Review: The Dim Sum Warriors Club

Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Club is an unconventional approach for learning language through creativity, stories, and doodling.   During the pandemic last year, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the creator of Dim Sum Warriors 点心侠.   Our family now has all their books, and we’ve been part of the Dim Sum Warriors Club for a year.  This post is what we think about the concept.

What is the Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Club 点心侠 ?

The Dim Sum Warriors Club was officially launched in 2021.  It has four main parts:

  • Bilingual Comic Jams: 45 minutes livestream, three Saturdays per month
  • 成语 Chinese Idiom Doodle Dates: 15 minutes live sessions 4 nights per week
  • Web resources: 100+ draw-along videos, mini-posters, quizzes, vocabulary lists, home study guides
  • Dim Sum Warriors app: combining voiced comics, word recognition and vocabulary-building games, and read-aloud voice evaluation in Mandarin and English

They also have print books sold separately as the Little Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Tales (bilingual stories for young readers).

The system was created by a Singaporean husband-wife team Dr Woo Yen Yen (a tenured professor in education and film-maker) and Colin Goh (illustrator of two New York Times bestselling books and writer of films and a musical ), combining their years of professional expertise with their passion for bilingual parenting.  More about their fascinating backgrounds and family in my interview with DIm Sum Warriors.

Dim Sum Warriors app

What we like?

  • Very suitable for language beginners, younger learners, and language enthusiasts alike:  the app and the livestream content is fully bilingual, so it is very accessible for a parent or child in both Chinese and English.  Even I, a monolingual parent, can appreciate the livestream sessions and learn something new in Chinese and English every time.  I’d liken it to a Disney Pixar movie which appeals to different audiences at very different levels.
  • It’s real people interacting (and these people are incredible): it’s so rare to be able to interact with an author or cartoonist, let alone have access to them each week and put in live requests about what you want them to draw.  This is what my kids look forward to the most.  The very talented “Uncle Colin” can draw the most hilarious things in seconds. 
  • The online sessions are short, sharp and ongoing:  there’s no overload on screen time. In just 15 minutes, an idiom can be learnt, interacted with, and remembered.  It’s possible to get consistent bilingual input and interaction throughout the week with this method.
  • Books form the basis of the app content: the app isn’t about rote learning literacy or watching cartoons.  It’s really about reading real books, and interacting with them.   The system bringing books to life and lets a learner engage/interact with the content.   We actually bought hard copies of the books, so the screen time is a treat. 
  • App language (and books) can be in English or Chinese: set the app as you please.  Choice of Simplified or Traditional script, with Mandarin pronunciation.  Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese are on the way as home languages in the app too. 
  • Safe:  the online sessions are conducted through the members-only page on the website, and only the Dim Sum Warrior team is visible on screen …..  no ability for children to have cameras on or voices shared nor recorded.  The requests are sent through a moderated chat, run in English and Simplified Chinese.  It’s also fairly intuitive for a child to login themselves and navigate.
  • Intentional content:  There is great thought put into the curation of content.  Many of the books focus on themes of resilience, inclusiveness, and diversity, whilst the idioms cover a lot of the Singapore MOE Primary syllabus.  I feel I can trust the Dim Sum Warriors team to deliver content which meets both the emotional and educational needs of good responsible multilingual citizens.  The team includes ex MOE teachers, Taiwan school teachers and university professors.
  • Family Sharing:  One account is shared by all three kids, and the whole family can participate in the livestream Jams together.  At times, we’ve even invited neighbours around to join in. 
  • It’s a steal:   Can you believe getting 20 live sessions each month (about 240 in a year), for an annual price of SGD199???

What we don’t like? (or watch outs)

The Dim Sum Warriors Club has been recently relaunched, after going through several stages of development.  If you were one of the early adopters in 2020 to check out the app when it was offered free during COVID, I’d recommend you try it again, as you might be surprised how much it has improved / expanded

Nothing is perfect, so some watch outs for consideration:

  • It’s not fully immersive Chinese:  when I first came across the Dim Sum Warriors Club,  I was initially put off by the fact it is not fully immersive for Chinese.  It actually mixes English and Chinese throughout.  Since I didn’t understand the Chinese myself, I mistakenly didn’t realise how cleverly the English and Chinese dialogues are intertwined, through a pedagogical concept called ‘translanguaging’, which I explored further in my interview with the creators. It’s a very neat concept.
  • Features Singaporean English accents:  certainly, the jury will be split on this aspect.  The app in fact has a range of featured actors and accents, but you’ll notice the very familiar local flavour in the mix.
  • App can be a little draggy: sometimes downloading the stories takes a few minutes (not long, but longer than kids would like it to be). 
  • App itself suited for younger kids:  My preschooler likes the app best, whereas my elder kids get more into the livestreams and would rarely use the app.

Unique features of Dim Sum Warriors?

The whole concept is SO so unique ….. combining physical reading books, with an app that helps the child read the books, and then live interactive weekly sessions. 

In particular, some other unique callouts of this unconventional approach to language acquisition are:

  • Great for food lovers:  Combines Chinese language with all sorts of food creations
  • Helmed by an award-winning cartoonist:  Uncle Colin with no doubt wow your kids when he doodles live
  • Translanguaging and fun play with language:  this goes way beyond the textbook and into a world of literary fun and linguistics.  There are puns, idioms, and etymology.   It gets a bit geeky at times, but it doesn’t feel like learning.
  • Perfect for kids who really love to draw:  in the Bilingual Comic Jams, the child can see step-by-step how to draw fun cartoons, and also submit wacky requests on what they want to learn about.  The photos of what the kids achieve are quite impressive.
  • It’s Laugh-Out-Loud funny:  the team really love to laugh, and learning is more fun that way!
Dim Sum Warriors Club vocab
Throughout the 45 minute livestream, the children can suggest ideas in line with the weekly theme, and Uncle Colin draws them and discusses relevant vocabularly.
Dim Sum Warriors Club Doodle Date
Translanguaging and language fun abounds in the Dim Sum Warriors Livestreams

How does Dim Sum Warriors work?

I’ll just share how we use it, as there will be plenty of permutations of families who use it differently.

  • Little Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Tales:   We bought the physical printed books, although they’ re also available in digital format through the app (there is usually a new title every couple of months that come out on the app first).  These books are also in the Singapore NLB library, and quite a few can be found in the international school libraries too.  The books have short, funny skits about the Bao family, including titles like “Papa, I’m Still Not Sleepy“, “My Way is the Best” and “I’m Very Busy“.  You’d be surprised at how kids connect with these short stories, even those who may not enjoy Chinese language.  Sometimes mine ask to read the same story multiple times in a row.
Dim Sum Warriors Bilingual Tales
The Dim Sum Warriors books are bilingual, with Chinese on one side, and English on the other.
  • Bilingual Comic Jams:  these are livestreamed chat-and-draw along events held on Saturday mornings.   We don’t join every weekend, but if we’re home at that time, we’d certainly put the TV on and have it going in the background with at least one child watching, and sometimes all six of us!  The Jams are hosted bilingually, and build confidence in Chinese through creatively playing with the language and making connections across languages.  Often around festival times (CNY, Mid Autumn, Halloween, Christmas etc) the Jam theme is aligned, and we’d make an extra effort to join and get to understand more specific vocabulary for the season.  A favorite one we joined was the International Women’s Day event…. I was very glad for kids to learn this inclusive vocabulary in Mandarin, as it’s not a common feature in the Chinese materials they otherwise watch/read.
  • Chinese Idiom Doodle Dates:  these are held weeknights at 8.30pm which is too late for us to join live, although we’ve made a handful of these during the school holidays.  The rest of the time, we’ll watch the replays.  The time we used this feature the most was actually whilst traveling….. it enabled us to keep up daily exposure to Chinese language throughout the long summer break.
Dim Sum Warriors Club Idiom Doodle Dates
Isn’t this an amazing picture done in 8 minutes? Such a fun way to learn Chinese idioms!
Dim Sum Warriors Club Idiom Nights
  • Dim Sum Warriors App: the app is filled with games that cover both Chinese and English, including activities to listen, read aloud, and even record kids’ own voices in both Chinese and English   It has easy language-toggling and super kid-friendly navigation.  It’s especially appealing to younger kids, giving plenty of aural and oral opportunities.  If you’re concerned about a child’s pronunciation, this is one way to let them practice, as voice recognition can highlight mispronounced words and fluency levels whilst reading the books aloud.

How is it different from other Chinese apps for kids?

In short, I would say it’s peerless.  It’s original.  It’s really hard to compare.

This is neither an app, nor an online class.  It’s a great mix of the two.  Of course, it is possible to just buy the books, or just use the app.  However, the whole Club package, including the livestreams is what makes it so compelling.  It’s incomparable to any app.

In terms of concept, it’s perhaps a bit like Vitamin M, but with a literary/linguistics focus (Vitamin M which I reviewed previously is designed for orals, and comes at a much higher price point).  It’s also a little like the GenieBook Chinese concept of blended online self-learning and livestreams, but without the textbook focus and much much more personal and creative. 

How to become a Dim Sum Warriors Club Member?

For more information, look on the Dim Sum Warriors website.

** SPECIAL DEAL FOR READERS ** If you’re buying The Dim Sum Warriors Club membership , mention that you were recommended by lahlahbanana and you will receive one print book free! Valid until September 30th 2022.

What other technology and apps are great for children learning Chinese?

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on apps, I’d love to hear from you. I am always keen to hear what works for other families.    As an adult who speaks no Chinese, I’ve resorted to several smart technologies to enable my kids to become bilingual.  Perhaps some of my earlier posts might also be of interest:

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