Sara Jordan Publishing is a Canadian educational materials company that has produced over 60 audio and book titles for early childhood; math, language, and social studies; and bilingual instruction. Their products are distributed through educational supply stores and catalogs, as well as directly from the publisher (both in CD form and digital download.)
Sara has dozens of titles available for teaching Spanish and French; this is her first entry into the Mandarin market. I had the opportunity to talk with her in 2009 at an educational tradeshow and purchased this CD from her (at a discount; regular price $17.95) to use informally with my daughter at home so that we can maintain some constant Mandarin exposure. For the past six weeks she’s had this disc playing at bedtime (so I’ve been listening to it quite a bit as well.)
There are 12 songs on the CD, plus instrumental versions of all 12. A songbook is included which shows lyrics in English, Pinyin, and Chinese logograms. Each of the songs are half-English-half-Mandarin; alternating either paragraph by paragraph, or line by line. The lyrics were written by a native Mandarin speaker and sung by native speakers as well. (And the English lyrics and singing are done with a mid-continent American accent - not a Canadian accent.) The songs introduce lots of basic vocabulary and phrases; titles include “The Alphabet,” “Counting to 10,” “Food,” and “Family.”
The music itself is not Chinese and does not use Chinese instrumentation; rather these are Western rhythms performed with instruments often used on children’s music (xylophones, drums, guitars, piano, etc.) and arranged in various peppy, energetic styles - feeling more like music of the Caribbean at times. Sometimes the music tracks overwhelm the vocals, but when you listen to the album frequently - as young kids want to do - you’ll pick up what’s being sung after a couple times through.
What does my daughter think? I have caught her humming some of the tunes during the day, and she is occasionally using Chinese number words. She does enjoy the music and wants to keep the CD on nightly rotation.
As a learning tool, running this CD as background music isn’t going to magically teach your child basic Mandarin vocabulary. This is really meant to be used with the songbook so that you or your child’s teacher can introduce specific words and phrases and reinforce them with the music. Likewise, your child isn’t going to learn anything specific about China or Chinese culture from this album - it’s a culture-neutral product used just to introduce and reinforce vocabulary.
I do recommend this disc; compared to CDs of “Chinese Children’s Music” produced in Asia, the arrangement of vocals and instruments, supporting information, and pleasantness of the music makes it much more suitable for beginning the teaching of Mandarin. The absence of military anthems and obscure poetic forms makes it much easier for kids in Western homes and classrooms to concentrate on learning the Mandarin words.
Posted September 3, 2011