Using educational apps is a great way to supplement second language learning. There are many Chinese educational apps targeted for young Chinese learners: iHuman Chinese, Wukong Shizi, Galaxy Kids Chinese, Kids Learn Mandarin. Most of these apps are available only in Simplified Chinese. The Maomi Stars app aims to fill a gap in this market by offering Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese script in Chinese and Cantonese.
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Disclaimer – I was approached to review the Maomi Stars app and given a free trial to the app. The review is an honest representation of our experience with the app after 2 months of regular use, and was not influenced by the generosity of the app developers.
About the Maomi Stars App
As the name implies, Maomi 猫咪 stars are all about cute kitties! You go on an adventure with Maomi Master to different lands, and collect gems and cakes for your many kitties. The game format reminds me of a role-playing game of old (Final Fantasy V). You have to slay dragons and freeze monsters by learning Chinese.
Designed for children aged 4 to 7 years old, this app (with the Maomi 2023 curriculum) teaches 400+ essential Chinese characters, across 17 themes:
- Facial Actions
- Body Actions
- Body Parts
You do not have to go through each theme in sequence. There is a 20 mins time limit each play. The parental control questions are actually challenging enough that your child won’t be able to guess and override it.
Each lesson revolves around 1 Chinese character and covers the basic components of Chinese language learning
- Learn 学
- Listen 听
- Write 写
- Speak 说
The Chinese character for each lesson is presented on its own, with a simple pictorial representation, Chinese character, English word, and pinyin.
In this segment, Chinese phrases with the target Chinese character is presented. When you click on the Chinese phrase, you are presented with the Chinese and English words which is read out to you, then you are shown a sample sentence in Chinese and English. Finally, you have to practise sorting the Chinese characters in order of the sample sentence.
In this segment, you listen and pick the correct Chinese character out of 4 choices in a game format.
You practise writing the Chinese character in the correct stroke order twice. First time, with a mouse guide, and second time without a guide. It’s quite cute, as you write, the lines become little kitty paw prints.
Speak the Chinese phrase correctly as you hear them. These are the same Chinese phrases presented at the start of the lesson in the “Learn segment”.
Rewards are stars and yummy cakes for your kitties to eat. While it doesn’t seem like a fantastic reward, my girls are uber motivated to get more cakes, and different type of cakes!! Goes to show that you will never really know what ticks a child’s happy box. You may also gain food items and toys as rewards.
You can unlock different lands with the stars you have earned. And you then go on an adventure to fight monsters in the lands to earn different gems for your 7 kitties. The adventures are actually test/reviews of the Chinese words. Clever disguise to get more learning within the app!
And when you have completed the game i.e. collected all gems, you will receive a very special reward!!
What does Maomi Stars App offer that differs from the rest?
I have reviewed many Chinese educational apps, and Maomi Stars is a welcome addition to the category as it offers a few unique features not available in the other apps.
English language instruction
Instructions in the app is provided in English which makes it ideal for families who are not native Chinese speaker (a disadvantage of the many Chinese apps currently in the market: e.g. iHuman Chinese, Wukong Shizi). The only other apps I know of where instructions are presented in English are Galaxy Kids Chinese, Fun Chinese by Study Cat and Kids Learn Mandarin.
It also means that your child will know what to do with the Maomi Stars App with minimal supervision and assistance.
Cantonese language option
There are far and few Chinese apps that teaches Cantonese! And this is one of the few and better ones.
Traditional Chinese written script
Same, there are many (MANY!) Simplified Chinese apps, but not many Traditional Chinese ones.
Parents will receive a fortnightly progress report detailing the lessons your child/children have learnt, number of trials tried, accuracy, and their level of mastery. It is a timely reminder to assess and evaluate what they have learnt.
In the 2 months that we have tested the Maomi Stars App, there has been a few glitches, which were rectified quickly.
Maomi Stars may not be the perfect Chinese learning app, but what it has is a commitment to keep improving it, unlike some app developers who develop something, sell it, and just forget about it.
Accuracy Sensitivity Setting
Unlike a one app fits all approach, you can toggle the difficulty of the game according to your child’s level. There are 3 game settings you can change
- Writing Game Difficulty
- Writing Game Sensitivity
- Speaking Game Difficulty
For my youngest (5 year old), her pronunciation isn’t that accurate as yet, and it was more encouraging for her to be on the lower setting so she can still learn, practice and pass the stage, than to be stuck at the “speech” segment. And best part about it is, it is personalised for each profile!
Choice of curriculum
By default, the Chinese curriculum is the “Maomi 2023 Collection”. However, you can also choose a simpler curriculum such as the “Simple Strokes Collection” where no writing is involved and only 100 words is taught. This would be ideal for younger children.
There were also a “Zhuyin collection”, “Happy Mandarin YCT” for those who are taking the YCT test and other interesting curriculum. I spotted an interesting Pokemon themed curriculum too!
Singapaoren parents will be glad to know they have a “欢乐伙伴 Companion Word List” which was developed to work in conjunction with the Singapore national curriculum for primary school children published by the Ministry of Education. This curriculum has over 800 words.
Video Insight into the Maomi Stars App
Chinese Language Options
Choose to learn Mandarin Chinese and/or Cantonese.
Written Language – Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese script.
App language options
English, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese
Chinese pronunciation is accurate so far. We are not learning Cantonese, so I cannot comment on it.
Does the app allow for multiple users?
Yes. I could create 3 different profiles for my children, which is the maximum number of profiles you can create with a paid subscription.
Does the app allow for multiple devices?
Yes. I was able to use the app on my iphone and ipad, and progress was synced seamlessly.
Is there a free trial?
Our experience with the Maomi Stars app
My two girls love the app! Maybe it’s the colours, the cute kitties? They love showing me the kitty that cooks, because they think that’s me. They would deliberately toggle the games so they can get this one!
My son (who is 9 years old) sort of tried it, and decided it was not for him. My two daughters (7 years old and 5 years old) really enjoyed learning on the Maomi Stars app and would request to play it instead of watching TV. I am so glad they are learning Chinese instead of staring at the screen passively!!
I think the strength of the Maomi Stars app is that it is relatable, and the game play is simple and intuitive. It has enough going within the app to engage young children without feeling like they are learning.
I personally really like receiving the progress report, which helps me to keep track of my children’s learning. Sometimes, it is easy to forget to check if they are on apps, as you get busy in your everyday life and simply leave them to independently learn. This is a great personal reminder and evaluation tool.
What could be improved about the Maomi Stars app
No biggie, but more variation on the sentence sorting game in the “Learn” segment would be nice. There are a few games on rotation in the “Listen” segment, but only 1 in the “Learn” segment.
Some of the additional curriculum seems to be only available in Traditional Chinese too, for example the Pokemon curriculum.
More variation on the sentence sorting game in the “Learn” segment would be nice. There are a few games on rotation in the “Listen” segment, but only 1 in the “Learn” segment.
I recommend this for young Chinese learners who speaks English as a first language and picking up Chinese or Cantonese as a second language.
Recommended age: 4 to 7 years old
Where to download and purchase Maomi Stars App
3 months subscription – USD$45
6 months subscription – USD$90. USD$75 within app purchase (15% discount)
12 months subscription – USD$180. USD125 within app purchase (30% discount)
Be sure to purchase the subscription within the app to access the discount.