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Language Academy

Little Linguists Academy
877-557-9744 • E-mail:

With the burgeoning presence of China on the world consciousness, what was once only an exotic foreign language for Americans is fast becoming one of the commercial necessities for the new century! And in the heartland of our country, there is a language school that specializes in the Mandarin dialect of this still-exotic tongue. (Mandarin is spoken in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and in other countries worldwide.) Little Linguists Academy (“L.L.A.”) in Chicago, offers in-person classes for the ever-growing number of Americans who wish their children to learn this official and primary dialect of the sprawling giant country that is playing an increasingly significant role in the commerce and industry of the world.

More importantly for most homeschoolers, L.L.A. also offers an online, real-time, full immersion class in Chinese! Using webcams, and various teaching aids, such as PowerPoint, each student can see and be seen by his instructor, as well as the four other children in the class. Limits are set at 5 students to ensure excellent student-teacher ratio and to provide full-immersion interaction among the students to enhance their mastery and overall learning experience.

L.L.A. feels that the ability to see the teacher is extremely important for Chinese, as it contains so many unfamiliar sounds for English speakers. The same is true for the teacher seeing the student. Mouth shape and positioning has much to do with the proper pronunciation of the language; the webcam is the only way to guarantee a high degree of visible feedback. This also makes it possible for the teacher to make immediate adjustments and corrections before improper habits are formed.

L.L.A. does not believe that unstructured “free conversation” classes are appropriate for children. Therefore, they offer a set curriculum designed by the L.L.A. staff specifically geared towards teaching children online.

Materials are sent to the student ahead of time so that they know what will occur in their class before they begin, enabling them to perform all of the exercises.  This is a proven classroom method, which is being converted to online and coming as close as possible to a classroom setting. All of the students can see each other, as well as the teacher, and it is the same class for the entire year. As with all online programs, the students can be from all over the country or the world, creating an interesting atmosphere in which to study.

The first year of L.L.A.’s curriculum focuses on familiarizing each child with the unique sounds of the Chinese language. Once this is accomplished, L.L.A. begins the process of building each child’s confidence in order to set a solid foundation for learning Chinese in the future. Within a matter of weeks, students are able to speak simple Chinese phrases and read and write Chinese characters.

Children are typically more skilled at hearing the subtle tones of Chinese than are adults, so listening and accustoming their ears to the sounds is very significant in the overall learning of the language. After one year, the student will not only know hundreds of words in Chinese, but also the student will be able to carry on a simple conversation.  They begin by repeating a single word, then a single phrase, moving on to an entire sentence and then to understanding simple sentences. Since small children are natural mimics, this aids them in learning the sounds found in Chinese and repeating them. Also, contrary to common belief, Chinese is actually quite simple to learn, because Chinese grammar is much less complicated than the grammar of other languages, such as English. For instance, there is no concept of plural nor of tense, making Chinese much easier to learn on the sentence structure level. Also, learning Chinese does not affect the way a child speaks or learns English, since that has been his or her first pronunciation experience.

L.L.A. does not conduct tests, as it is not strictly academic in nature. It focuses more on the fun and enjoyment of being immersed in Chinese, therefore, they sing songs, do craft projects, and use flash cards, all of which enable the child to have an enjoyable experience and learn without thinking about it.  The students also learn simple Chinese writing; many of the pictograph characters are obvious and relatively easy for young children to recreate. L.L.A. also encourages parents to participate as much as they can. The computer connection requires use of headphones or a headset, so if the parents are able to connect along with their child, it works out very well. As homeschoolers know, this family approach also quickly enforces what the child learns in the class and speeds up the process of mastery.

 L.L.A. recommends that children be at least five years old before beginning their study of Chinese online. However, if a parent feels that a younger child can sit in front of the computer for 30 minutes at a time, L.L.A. will accept him or her. In the first class, the teacher begins speaking and observes how well the children participate, then they proceed from there. That is their only form of evaluation.

L.L.A. is reasonable, too, costing $90 per month for a once-a-week, 30-minute class and provides many possible years of instruction. After each class, a link to a recording of the actual class is sent to each student so that he or she can review what was learned. The in-person classes include children of all ages and the Academy teaches at many public and private schools in the Chicago area. The Chicago school also has parents studying with their 18-month-old babies, who are learning Chinese right along with English, from the start. To learn more and become a part of this growing linguistic awareness, visit L.L.A’s website and obtain more information. MjL


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