matter to an Academic Adviser to see what might work best. Then they contacted me to set up a special re-assessment test.
If you’ve got more questions about Lingobus, feel free to ask.