Review: Bilin Academy – online classes in Chinese art, chess and more!

Bilin Academy is an online platform offering immersive extracurricular classes for children in Chinese, which cleverly integrate content and language learning in a fun package. Thanks to the recommendation of a like-minded parent in Singapore, we started online art classes with Bilin Academy in mid-2020, and have continued since then.

My kids have enjoyed Bilin Academy so much, that even after COVID restrictions lifted, we continued. We even arranged for a group of friends together to do a week of daily classes from Bilin Academy (taught in Mandarin of course!) during our September School holidays.  The classes were fully paid by us (no freebies!) and our friends, and this review is our honest opinion, as always. 

Bilin Academy has a unique range of immersion-style classes in a range of different areas.  So far, we’ve tried the Paint the Poem and Disney Princess Fashion Design.   Many of the classes have a nice link back to Chinese history or culture, through the stories or topics selected. For example studying Mulan from Disney, or Chinese calligraphy, or learning Mandarin tongue twisters etc. This make is fun and enjoyable, whilst being instructive.

Who is Bilin Academy?

Bilin Academy – based in the United States – labels themselves “a world classroom” and offers extracurricular classes in both Chinese and English.  The founder is Huayi He (also a mother of 3!) and following her passions, she has designed an innovative immersive language learning environment, which is “connecting dedicated teachers and curious children across continents”.  Bilin Academy prides itself in creating enjoyable language-integrated learning experiences, to inspire multilingual global citizens.  We really love this idea!

Bilin Academy started in early 2018, originally as an experiment by Huayi to offer online drawing classes in English to children in China.  Since then, it’s developed into more than 30 different classes on varied topics, taught in both English and Mandarin.  This includes Art, Chinese calligraphy, Music, Poetry, Chess, Go / Weiqi and much more.  Art classes are very topical, such as Harry Potter, Disney Princess Fashion, or Tang Dynasty poems and idioms.

They are still a relatively small online provider (200 active students), which means great quality control for their teaching staff and personal administration support from the founder herself.

What we enjoyed about Bilin Academy?

It must be said, the pricing is attractive (it varies from ~US$20 for 1 hour, dropping to $8/hour for some specific classes if you buy a package), and combined with a platform that is highly user friendly, it’s hard to go past it. The class range is relevant and fun for children.

Generally, I’m not for encouraging screen time with the children, and I prefer in-person classes.  However, during COVID lockdown / restrictions, it necessitated some screen alternatives in order to keep up the Chinese learning for my three children, and we were glad to discover Bilin Academy.  These are some of the few online classes that we continued with after the COVID restrictions have eased.  The Bilin Academy class offerings are so diverse and unique, that I haven’t found any in-person classes on even remotely similar topics.

Their web platform is in English and simple to use, including top-up credit options directly from Paypal / credit card.  They also have a 24 hour cancellation policy, which is another very reasonable feature.  We also appreciated that we could book the class and pay for one child, yet my younger child could also sit in the background and observe/participate in the class for the same price.  This makes it a super economical option.

The class sizes are small too (ranging from 1-on-1 to 5 students), which enables a highly immersive interactive experience.

Our favourite classes

We first did a weekly series on “Paint the Chinese Poem” (watercolour), and then another set on Fashion Design based on Disney Princess (pencil sketching).  These were both excellent.

In both classes, the lessons started with the teacher sharing about the poem / dress in Chinese, and discussing its features and meaning.   After this, the teacher shared a model picture, and explained step by step to the children how to create their own similar drawing.  The results are stunning (I look at them and wonder how a 5 or 7 year old could create something so well balanced)!  It finishes with Chinese writing, centred around the topic in the picture. Each class also distinctly brings out cultural aspects, even the Disney princesses, such as Mulan, which was a favourite for my kids.  

I appreciate that the classes are appealing in topic, and slanted towards ways to learn more about Chinese culture.  The Calligraphy classes and Chinese Chess are next on our wishlists! I am also very tempted by the Shan Hai Jing (山海经) classes, painting Chinese mythical stories and beast, and letting the children be inspired by this classic Chinese text.

Classes offered by Bilin Academy

The class range is always expanding and evolving, to keep children interested. Currently there are 11 class types taught 100% in Mandarin, these are:

  • Go/Weiqi in Mandarin
  • Chinese Calligraphy Class
  • Chinese Speech & Public Speaking
  • Chinese Pictograph and Character Recognition
  • Make Your Own Phonics Book
  • Harry Potter Art Class
  • Singing Chinese Poetry
  • Fashion Design for Kids (Famous Designers)
  • Shan Hai Jing creature character design
  • Paint the Classical Chinese Poem
  • Film and Costume Design

How to sign up

Bilin Academy offers a generous free online class trial before signup, which is a great way to ensure it’s a good for for your child.  Not all kids are receptive to online classes. 

You can visit their website and see the range of classes available.

Additionally, it’s worth highlighting that Bilin Academy is currently undertaking a IndieGogo campaign for the month of December 2020, to grow their app technology. This campaign is offering 25% to 60% off for packages of class credits.  Now would be a great time to do a free trial, and buy a package of credits, if the classes were of interest to your child.

Comparison to other online classes

As mentioned, we really enjoyed Bilin Academy and have continued our classes after lockdown, as well as recommending to our friends. However, during COVID, my kids did actually sign up for a couple of other interesting online classes taught in Chinese.  If you’re interested in understanding other online class offerings, these two posts might be of interest too: Comparison of online language classes for learning Chinese and also Non Academic online classes taught in Chinese.

3 thoughts on “Review: Bilin Academy – online classes in Chinese art, chess and more!

  1. Oh man, this makes me wish they would offer similar immersion art classes for adults! I’ve thought about signing up for language classes for myself but TBH I’ve figured I would be too bored by lamgauge-focused content. Practicing language and getting myself to learn more about watercolors would be much more fun.

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