Jonathan’s Story – started at 6 years old and finished in 4 months

This week’s Parent Spotlight is Jonathan Lin.

Some of you may find his experience quite intimidating. However, we just want to remind you that his son started at a much later age, had lots of exposure to Chinese in a very immersive environment, and most importantly, was mature and developed enough to go at that pace.

The beauty of our Basic Chinese 500 set is that you can go at a pace that is best suited for your child. For some, that will be faster. Others, it will be slower. Only you can be the judge of that.

 FAMILY BACKGROUND (in his own words) 

I am the first generation immigrant from Taiwan. I came to the states for when I was 26. My son just turned seven and he started the Sagebooks 6 months ago. He now can recognize 1500-1800 characters and read a 4000-character book in one sitting.


7-year-old son (started: 6.5 years old; finished: 4 months)


1. Why did you choose Sagebooks?

It was highly rated among Chinese learning community.

2. What was your experience with going through Sagebooks?

I started teaching my son seriously at the beginning of August 2018, and we finished by the end of November.

3. What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities? 

We read through a whole book at a time, and I wrote down the new characters in the index cards as flashcards. We review flashcards every day. We tried to review the book two to three times during the week.  During the weekend, we review all of the characters we have learned, including the ones we learned from previous books, and concluded the book.

4. What did you like about Sagebooks? Was there anything you didn't?

I have no complaints about Sagebooks except that there were some typos. For example, 飄 and 漂 were not used correctly.

5. If you have more than one child, would you do it again?

Yes, I would.  It is a very good system to start recognizing Chinese characters.

6. Any advice for parents who are just starting?

We were able to finish the whole system within four months because my son started when he was more than 6.5 years old. He did have a lot of Mandarin listening input before we started. Cartoon and CDs are the main media I used. I didn't read to him much before we started Sagebooks. Plus, we went back to Taiwan three times when he was 4/5/6 years old for 3/4/2 months respectively.  Therefore, once we started, he simply put the pronunciation to the characters accordingly.

In addition, older kids have more sophisticated logic. I can teach him more abstract characters and I taught him character roots. So, there might be merits to start later than six, I guess. (Though, the late start was purely due to my laziness.) The point is that you have to make Mandarin in daily life even though you are not actually "teaching" Chinese.

Aside from Sagebooks, we read stories for 30 minutes every day. He was "soaked/immersed" in Chinese characters for at least 1 hour daily. I think reading Chinese books helped him recognize some basic characters from the books we read.


Thank you so much for your detailed answers, Jonathan! We’re glad that the foundation you laid for your son in terms of language immersion and stories were such a big help as you went through our books.

If you would like to be featured as a Parent Spotlight, please let us know!
Many of our featured families are part of our Facebook Group so if you’d like to take advantage of the collective wisdom of your fellow parents, please


We’d love to hear from you.