During the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola aired an ad which showed heartwarming images of American families set to the soundtrack of “America the Beautiful,” sung in various languages. When an outspoken and angry group of people took to social media to express their outrage that average Americans could be shown speaking other languages, my friend Stephanie at InCulture Parent responded with the voices of bilingual children, proclaiming their pride in their linguistic abilities and their country. The result is a very powerful video, and I am so thrilled that my son got to be in it to represent Mandarin speakers:
Read Stephanie’s full explanation of her reasons for making the video. And if you don’t read InCulture Parent, a resource for “parents raising little global citizens,” you should. Please spread this video on your social networks, to show the world that most Americans are proud of our multilingual heritage.
In case you missed it, the original Coke ad is here:
Posted in music, Videos on 07/16/2013 09:07 am by sophie
My family and I just returned from a trip to New York, where we had the pleasure of seeing Monkey: Journey to the West at Lincoln Center. Produced by Blur’s Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and Chen Shizheng, who directed The Bonesetter’s Daughter by San Francisco Opera, the show is a lively and extravagant interpretation of the legend of the Monkey King. Full of acrobatics, martial arts, animated sequences, and a soundtrack that combines Chinese pop with ethereal Philip Glass-style sounds and Buddhist chanting, the show had moments of true beauty and of real hilarity, though it may be hard to follow for those not already familiar with the story. My five and eight-year-old loved it – especially the eight-year-old who knows the story of Sun Wukong inside and out. The production is composed of a series of acts which depict some of the well-known chapters from the legend and introduces many of the key characters, including a fabulous Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie (Pigsy) and the monk Tripitaka who is leading them to India to find Buddhist scriptures. The Monkey character is slightly darker and more ill-behaved than the cuter, more mischievous depictions in many of the Chinese productions we have seen, but I thought he made the story more compelling. It is all in Chinese with English subtitles. Hewlett, who with Albarn created the virtual band Gorillaz, has produced a couple of short films based on the show:
My children have watched, and loved, the animated version of the Journey to the West produced by CCTV, but inspired by the New York show, I am now going to make it a family project to watch the full TV serial which has been popular in China. Here’s episode 1:
Posted in Books, Videos on 08/11/2010 02:57 pm by sophie
The Monkey King (Journey to the West) is one of the greatest and most engaging tales for young (and old) minds ever written. My son never tires of hearing and watching the stories and knows well the details of each character and their many adventures. Asia Society has posted a video of Professor Anthony C. Yu providing a somewhat academic look at why this story endures for children over so many generations.
An article posted on Tianya.cn about the rumor proposed two possible reasons behind Disney’s alleged interest in the program: either Disney is threatened by the Chinese cartoon so they want to buy it and hide it, or Disney is trying to Americanize the Chinese kids.
The article outlines how much the cartoon and its franchise have grossed over the past few years, adding, “As Chinese, we are so proud of the cultural value of The Pleasant Goat. How can Disney possibly understand the Chinese culture behind the show?”
Although Disney has become more culturally sensitive in recent times, netizens still refer to the company’s 1998 version of the classic Chinese tale of Mulan as an example of how the company sells out Chinese culture. “[Mulan] even speaks like an American,” says Wo Shi Yu Men Ge, the poster and author of the Tianya.cn article. “Although buying “The Pleasant Goat” isn’t a form of economic blockade, it is a form of cultural blockade. If the souls of our kids are invaded by America, what will China have left?”
We’ve never watched the whole movie of Mulan, but L loves watching this short clip on YouTube, which is actually a very sweet scene full of good animated kung fu and Taoist principles. As L says, “Mulan says we have to be gentle AND tough at the same time.” And YouTube has the same clip in English and Mandarin, good for language practice:
We don’t have a lot of cartoon-themed toys or clothes or other paraphernalia in our house; We don’t have a TV so, with a few exceptions, my children don’t recognize most of the popular characters anyway so it’s not really an issue. (Now, if Pixar were to produce a decent blockbuster based on the Monkey King, it might be a different story…) But that all changed this summer, when Xi Yang Yang (ie “Happy Sheep”) entered our lives. A Chinese friend and an uncle both gave our kids DVDs, comic books (the full set of 20+), action figures, keychains, etc etc of “Happy Sheep and the Big Bad Wolf,” China’s hottest animated series. They are really pretty ridiculous looking, the animation isn’t even good, and the storyline is a silly, Wile E. Coyote-Road Runner type cartoon about a group of sheep who are always trying to fend off the latest attacks by the evil but incompetent Big Bad Wolf. The violence is of the Acme explosives variety, yet, from what I can tell, without the creativity or cleverness of Chuck Jones’ characters. (I have to admit I haven’t watched much yet, and my husband says some of the stories are pretty entertaining.) But my kids are hooked. Even little T toddles around the house asking for “Yang Yang, Yang Yang!”. The full line of Xi Yang Yang products can be found on this site and the Wikipedia entry introduces all the characters. The series even has its own Facebook page. Scroll to the bottom of this post for clips of the animated series via YouTube.
China promoted the cartoon as a local product to compete globally with Kung Fu Panda. The fact that you have never heard of it means that they weren’t too successful. (They could start by improving the official English translation of the name, “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.”) But it has apparently caught on in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and in our home. As L sits down to watch another episode, I have to remember, it’s good language practice…
Meanwhile, other American cartoons are a hit in China, especially Spongebob Squarepants (“Haimianbaobao”), who now has his own Chinese-language website. I also noticed on my last trip to Target that the PBS series Ni Hao Kai-lan, about the adventures of a Chinese-American girl, has its own line of merchandise. I wonder if Kai-lan will ever have the same mass appeal as Dora and Diego, her Spanish-speaking equivalents.
Clips of Xi Yang Yang (many more are available on YouTube by searching 喜羊羊与灰太狼):
A friend just sent a link for a new animated series designed to teach kids Chinese. Produced by aha!Chinese, Let’s Go Guang is a series of cartoons about a brother and sister and their dragon friend Guang who teaches them Mandarin phrases. From their own promotional materials:
New phrases are continuously introduced and each episode builds on the words and phrases learned in the episodes preceding it until the end of the series at which point “immersion” is achieved. The target age is for children 2-8 years old, however anyone who wishes to learn Mandarin Chinese will also enjoy the series.
I haven’t yet seen the full videos, but you can watch a sneak preview of the first video here.
Found this short video clip on the Montessori for Mandarin Chinese site, which has some useful resources for teaching young children Chinese (including pirated clips of popular DVDs filmed off the blogger’s TV).
A couple of years ago, all on his own, L began to memorize Tang poems from a tape he loved to listen to. He recently made an effort to remember some of his favorites, including the first one he ever memorized, The Geese by Luo Binwang, In honor of his efforts, here it is (translation found on this site, which also includes the pinyin):
鹅 鹅 鹅，
曲 项 向 天 歌。
白 毛 浮 绿 水，
红 掌 拨 清 波。
Ode to the Goose
Goose, goose, goose,
You bend your neck towards the sky and sing.
Your white feathers float on the emerald water,
Your red feet push the clear waves.
And while looking for an animation of the poem, I found this little story about the poet Luo Binwang, which ends with a recitation of the poem. Read the rest of this entry »