In this series, Adrienne Blaser has been evaluating some websites for teaching yourself the language.
My final choice for one of my favourite Mandarin Chinese learning sites is extremely different from those previously looked at. Zon, is an educational learning site made for kids in school. As in a virtual community, you make your own avatar arriving as a tourist in “China”, with only the bare essentials.
When you are still a tourist you learn about Chinese myths and legends. From there you must navigate your way through the airport (that is just as painful as the one in reality) and to a hotel. Along the way you meet other people who may be just like you, having a hard time understanding how to get out, to experts working at their job. As you progress through the site you learn about Chinese language, customs, and even how to separate currency. Although it may take you days, eventually your avatar will be promoted to Resident or even Citizen where you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or own a business.
Basically, it’s like you are living on the other side of the world without your parents, while sitting in front of your computer at home. Zon isn’t only used at home, many schools use Zon for students to learn about Chinese language and culture in a fun and educational way. This site explains how to navigate through the game, and once you read how, the way is clear. There is a news blog that keeps you updated on changes and problems going on, and the community forum helps build friendships and answer questions. The animation showed real architecture from China and it truly felt like you were there.
I think that this site is really important for younger kids learning Chinese because when you’re young, sitting down and listening or having to concentrate really hard isn’t exciting or motivating. But working towards a goal like buying your first car is. Some improvement could be that the how-to is explained as you go along in case getting lost becomes a reality.
Web address: http://enterzon.com/
Adrienne Blaser is 14 years old. She plays tennis, the violin and loves to read. She one day hopes to learn many languages, hopefully one being Chinese, which she is currently teaching herself.
This article first appeared in Computers in Classrooms.