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Maomi Stars: Kids Chinese Character Learning Game Review

I first heard of Maomi Stars when they hosted a voice competition for a new game that they were building back in 2020. Kids all over the world, mine included, recorded several Chinese phrases in a chance to have their voice embedded inside this new mobile game. I am so excited to share how the game has developed and how fun it is to learn Chinese with Maomi Stars.

Background info: Maomi Stars is a Chinese game geared towards international Chinese learners from ages 4 to 7. It tackles various components of language: character recognition, writing, listening and even speaking in a gamified format to engage children in learning their first 400 Chinese characters in a fun way.

Short Review

Benefits:

  • English interface – great for non-natives or families who are unable to read Chinese characters
  • Learn Cantonese and/or Mandarin with traditional or simplified Chinese characters – also includes jyutping and pinyin
  • A fun game to review and retain Chinese characters
  • Multiple accounts for multiple children
  • Built in 20 minute time limit

My Family’s Experience with Maomi Stars

Many thanks to Maomi Stars for sponsoring this post. This review reflects my family’s honest opinions and experiences with Maomi Stars.

Background Info: My girls are 4 and 6 years old at the time of the review. Their first language is English. They are learning Cantonese with traditional Chinese characters. I am leading and supporting their Chinese learning journey as a Cantonese learner who has been primarily a monolingual English speaker. Their father and my in laws are fluent native speakers who support their Cantonese language learning.

Overseas Family User Friendly

First of all, I absolutely LOVE that this app has an English interface! This is a big game changer for families who are not fluent readers. I have tried many Chinese apps, all of which have a Chinese interface, and have struggled just to sign up for an account because I can’t read Chinese. I have struggled for years, guessing and clicking randomly through other apps to figure out if an app is appropriate or not for my children. With Maomi Stars, there is no guess work. You can sign up and browse the app with ease. This game was designed for multi-lingual families who are overseas!

Inclusive to Many Different Chinese Learning Families

There is so much versatility in Maomi Stars.  It offers audio in Cantonese and Mandarin and characters in traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. You can also have the game instructions in English. This gives families many options! Cantonese speakers could even use this app to learn how to read in Mandarin by selecting Cantonese as the audio for instructions and Mandarin as the audio for the characters. For my children, I have selected Cantonese as the language for characters and instructions. I also have made my own account with Cantonese as the language for the characters and English for the instructions. It gives me the opportunity to better support my kids who understand more Chinese than I do and allows them to continue in an immersion environment. If your child is just starting out with Chinese, the option to have English audio for instructions is definitely beneficial!

If you select Cantonese as the language for instruction, the instructions are written down in spoken Cantonese instead of standard Chinese. This means that what the Wizard character is saying matches the written text. I especially like this feature as we can read and follow along. Please note, as of right now all the characters that are taught are standard written Chinese characters, no colloquial Cantonese characters are taught. If learning Cantonese characters is something that interests you, it is in the works! I look forward to learning Cantonese characters with my children when it releases.

How the Game Works

There are three parts to the Maomi Stars game to explore. The actual game is quite simple and the app is easy to navigate.

  • Rocks – learn characters and complete three mini activities to earn rewards for the Maomi kitties and stars to unlock new worlds
  • Worlds – review and test characters learned
  • Playroom – use your rewards to play with the Maomi kitties

The bulk of the learning happens in the Rocks section. Characters are introduced one at a time. Each character is introduced with its pronunciation and an example of how to pair it with another character to make a word. Click on the ? icon to learn its definition. It comes with a cute image and the English definition. Click the 拼 icon to see the jyutping.

Click the ? icon to get the character’s English definition.
Click the 拼 to get the character’s jyutping (Cantonese pronunciation)

Each character comes with three mini games to reinforce learning. It is listed in order of listen, write and speak. These games are designed to reinforce the characters that they are learning so that they can retain it.

  • Listen – Listen and select the correct character.
  • Write – Follow the footsteps of the mouse to learn the correct stroke order. Then do it independently.
  • Speak – Say the individual character correctly to pop germs. An example of a short phrase or word combination is given to help practice the word tones.
Listen to the audio and select the correct character. Practice listening and recognizing the character.
Follow the mouse’s footsteps to learn the character’s stroke order.

I love that you do not have to complete the characters or the games in order. My girls are in control of what character they want to review and also how they want to do it. My 4 year old likes to change up the order that she completes the mini games. For the past couple of days, she has been skipping the Speak game due to illness. It is great that the game does not force her to complete all the games before moving on to the next character. She can come back to complete the character at any time. There are also parental controls to skip mastered characters or enable completed characters again that still need more review.

Another feature that I truly enjoy is the Speak mini game. Rarely have I’ve seen a game that involves speech and it’s such an important part of language learning. The creators of Maomi Stars have been wonderful accepting feedback on this feature to perfect it so that all kids can succeed. In settings, you can select the sensitivity of the Speak and Write game. This feature is very encouraging as it can be challenging to get the correct tones and pronunciation for younger voices or new learners. I lowered the sensitivity for my 4 year old so that she is not discouraged while completing the Speak mini game.

My Kids’ Favourite Part of the Game

My 4 year old’s favourite part of the game is collecting the fun rewards for her kitty. She loves her collection of cakes that she has earned and adores seeing the Maomi kitties eat them. This gives her motivation to do more Chinese characters. Because of the voice competition, she is really fond of the Maomi kitties and enjoys hearing the voices of the other children when playing with them in the playroom.

My 6 year old enjoys visiting the different worlds in Maomi Land. Even though she has learned most of the characters, she still enjoys completing the games. It is a good review time for her and also gives her a chance to focus on writing as we have primarily only focused on reading with her.

Curriculum

When you sign up for Maomi Stars, you will be automatically enrolled into the Maomi 2021 Curriculum which has the 335 most common words for preschool to primary 1 children. The characters include many of the characters that are taught in Sage Books, Odonata and 四五快讀 (4, 5, Quick Read). The characters are divided into 17 themes such as numbers, people, calendar, nature, school, and transport. Some examples are listed below.

Numbers一二三四五六七八九十很多少沒有最第百千零
Nature花草樹木枝林石葉竹太陽亮光田山洞火土河海
Transport汽車飛機船貨巴油電場出口站停落回過橋路票
Animals牛羊狗馬兔魚象虎鳥蟲狼貓豬鼠燕鴨雞鵝動物

They have more curriculums available such as Simple Strokes Collection, Zhuyin Collection, Maomi Books Vocabulary, and 歡樂伙伴 Companion Word List that can be changed in the settings.

For a complete list of characters, visit the links below. There are word cards for the characters that include a little picture, audio and jyutping (Cantonese) or pinyin (Mandarin). These would be good for quick review.

20 Minute Time Limit

I like that there is a time limit built into the game so that I don’t need to have a separate timer for the children. 20 minutes is good amount of time to review characters while playing Maomi Stars. In 20 minutes, my children usually can complete all the mini games for 5 characters as well as play in the playroom or complete one World game. I wouldn’t want them to practice more than 5 characters at a time, as I feel they wouldn’t retain the characters if reviewing so many at one time. 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time for my 4 and 6 year old. If your child needs more time, you can always override it by answering a math question.

Multiple Accounts

Multiple accounts are available at the Gold Plus tier membership. This is great for families with more than one child. Each child can progress at their own level and rate. There are no fights on who gets to do which character and they have their own rewards saved up for kitty play in the playroom. I haven’t had to use this feature, but kids can even have passwords on their own accounts if they fear that their sibling would use up their rewards. I think this is hilarious and so well thought out. There are definitely siblings who would do that to each other.

Improvements

Like many apps and tech devices, there are always chance for improvement. I have been using Maomi Stars as a form of review for characters that my children are learning through Sage Books, Little Bean Cantonese and regular reading routines. On it’s own, it does not teach reading comprehension. It is best paired with a curriculum or regular reading routines. I would love to see examples of characters used in a sentence to build reading comprehension.

Conclusion – Final Thoughts and Who is Maomi Stars For

My kids and I have really enjoyed Maomi Stars. It’s a fun way to review characters and learn how to write characters. This game is for international families, especially for Canadian-born parents like myself who have never learned how to read Chinese characters. I love that I can navigate the app with ease in English and that there are so many options available for learning. My family is very flexible in terms of Chinese learning, and I like that I have the option to change to simplified characters and Mandarin if the time comes around.

Maomi Stars would work great for families as a supplement to other curriculums such as Sage, Odonata or 四五快讀. It’s also a great introduction to characters if your child is just starting to learn how to recognize characters or write characters. Maomi Stars would also work well for a family that has access to Chinese books and can read regularly to boost character recognition. The games help with character recognition and writing but does not necessarily teach reading comprehension as the focus is on characters. Reading regularly along with the game will help improve comprehension and character recognition. If your family goal is to read or write in Chinese, this game can definitely be helpful in achieving it in a fun way.

Download Maomi Stars to try your first 40 characters for free. If you want full access to the app, they have three subscription plans available: Silver tier at $7.99USD/month, Gold tier at $8.99/month and Gold Plus tier at $14.99/month. Higher level tiers offer more benefits and access to the game.

More Cantonese Children Apps and Resources

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Mid Autumn Festival

Mid Autumn Festival is coming up this weekend, September 10 2022. It’s a time to gather with friends and family and enjoy delicious foods like mooncake while gazing at the moon. Here’s a few books, songs and activities that you can do with the kids this year.

Mid Autumn Festival Books

A Big Mooncake for Little Star (小星的大月餅) by Grace Lin

ISBN: 9789865535193

A story about a little girl who sneaks a bite every night of her mooncake. This book is available in Chinese and English.

English version: Kozzi, Amazon; Chinese version: Kozzi

Cantonese read aloud: 采姐姐的故事王國 Lillian’s Story Kingdom

Mooncakes by Loretta Seto

ISBN 1459814312

This book features a family celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival while telling three of the festival tales. This book is in English.

Buy it here: Kozzi, Amazon

English read aloud: The Dream Big Bookshelf

Peppa and the Moon Festival

ISBN 9780241369067

Peppa and her friends celebrate the Moon Festival with lanterns and mooncakes.

Buy it here: Taobao

幸福月餅店 by 鄭宗弦

ISBN 9789578602731

A family own bakery shows us how to make mooncakes for Mid Autumn Festival.

Buy it here: Kozzi

Cantonese read aloud: Cantonese Mommy, Michigan Cantonese Storytime

14隻老鼠賞月 by 岩村和朗

ISBN 9787544812351

This mice family builds a moon lookout in a tree. When the moon arrives they eat delicious food and thank the moon.

Cantonese read aloud: Cantonese Mommy

Other Mid-Autumn Festival Books

Bitty Bao Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncakes, and Our Moon. [bilingual board books with pinyin, zhuyin, traditional Chinese characters; available on Bitty Bao and Little Kozzi]

Mid-Autumn Pop Up Book – 中秋節 and 團圓中秋節.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival [an English book about Mid-Autumn Festival, by Grace Lin; available on Little Kozzi and Amazon]

Mid Autumn Festival Songs

望望月光 食食月餅 by Eveline (Rhythm N Rhyme) and Dorothy (Locy Lee Learning)

月餅歌 by 嘉芙姐姐

中秋佳節 by 嘉芙姐姐

中秋歌 by Sunshine Nursery Rhyme

點點燈籠 by Bettina Wan (曉樂兒歌 HealingVoices Music)

Mid Autumn Festival Activities

If you are looking for a one stop shop for activities, try out my Mid-Autumn Activity Book, available on Little Kozzi. There are flashcards to learn related vocabulary, colouring pages with stroke order characters, activities, and crafts to learn about the different traditions in an interactive, hands-on way. This activity book is bilingual and includes English and traditional Chinese characters on each page. Flashcards include jyutping (Cantonese pronunciation) and a vocabulary list that includes jyutping is included if you cannot read Chinese. Templates for all the crafts are also included. An art tutorial to draw lanterns is also included, hosted by Cherry 老師 from Children’s Cues in Cantonese. Purchase here: Mid-Autumn Activity Book

Another fun activity to do with the little ones is make mooncakes together. You can bake them or you can make them with playdough. You can purchase mooncake molds at your local Asian market or you can try Amazon. If you cannot get molds, Kumara Squad (@kyl.scrapbook) has shared a fun ecofriendly way to make them using recyclable materials. You can watch it here on her IG account, @kyl.scrapbook Playdough Mooncakes.

Lanterns is also another fun must activity for Mid-Autumn Festival. Check out these fun ideas here by Spot of Sunshine, and TVB Hands Up (Cantonese Video).

Here are also another FREE downloads that I created for Mid Autumn Festival.

Mooncake puzzles – Have fun matching mooncake puzzle pieces to form a full mooncake and match the correct words together.

Peppa Pig lantern – Print this template to make your own Peppa Pig or George lantern.

Felt mooncake pattern – Print this template and sew your own felt toy mooncakes.

Mid Autumn Festivals Videos

Follow Kala EE to a bakery to make mooncake for her favourite Mirror members while learning vocabulary. Follow Kala EE to shop to learn about lanterns and make them together while learning vocabulary (traditional Chinese characters and English translations). Toddlers to school age children will enjoy Kala EE fun and positive personality.

Learn 5 Mid-Autumn Festival vocabulary while also learning about the festival with Uncle Calvin. Great for toddlers and preschoolers. Jyutping included. Turn on subtitles for English.

TVB Hands Up has a fun skit featuring lantern riddles and toy lanterns.

Sunshine Nursery Rhyme teaches us about the tales and customs of Mid-Autumn Festival.

Learn about different vocabulary that contain the word moon 月 and also a little about the tales of Mid Autumn Festival.

Twinklebots Cantonese teaches us Mid-Autumn Festival vocabulary, Jyutping included.

Mid Autumn Festival Toys

Bitty Bao: 13-Piece Magnetic Wooden Mooncake Toy Set [Bitty Bao, Little Kozzi]

My Heart Felt Toys Felt Mooncake [My Heart Felt Toys]

Baby Snack Time Mid Autumn Moon Festival Wooden Tea Pretend Play Set [Baby Snack Time]

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Cantonese for Kids | Virtual Class

Little Explorers Cantonese is an online Cantonese class for children that gives family the control to schedule lessons on their own time with our on demand Cantonese videos. It is run by dedicated Cantonese educators. We create our own lessons and music while featuring many independent authors and publishers.

http://littleexplorerscanto.teachable.com

This is a post I should have written months ago, but here it is now. Better late than never. I would like to take the time to introduce the Cantonese online program that I am running alongside Eveline, Cherry and Dorothy.

If you follow any of us on our social medias, you might have noticed that we have been working together to create an on demand virtual Cantonese program for kids after our success of our Summer Cantonese Program last year. We went all out to make a cohesive brand by creating a new brand name, logo, social media accounts and a website for our program. Shout out to the families who participated in our logo contest. It really helped us bring our brand together.

Why an on demand Cantonese class for children? We understand the busy life style as families. An on demand online program gives you control of your learning. Families can schedule these lessons at the time that suits their child. You could do these lessons during meal times or perhaps you have an early riser and you would like to provide educational content to give yourself some extra time to wake up. You are in control and you don’t need to worry about scheduling, different time zones, being late or other commitments. You can learn Cantonese on your own time.

online virtual Cantonese classes for kids

I’m not fluent. Why a Cantonese immersion program? With on demand, you can stop, pause, and rewind at any time. Missed something and want to hear it again? Just do it! Because you have life time access to these programs, you can repeat the lessons or parts of the lesson as many times as you like. Repetition is good for fluency and understanding.

If you have little ones whose first language is not Chinese, you will be surprised at how fast they can pick up a language. The prime time to learn a language is between 0 to 6. Their brains can absorb the language with lots of exposure. Babies are not born with language. They are born with the ability to learn any language. They can learn with full immersion. Trust them. My own children did not start learning Cantonese at birth. When we finally started, they were put in an environment that was only Cantonese and they were able to pick up the language without the need for any English translations. It can be intimidating and you can go at the pace that suits your family. You might want to break up our lessons into sections to complete at separate times. How you decided to complete the lessons is up to you. There is no right or wrong way!

What is our program like? Every lessons follows a set structure. No surprises. Children strive on routine and consistency so we have set up the lessons to follow a format to bring your child comfort.

For our younger audience, we have conveniently set up vocabulary, song and lesson at the beginning. They can stop the lesson after the story. For our other children, we follow up with an activity and writing. Younger children may need help with the activity and writing if their fine motor skills are still developing. Feel free to help them out.

Our writing sheets come in two different levels and are inviting for all. We start off with tracing and finding the missing strokes before attempting to write the character. We hope that your child can also become confident reader and writers in the future.

Cherry’s Cantonese art class are calming for both child and parents. We highly recommend doing these classes with your child. Cherry goes through the art process while also engaging in light conversation that parents and children can enjoy together.

How to get the most of our program?

  • Consistency is key! Choose a set day and time to complete these lessons and commit to them every week.
  • Be prepared. Have printouts and materials ready at the start of the lesson. If you are staying just for the songs and stories, all you need is an open and focused mind. If you are doing the activities and writing, come with pencils, colouring supplies, scissors and glue.
  • Participate in your child’s learning. You can do the activities with your child or talk about what they saw, learned or noticed in the lessons. Find connections from the lessons to their daily lives. Let them know you are interested in their learning.
learn language today online class for kids

Language learning will not occur overnight and on its own. It does take effort and commitment. We are here to help you though to provide you lessons and tips to make the experience easier. For more information and to register check us out: http://littleexplorerscanto.teachable.com.

If you have any questions you can send them to us through email littleexplorerscanto@gmail.com or find us on our social media @littleexplorerscanto on Facebook and Instagram.

As always, thank you so much for your ongoing support to our program and to the content I post here. You are truly amazing for taking on this language learning journey!

Links

Cantonese Online Class for Kids: http://littleexplorerscanto.teachable.com

Sign Me Up Now!

Learn More about Our Classes

Learn More about the Educators of the Program

Frequently Asked Questions

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Books with Jyutping

I love books with jyutping! It is inclusive to families who are learning to speak or read in Cantonese. Cantonese is a very hard language, a consistent pronunciation guide is helpful for us learners to learn together, communicate with each other and look up unfamiliar words. If you are new to jyutping, it is a romanization system for Cantonese developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong. Jyutping and Yale are the most common Cantonese romanization. However, I have found jyutping is more accessible than yale. To learn more about jyutping, you can watch the following videos on YouTube: jyutping introduction and Cantonese tones.

I am thrilled to see many Cantonese resources available now. The community has really thrived in the last couple of years. Below I will share some books that have jyutping that you might want to add to your home library.

Cantonese Children Stories written in Spoken Cantonese

These books are written in the way that Cantonese people speak. You will see words such as 嘅 instead of 的 and 係 instead of 是.

Cantonese Stories written in Spoken Cantonese

These books are written in the way that Cantonese people speak. You will see words such as 嘅 instead of 的 and 係 instead of 是.

Hambaanglaang has 40 different print titles available. You can purchase a hard copy on Little Kozzi if you are in Canada. They also have free resources available on their YouTube and their website.

Cantonese Stories in Written Cantonese

These books are written in the standard written form.

Vocabulary Books

Idioms and Sayings

Cantonese.jpg, Cantonese2.jpg by Ah To – Available on Little Kozzi

Learn to Speak Cantonese

  • Learn to Speak Cantonese 1, Learn to Speak Cantonese 2 by Jade Wu (Inspirlang) – Available on Amazon
  • Every Day Cantonese for Parents by Ann Hamilton (Mooliprint) – Available on Amazon

Nursery Rhymes

Cantonese classic nursery rhymes contain more than 50 classic Cantonese nursery rhymes. – Available on Little Kozzi, more titles available (Tang Poetry and Song Poetry)

Coming Soon

  • Katrina Liu (Mina Learns Chinese) is working on translating more of her titles into Cantonese
  • The team at Bitty Bao (Lulu and Lacey) is also working on translating their titles to Cantonese as well
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VisionKids Translation Pen Review

There are many translation pens out there. Many of which can only read Chinese characters in Mandarin. I was very excited to hear about this pen and how it can translate to Cantonese. Read below for my review of the pen. Please note, this is my personal experience with the pen and with the Cantonese language function only. It can translate many other languages.

Short Review

Pro’s:

  • reads simplified and traditional characters in Cantonese (wifi connection needed) and Mandarin
  • can read Chinese text in both the horizontal and vertical position (wifi connection needed)
  • translations are fair and not awkward
  • auto detects and corrects scan errors
  • text and voice translations functions

Con’s:

  • translation speed not instant
  • can read individual characters in Mandarin, not Cantonese
  • full sentence scan needed, cannot scan individual characters, words or short phrases
  • zhuyin affects scan accuracy
  • scan accuracy goes down with vertical and traditional characters in comparison to horizontal and simplified text
  • auto correct will change words if it does match their narrative

Long Review

I tried out this pen for one month with a variety of books in my home library to determine if this book would suit my family needs. For videos of the pen, please check out my Instagram post.

1. I was thrilled to find out that this pen CAN read characters in the vertical position. This only works with Wi-Fi connection for both Cantonese and Mandarin. The [100 Storey Home series] (100層樓的家) and my bridge books are printed in the vertical position. The pen worked great with the 100 Storey Home series! The bridge books that I own are also in vertical position with in line zhuyin to the right of the characters. This takes practice to get the scan correctly. If the pen picks up the zhuyin, it confuses the text as Japanese and does not read correctly. I need to scan slightly to the left. Another way to scan the text is by covering the zhuyin with a piece of paper. Since it is to the right of the characters, that is fairly easy to do. I did find that the scan accuracy does go down with vertical text and that I sometimes need to scan a few times to get it correct. I think this is an amazing feature to have and very useful for bridge books.

2. The autocorrect function is amazing but also frustrating at the same time. Sometimes I see inaccurate scans, and am ecstatic to find that the pen auto-corrected it to the right word. Sometimes it looks like the pen scans gibberish but actually scanned everything correctly. I become extremely frustrated when I see that it scanned the characters correctly but decided to change the characters to match its own narrative. Some characters that the pen consistently kept changing were toad 蟾蜍 and swing 鞦韆. Being unable to scan toad was a big deal for me as I needed to read [Frog and Toad] in Chinese and Toad comes up very often. For the majority of the text, the scans are accurate. I believe that more complex characters with more strokes are harder to scan.

3. To get an accurate scan in Chinese, you must scan a full sentence. It does not scan individual characters, words or short phrases. This was disappointing as I had seen @lahlahbanana post a video of her children using the Alpha Egg translation pen and it could scan individual characters. Once you scan the full sentence, you must wait for it to translate. Translation is not instant. The more you scan, the longer it takes to translate. This felt like a life time and I felt it really disrupted the flow of reading. The pen can tell you pronunciation for individual characters only in Mandarin with pinyin included, not Cantonese and no jyutping. I found this part very difficult as I had to listen to the audio several times to catch the target word.

4. Horizontal text with in line zhuyin really disrupts the pen scan accuracy. It will pick up the zhuyin as numbers, alphabet letters, punctuation or Japanese characters. The translation and the audio will not be the greatest but for an adult learner, you can get the gist of the translation. Not ideal for a child. To overcome this challenge, I created a zhuyin block bookmark for my [Frog and Toad] books. I was able to block the zhuyin and get an accurate scan. However I do not recommend this method unless you have a series of books that utilize the same font, size and style. This bookmark only works in my Frog and Toad set and other bridge books by the same author. All my other books with zhuyin have different font styles and sizes that it does not work.

Final Verdict

I enjoyed the pen but if it will match your family needs will depend on your home library, fluency and learning style. My home library consists of an almost equal proportion of simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese and traditional Chinese with zhuyin. The scans were fairly accurate and the translations were easy to understand. If you have a lot of books with zhuyin, I don’t think these translation pens are ideal. This pen did not work for my family as I am not an auditory learner. Because I had to listen to an entire sentence to learn a target word, it took multiple takes as I could never quite catch the word I needed.

I purchased this pen in hopes that I could read harder books with my children without pre-reading them. I was not able to achieve this goal for the reason above. There is no easy way out yet for me. I will most likely still have to pre-read, translate new words before reading with my child to ensure we can read our books with a good flow.