Best Online Chinese Classes for Kids | Virtual Tutoring Lessons
If you live in a small city like my family, we can commiserate about how hard it is to find bilingual language teachers for children. What if you can’t find a local Chinese teacher for your child? Online Chinese tutors could be your best resource for raising bilingual children. If you’re considering online Chinese tutoring for your kids, here are pros, cons, and virtual classes to consider.
This article was originally published in July 2019 and has since been updated with new information.
Benefits of online Chinese tutoring for kids
Connection with native Chinese speakers is key for meaningful language acquisition. Passive language exposure, such as Chinese music, audiobooks, and videos, is not enough; neither are Chinese language apps for kids.
While media can spark interest and create an immersive environment, it can’t give personalized guidance and feedback on pronunciation and grammar. It can’t provide the back-and-forth interaction of real conversations.
If your kids don’t have the support of bilingual friends or family, try learning Chinese with an online tutor! Compared to in-person tutoring, online Chinese classes are relatively:
- Affordable: Depending on your region, online tutors are often much more affordable than in-person tutors.
- Convenient: You can learn anywhere, including the comfort of your own home.
- Flexible: Lessons can be scheduled at any time.
Downsides of online Chinese classes for kids
It’s helpful to be be prepared for potential drawbacks to online Chinese language classes. Some of the downsides to keep in mind include:
- Network connectivity: If you or the online tutor have a shaky wifi connection, any pause or lag can interrupt the conversation and momentum.
- Movement: Online tutoring often confines a child to a chair, but a thoughtful teacher can encourage movement during the class.
- Context: If you can only see your Chinese tutor’s face on the screen, you could potentially miss important body language. The teacher will also need to get creative with making the experience hands-on with fun activities.
- Screen time: Consider the overall amount of time your child spends with screens during the day. The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers advice on how to protect vision from excess media use.
As with any teacher, lesson quality depends on the instructor and if your child feels connected. You want to make sure that the online Chinese teacher enjoys working with children and knows how to engage them!
What age can a child start online Chinese tutoring?
Since online tutoring requires sitting at a computer or iPad, the child should be able to stay still for at least the duration of the class. The best age is usually school-aged children and teens. If a parent or older sibling is able to help, some preschoolers are able to participate in interactive online Chinese classes.
It also depends on whether the online Chinese tutor can offer shorter or longer lessons. Older kids with long attention spans can schedule hour long classes while younger kids might need short 20 minute lessons.
How often should my child meet with an online Chinese tutor?
As often as your budget and schedule allows! When kids feel comfortable with online Chinese tutoring, they have a better chance at learning Chinese.
Language researcher Dr. Carmen Munoz points out, “You have to live with the language, use the language and function in the language.”
Comparing online Chinese tutors versus classes for kids
These days, there are so many options that it can be confusing to know where to start. The first question to ask is whether your child should enroll in 1:1 lessons versus a group class. Here are additional questions to ask potential online Chinese teachers:
- Will the class follow a strict curriculum?
- Can the tutor be flexible and spontaneously adapt to your child’s interests?
- Does the teacher focus on listening and speaking skills, or are lessons heavy on reading and writing Chinese?
Best online Chinese tutors for kids
The biggest benefit of 1:1 online tutoring for kids is the chance to have a relevant, personalized lesson. If you want to get your child to speak Chinese, the most natural way to follow his or her passions.
For example, if your child loves sports, find an online Chinese tutor who shares the same passion and can talk about soccer or basketball. If your kid enjoys Disney movies in Chinese, look for an online teacher who can chat about favorite movies!
For multilingual children, consider finding an online tutor who can use one of the minority languages to teach another. This way, you can encourage kids to speak multiple minority languages simultaneously, but English can serve as a backup if necessary. (We considered looking for a Chinese tutor to teach our child Korean, our family’s other heritage language.)
Here are popular language platforms for finding private online Chinese tutoring classes for kids.
Several Chalk Academy readers have raved about their experience with the popular iTalki platform. iTalki hosts more than 10,000 teachers in over 100 languages, including Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
Here are some highlights about iTalki!
- Search filters: iTalki’s platform lets you search online tutors by language, fluency, and location. You can also narrow down teachers those who specialize in kids.
- Profile: Each teacher’s profile includes the number of lessons were taught and the number of reviews from past students. You can also preview the teacher’s introduction video, some of which are pretty flashy with professional footage.
- Price: Rates for highly-rated Chinese teachers range from $5 to $80 per lesson.
- Pay per lesson: You don’t have to commit to a long program. With iTalki, you can pay as you learn.
- Public notebook: Practice typing in Chinese, or another target language which will be reviewed and corrected by native speakers.
- Community: Search for and connect with native Chinese speakers in the iTalki network.
If you’re looking for a great Chinese tutor online, Preply is another popular platform among Chalk Academy readers. Preply features professional tutors who speak over more than 100 languages, including Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
Here are some highlights about Preply!
- Search filters: Preply’s platform lets you search online tutors by language, fluency, and location. You can also narrow down teachers those who specialize in kids.
- Profile: Each teacher’s profile includes the number of lessons were taught and the number of reviews from past students. You can also preview each teacher’s introduction video which are simple and straightforward with no background music.
- Price: Rates for highly-rated Chinese teachers range from $2 to $40 per lesson.
- Pay per lesson: You don’t have to commit to a long program. With Preply, you start with a trial and pay as you learn.
- Speaking timer: You can see what percentage of the lesson you spoke compared to your online tutor. This objective tool can let the tutor see that you need more speaking practice.
Best online Chinese classes for kids
If your child needs more structure, consider online Chinese classes that follow a curriculum.
Heart Strings Mandarin
These virtual Chinese classes are led by a Chinese American music therapist and educator, Sharon Gan. Her lessons are geared for kids between ages 3-7. To engage the toddlers and young children, she sings songs, plays instruments, tells stories, and uses puppets to teach Mandarin Chinese.
Although we have not been able to try the classes due to our busy schedule, my family has enjoyed the original music that the teacher has shared on her YouTube channel. Learn more about Heart String Mandarin Chinese lessons here.
Learn Chinese by involving your child’s hobbies! Bilin Academy is an online program that hosts native Chinese-speaking teachers in art, calligraphy, and musical instruments like piano, violin, and clarinet. They can also teach children how to play the classic Go game (围棋 / 圍棋 / wéiqí) in Mandarin Chinese.
A few years ago, they sponsored a few Chinese lessons for my child as well as a review of our experience. Although we no longer take online classes due to our busy schedule (and we do not earn commission on further recommendations), we still think Bilin Academy is a wonderful option for children and teens learning Chinese.
Learn more about Bilin Academy online Chinese classes here.
If you’re looking for a Chinese curriculum that teaches both speaking and reading, Lingo Bus has been strongly recommend by many Chalk Academy readers. Lingo Bus offers online Chinese classes for beginners to heritage speakers from ages 5 to 12.
Each lessons generally includes a designated amount of time on Chinese conversation, then playing a Chinese characters game, then reading a passage.
After each lesson, the Chinese teacher offers written bilingual feedback about strengths and areas for improvement. Lingo Bus also offers a digital library of stories plus downloadable materials for further learning.
A few years ago, Lingo Bus sponsored a private online Chinese class for my child as well access to their e-library. Although my child was engaged during the lesson, I declined further partnership, because her middle-grade reading level was too advanced for their e-library. Also, the large amount of time spent on reading was not a good fit for a family like ours that needs more organic conversation practice.
The good news is that you can sign up for a free trial class to see if Lingo Bus would work for your family. Learn more about Lingo Bus here.
*Note that Lingo Bus only teaches simplified Chinese characters. If you’re interested in a similar online class that teaches traditional Chinese characters, readers recommend LingoAce. Learn more about LingoAce here.
Have you or your children tried online Chinese tutoring classes?
I’d love to know if you were able to find an online Chinese teacher or class for your children! Which online Chinese tutoring programs have your kids tried? What advice would you add from your experience?
More effective tips for teaching Chinese to kids
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent is Possible
I hope this message finds you well. Thank you for the posting. I am a trilingual speaker fluent in Korean, Mandarin and English. I have been tutoring 3+ to teenager and adults language since I was college. I am in NJ and my schedule is pretty fixable. Please reach out to me if you are interested in hiring a online tutor in those languages. I would love to offer my first section as free consultation. My email is [email protected] Thank you for your time reading my message. Hope you are having a wonderful day.
Yes, we need to understand Chinese from different perspectives, and generally listening, speaking, writing and reading for learning a language. The listening and speaking is not difficult personally, but the reading and writing is really hard as Chinese characters are a form of ideogram.
How can we find a free Korean tutor for 12 year olds