Mandarin = Zhongwen
Zhongwen Red is a website that offers free Online Mandarin Chinese Lessons. The whole site looks plain but the content might look interesting for people who want to learn mandarin and want to learn it for free.
Form & Function
The layout is pretty straight forward with all the navigation links on the left. Each menu consists of several chapters. Clicking on each left menu brings you to a page containing the actual chapters. There is not much of design and the content looks pretty dry. But having said that, the author makes some effort to highlight certain paragraphs and tried to explain certain chinese characters (see fig 1). There are even mp3 for the conversation!! Thumbs up for that.
The header image looks ugly and I also don’t like the heavy footer. I think the author should organise the site abit better, all the resource links should be under one section and not on the footer.
As I navigated further down the chapters, the extra explaination becomes lesser (too much work?). I really hope the author can put in more graphics and make it more interactive. This can make the learning process more interesting. If I am someone really new to the language, I want to start from scratch, possibly one word at a time, maybe something like counting 1 to 10? I also want to know how to pronounce the words. The pronunciation (pinyin?) below the chinese characters is not helping much (have a crash course on pinyin in the first chapter?).
I also like to learn more about the culture – so some information in that area will be cool. Out of curiosity, I followed 2 more links, ie “zhongwen green” and “zhongwen blue” in the footer. These sites were similar to zhongwen red and I wondered why the “red”, “blue” and “green”?
I believe the website is targeted at beginners. If I am new to mandarin, I need more explaination and help along the way. If the author can provide a bit more foundation to the language, like explaining the characters, culture and pronunciation would be cool. Oh, and please add in more visuals so that the user don’t fall to sleep. Overall, I think there are still alot of room for improvement.
fig 1. Extra help on the chinese characters