About the iHuman pinyin app
As the name implies, the iHuman pinyin app is all about learning pinyin.
For the uninitiated who does not know what pinyin is, pinyin is literally “spell sound” and is the romanised spelling of Chinese characters to indicate their pronunciation.
Briefly, there are squiggly lines on the letters to indicate the tone of the Chinese character. In total, there are four tones and a neutral tone. Please note that there may not always be four tones to each sound.
I will refer you to fluentu.com for a more detailed explanation of what pinyin is, and why you need to learn it.
Who should learn pinyin?
Every Chinese learner should learn pinyin. Most people think only second language learners learn pinyin, truth be told, all children in China learn pinyin too. What is different is how and when to learn pinyin.
Pinyin was created in 1958 by the Chinese government to improve Chinese literacy. Please know that in addition to Chinese language , there are thousands of Chinese dialects, hence, you might be surprised to know that not everyone in China knows how to speak Chinese! (Wouldn’t expect anything less for a country of 1 billion people!)
Personally, I remember learning pinyin in 4th grade. So my view on when my children learn pinyin aligns with my personal experience . Not everyone shares this view, but I believe you should NOT learn pinyin before Chinese characters.
Thus, even though I knew of many pinyin apps long before we tried out iHuman pinyin, I waited till my son was 9 years old as I believe the acquisition of Chinese language should start with Chinese characters.
When should children start learning pinyin?
This depends on many factors: your child’s first language, your child’s Chinese level of proficiency, your child’s understanding of phonics(alphabet sounds)
If your child’s first language is English and he/she can read, you run the risk of him/her over-relying on pinyin to help them read Chinese. In this case, I would recommend that you do not start teaching your child pinyin. Instead focus on whole word learning of the Chinese characters.
If your child is learning Chinese before English, or both at the same time, then you can safely teach both pinyin and Chinese characters. As their language proficiency is more or less equal, there is a higher chance that your child will develop competence in pinyin without compromising on learning Chinese characters.
My personal experience with pinyin
I started homeschooling my children in Mandarin Chinese when my son was 5 years old, my oldest daughter was 3 years old and my youngest daughter was 2 years old.
My son at this point had learnt the alphabet, and rudimentary understanding of phonics and sounds, and when I provided Chinese books with pinyin, he was constantly reading from the pinyin.
My two daughters both learnt to read Chinese without a knowledge of English language first, and now that they have started reading English, they get confused about the pinyin sounds they see, pointing out to me that it’s wrong!! I explained that Chinese sounds and English sounds are different and they shouldn’t read it like English. This shows that they will be ready to learn pinyin and to differentiate the sounds and tones.
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About the iHuman pinyin app
Ok, I think we have discussed enough about pinyin and I hope you understand that you must learn pinyin to be proficient in Chinese language. The only difference is when you start.
For the iHuman pinyin app, it is one of the few Chinese educational app that focuses solely on teaching pinyin. How does it fare? And will it really teach my child the pinyin sounds and rules they need to learn? Read on to find out!
Design of app
As with the other iHuman apps LINK, the design is colourful and the lessons are sequential, so your child can only progress onto the next lesson when they have mastered the first.
Your main character is Pigsy from the iHuman Chinese app.
The basic pinyin sounds are taught first, and there are assessments every 3 lessons.
From the main page, you can access the actual lessons, and also on the bottom of the screen you can see the following
- 小贴士 Tips – pinyin related learning tips
- 汉字拼拼乐 Pinyin word game – in this pinyin word game, select the correct combination of pinyin sounds to complete a Chinese character
- 拼音阅读 Pinyin readers – Chinese readers
- 拼音库 Pinyin Vault – all the pinyin words mastered are in here
- 拼音训练营 Pinyin assessment – You have a choice of computer assessment or parent assessment to check your child’s pinyin mastery
- 拼音儿歌 Pinyin songs – songs to help learn pinyin
- 恐龙收藏 Dinosaur collection – dinosaur rewards for finishing a stage.
What the iHuman pinyin app offers
- 63 pinyin lessons
- 63 pinyin word bank
- 64 pinyin sound videos
- 16 pinyin rule videos
- 64 pinyin games
- 28 pinyin readers
- Pinyin assessments
Pinyin Lesson Format in the iHuman pinyin app
There are a few learning segments to each pinyin lesson, and depending on the pinyin you are learning, it varies. So you might get 5 or 6 segments.
For example, in the earlier pinyin sounds, there is an emphasis on the tones, so the 调 Tones segment is always included in the lesson. However, as game play progresses, and we get to blends, the 拼 Pinyin Blend segment is more prevalent. You can watch the video insight to understand the different segments
- 玩 Play
- 认 Recognise
- 调 Tones
- 说 Speaking Practice
- 拼 Pinyin Blends
- 练 Sound Practice
- 写 Writing Practice
This is the learning part, and as its name implies, you learn pinyin through playing games. There are different games for different lessons, so your child doesn’t simply repeat the same game for all the pinyin sounds.
In the “a” lesson, your child will play an Angry Bird type game, hitting the “a” blocks with the birds. With each hit, the “a” sound is repeated. Hence, by the end of the game, your child would have heard the “a” sound at least 10 times.
The pinyin sound is actively taught in this segment. One of the iHuman characters will teach your child what the target sound is and how your mouth should look like for it. There is also a simple song that goes along with each pinyin sounds
As I mentioned earlier, there are 4 tones for each pinyin sound. In this segment, your child will learn what each tone sounds like. On the game, each tone is pronounced clearly with the corresponding pinyin.
说 Speaking Practice
Again, in a playful game format, your child will progress along different fun games (defeating monsters, feeding animals etc) when pronouncing the correct pinyin sound.
拼 Pinyin Blends
This segment only appears after your child has learnt the first core pinyin sounds.
It’s the most passive part of the lesson, and merely repeats the different pinyin blends. (Not my favourite part!)
练 Sound Practice
As our child progresses, the game becomes harder and this is the part where you will know if your child understands the pinyin sound or not. There are 2 stages to the differentiation (which is so clever!)
- Differentiating between different pinyin sounds
- Differentiating between the different ones of the same pinyin
写 Writing Practice
Each pinyin is represented by letters of the alphabet. In this part of the lesson, your child has to write the letter of the pinyin sound.
Chinese Language Options for the iHuman pinyin app
App language options for the iHuman pinyin app
Does the iHuman pinyin app allow for multiple users?
No. You can only register one user.
Is there a free trial?
What’s good about the iHuman pinyin app
I like that the app is designed to teach the pinyin sounds progressively, starting with the basic sounds before moving onto blends. I also like the fact that in each lesson, there is active teaching of the pinyin sound, before they actually have to differentiate it.
I am also loving the pronunciation part of the app! This gave my children a chance to practise their sounds and tones, which can be very tricky to learn and remember. Assessment are such a fundamental part of learning and I am glad that there are assessments every 3 sounds, as well as additional assessments that can be done anytime within the iHuman pinyin app.
It’s a fun educational app that my children are happy to use to learn Chinese, which makes the task of second language acquisition a tad easier for me.
What’s not so good about the iHuman pinyin app
As a family with three children, I would prefer that the app allows multi-users, instead of only one profile.
I would like the app to be more gender neutral. Not everyone likes dinosaurs and science fiction.
It would also be good if they could have the learner type instead of write the letter of the pinyin out. I believe that it is more likely that children these days will be using a keyboard to type pinyin than write. (I personally have been teaching my children to learn typing pinyin on the keyboard for Chinese character generation).
I wish there was more variation in the games for the sound practice and writing practice segments. After a while, it can get quite repetitive.
I also felt that the teaching segment for pinyin blends can be more interactive. Maybe after listening to the blends, you can match the different pinyin sounds together?
I recommend this for children who are just starting to learn pinyin and requires auditory repetition of the same sounds, which will be around the age of 6/7 years old, assuming that you have done whole Chinese character teaching from the age of 3/4.
And also for dinosaur lovers! The app has a dinosaur sci-fi theme which will appeal to dinosaur lovers. My son likes collecting the different dinosaurs as rewards and learning about them on the reward page. My girls were not fussed about the dinosaurs at all.
For the reasons listed earlier, I much prefer to start teaching pinyin later for children who already knows how to read in English. However, I think it is a personal decision and it really depends on what you think your child will get out of learning pinyin. It’s not a matter of whether you should or not (YOU SHOULD! ACTUALLY YOU MUST LEARN PINYIN), it’s a matter of when.
Furthermore, pinyin isn’t something you intuitively pick up from reading Chinese books, so this app will help to differentiate the different sounds a letter make in English vs Chinese. Even my 5 year old now is questioning the pronunciation of “me” when we read Chinese readers in pinyin!! They are completely different!!! (example of “me” Chinese characters are 么，癦).
Where to download the iHuman pinyin app
The iHuman pinyin app is available to download for free on the Apple App Store.
The iHuman Pinyin App 洪恩拼音 (lifetime package) is AUD$79.99. Lifetime package means that once you have purchased the app, you basically own the app and do not need to pay additional fees in the future. Unlike some apps that only offers subscription services (and recurring monthly payments you conveniently forget!!) I find the iHuman apps to be very fair and reasonable in their pricing.
If you only wanted to try out out for a few months, the iHuman pinyin app does have a subscription service available priced at:
AUD$59.99 for a yearly subscription (包年订阅VIP)
AUD$32.99 for a quarterly subscription (包季订阅VIP)
Mandarin Homeschool has partnered up with iHuman to bring you an exclusive bundle of the iHuman Chinese app and the iHuman pinyin app at 30% off the regular retail price! And if you are an existing customer who has purchased either of the apps, you can still access the discounted price. Please read this blog post for full details of this heavily discounted iHuman educational apps bundle.
Other Chinese apps for learning pinyin
I have listed them here for your reference, however, I have not tried these apps out for pinyin, but if you have, or know of any other Chinese pinyin learning apps, please let me know.