Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ni Hao, Kai Lan!

IF you would like to introduce your children to Mandarin Chinese, check out this bilingual TV programme on Nick Jr called "Ni hao, Kai Lan", which teaches kids Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture.
KIDS LOVE IT! Kai Lan is a little Chinese girl who lives in the US with her grandfather, Ye ye. She has three animals friends i.e. Ho Ho the monkey, Tolee a koala and Rintoo, the tiger.

There's also a bunch of ants who pop up every now and then in the show to provide comic relief :D. They are hilarious!

As Kai Lan speaks mostly American English and introduces Chinese concepts in a smooth Mandarin Chinese accent (not the Beijing one), your children and you can pick up Mandarin Chinese quite quickly.

It's a really great show because the kids love tuning in to Kai Lan's adventures e.g. how she helps the snails rebuild their merry-go-round, review a bit of their Mandarin Chinese and learning a bit about Chinese culture. I wonder if overseas Chinese parents like the TV show?

I know that my kids have learned quite a bit about friendships and other positive values like the importance of keeping promises from "Ni Hao Kai Lan". For instance, my son noted that today's the first time he's seen Kai Lan being sad and being comforted by her animal friends. Check that out, the fan base speaks up LOL

Furthermore, the cartoon uses a question and answer format, which invites interaction from the TV viewers. Songs and dances are included too.

Digging around the Net, I discovered that the creator is an American-born Chinese named Karen Chau, who drew Kai-Lan, as part of a host of characters, when she took an advanced course in Adobe Illustrator.

Kai-Lan is actually Karen Chau's 5 year old self and her name Karen actually came from her Chinese name "Kai-lan". Her mum is Helen or "Hai-lan". Did you know that the child who voices Kai-Lan on the show is a Chinese adopted by American parents? She was tutored in Mandarin Chinese for the show. You can read more below from an interview with the New York Times:
Ms. Chao said she wanted Kai-lan “to be a Chinese-American role model, to be independent, to have a voice, to take the initiative and to not always have to follow others.” Ms. Harrington, the executive producer, said she hoped the series would have a special resonance for the estimated 60,000 girls in the United States who have been adopted from Chinese orphanages.
One such child is Jade-Lianna Peters, who voices the title character. Abandoned at a shrine in infancy, she was taken to an orphanage and put up for adoption at 8 months old. John and Kathleen Peters, a childless couple from Milwaukee, flew to China holding a photograph of her the size of a postage stamp.
“When they placed her in my arms, she stared at me for about five minutes, and I stared back,” Mrs. Peters said. “Then, all of a sudden, she let out this big sigh, as if she were saying, ‘If this is what I’m stuck with, it will at least be interesting.’ ”
Now 10, Jade-Lianna, who is being tutored in Mandarin, reads lines from a studio in suburban Milwaukee, linked by high-speed cable to the Nickelodeon center in Burbank, her sandpapery voice adding nuance and energy to a story about a backyard safari.
Listening in from California, Ms. Chao is thrilled by Jade-Lianna’s interpretation of Kai-lan’s exuberance and affection for Yeye.

“In Chinese culture everything is expressed in terms of the heart,” Ms. Chao says. “When a child is happy, she is said to have an open heart. When sad, her heart has been hurt. My father often speaks of this. He says being part of a family means having one heart.”

“Whenever I go home, that’s when I feel the safest.” She says. “That’s the soul of ‘Ni Hao, Kai-lan!’ ”

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