About the app
Fun Chinese by Study Cat is as its name suggests is a fun Chinese learning app, for children aged between 3 to 8 years old. It aims to teach Chinese through fun interactive games.
In total, there are 11 thematic lessons, spread out across 65 lessons, covering a total of 150 Chinese words and phrases. For each theme, there are between 5 to 8 different types of games for your child to learn Chinese through play.
The games in the app are built to be progressive, hence the beginning games tend to be matching games, and simple puzzles. The last games are generally auditory games or word matching.
*Tip: Be sure to go to the settings and choose “structured” so your child does the fundamental basic lessons before moving on to the harder ones.
You can choose different language output for the app. These are multiple options available: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian Bokmål, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Vietnamese
The graphics are cartoonish, with bold lines and block colours. It’s actually very visually appealing to toddlers.
The layout of the game is clear and easy to navigate. All the games are displayed on a pictorial grid view. Each theme is represented by a certain colour, and in the structured learning mode, you can only move on to the harder learning games after you have attained the level of proficiency required.
An overview of the games
Some of the games have a spoken and written instruction, while some only have a written instruction. Games in this app range from matching identical items (3 in a row), puzzles, whack a mole, matching word to word, find the item to speech recording games. It isn’t the same set of games for all the lessons, which makes it interesting for my children. The beginning games are fairly straightforward, and the lack of instructions was not a problem. However, for some of the creative games, it was confusing for my children to figure out what they had to do. For instance, in the recording game, the player has to repeat a phrase, and record when the microphone pops up in the app. There were no verbal instructions.
At the end of each game, there is a review page where the level of mastery for each Chinese vocabulary for that lesson is shown. My children liked to tap and listen to the words. I also found it useful to assess by asking them what the items shown were.
Chinese Language options
You can choose between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. It will really only affect the Chinese word games.
There are two voices for the app, a male voice and a female voice. For some of the Chinese words, the pronunciations are not accurate. For example, in the body parts lesson, for nose 鼻子, it should be pronounced “bí zi” instead of “bí zhi”. As well as the clothing lesson, for a pair of glasses 一副眼镜, the correct pronunciation should be “yī fù yǎnjìng” but it is pronounced in the second tone for pair “yī fú yǎnjìng”.
Does the app allow for multiple users?
No. You can only have one user per account. That may potentially be a problem if you have more than 1 child, and would like to track your child’s progress. Luckily, it does allow for access across multiple devices.
Does the app allow for multiple devices?
Yes. I have downloaded it across two different devices without a problem. The user learning does not get synced between the apps. So if you have more than 1 child using it, that will work out nicely.
Is there a free trial?
Yes. You can get a free trial with 1 themed lesson. Everyday, you are also given access to one random free game to try out.
Does the app target the four big Chinese skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing (听说读写)?
Yes. The Chinese words are repeated constantly throughout all the games.
Yes and No. Not all the thematic lessons have the speech game, where you have to repeat the Chinese word or phrase. Only 3 out of the 11 have them.
Yes and No. Similarly, not all the thematic lessons work on Chinese word recognition. 8 out of the 11 lessons have them
No. There are no games that target Chinese writing skills
Have a look at the video insight below for a snap shot of the games available in the app.
What’s good about the app
I have to say, it’s actually pretty fun! The matching memory game, the speech recording game, the whack-a-mole game are my children’s favourites. The developers have indeed made a good effort at making the games fun enough for the kids, that they will be interesting and happy to come back and learn Chinese.
Will 11 thematic lessons, it covers a lot of Chinese vocabulary, in fact 150 Chinese words and phrases are included in the app. Measure words, numbers, colours and pronouns are amongst the concepts that are weaved into the games. To give you an example, for the stationery speech game, you have to say the colour of the item as well as the item itself, for blue eraser it is 蓝色的橡皮擦.
What’s not so good about the app
I find the voices used too high pitched and some of the Chinese pronunciation is a bit awkward (maybe it is so high pitched that the tone is distorted?!?). Because of that, when my children label some items in Chinese, it’s really high pitched. That said, my children had no issues with the sing song tone. It’s just annoying to me!
And as per my earlier comments, some of the Chinese words are pronounced wrongly.
With regards to learning, the lack of instructions can be confusing for the children as they may not be able to deduce how to play the games simply by looking at the app. To give you an example, in the stationery lesson, one of the games is a giving game. You have to give the stationery to the person with the correct pronoun. It’s not intuitive from the screen what you have to do, so it is more likely that your child will guess and miss out on learning the concept.
Some of the learning games are poorly designed, especially the ones that teaches Chinese body parts. I have included a screenshot of the game here to illustrate the issue.
In the game, the player is shown a picture of a robot styling an alien’s hair. I can see you rolling your eyes. What?? (Exactly my sentiment). Then you are instructed to find the body part. For example, the instruction is to find 鼻子 and for some reason, the correct answer has to be the robot’s nose and not the alien’s nose… Because the alien’s nose is not a nose?? Why?? I think you get the idea how confusing the games can be for a child.
So will the app really teach my children Chinese?
My three children currently aged 6.5, 4.5 and 3 years old have all used the app on and off for the last year or so. They use it almost daily for 15-20 minutes a day. Da Bao who is 6.5 years old doesn’t really like the app and prefers other Chinese apps for his daily learning. Er Bao who is 4.5 years old and Xiao Bao who is 3 years old like this game above the other games. Watch the video above for a quick look inside the app, and how my two lovely girls are learning through play with it.
In my honest view, for the games that are well designed which I will say is about 70% of the games, your child should be able to receptively learn the Chinese vocabulary for those lessons. They might be able to expressively label some of them. Xiao Bao who is 3 years old did pick up a lot of Chinese vocabulary from the app.
Unfortunately, your child will probably not learn to read, or write with this app. The focus simply isn’t built into the app. For reading of Chinese characters, the games are basically matching word to word, and even then, it’s not available in all the lessons, which is a real shame. Considering that the target ages of children for this app is up to 8 years old, not building that language reading and writing component into the app is a real disappointment.
Therefore, I recommend this only for very young Chinese learners, between the ages of 3 to 5. If you want a fun, easy Chinese game as an additional exposure for your children, this app will keep them engaged for a while and they will likely pick up the basic Chinese vocabulary from it. Older children will probably benefit from a more structured Chinese learning app such as Wukong Chinese, or Hong En Chinese. Please note that you do have to be a native Chinese speaker to use these apps though, as there are no options to use English for these two apps.
Another fun app to consider is Kids Learn Mandarin. Similar to Fun Chinese by Studycat, the graphics are cute and colourful. Watch this space for an indepth review soon.
Where to purchase
The app is free to download, and you will get the entire color lesson free to try out.
The cost of the lessons are as follows. Prices are in USD
Animals Lesson $2.99
Numbers Lesson $2.99
Vehicles Lesson $2.99
The House Lesson $2.99
Two Lesson Pack $4.99
Three Lesson Pack $5.99
Four Lesson Pack $6.99
Monthly Subscription $14.99
Annual Subscription $59.99
Have you used this app, or any other Chinese learning apps at home too? Let us know if you have any recommendations for our readers!
Happy Chinese Learning!