I love animation! I am a huge Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki fan. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons with my brother where my love for Batman and the infamous Kevin Conroy (hands down the best actor to ever play The Batman) blossomed. I cried buckets the first time I watched the Pixar classic “Up” and marveled at the billions of balloons that lifted the little old house and the little old man into the sky.
I also love studying Chinese and have longed for a way to study Chinese via animation or graphic novels. As I type that – I must clarify: of course I could easily go out and buy manga or comics in Chinese to practice Chinese Character reading –but, as a learner and English Education major, I know that in any learning environment it is helpful to have a structured learning process, or a “scaffold” as it is more formally called, to aid in the acquisition of a language. I’d often feel overwhelmed when reading Chinese language manga on my own as an early-intermediate reader, and no matter how determined I was going in to studying, that determination always started to fizzle out as I became overwhelmed by just how much I didn’t know.
Luckily, due to the San Francisco State Chinese Flagship program and arrangements made by the Taiwan Education and Cultural Office, (TECO) I was able to come to Taiwan this summer an intern for a short time as part of a three part internship series at a company in Taiwan called Lu Feng Technology Inc. [陸鋒科技有限公司] creators of the online Chinese Reading product: 5Qchannel.
Lu Feng Technology Inc. is a company based in Taiwan that creates teaching material geared at assisting Chinese learner in the K-8th range the fundamentals of Chinese. This includes idiom stories, bopomofo or 注音 (the Taiwanese pinyin system), pronunciation, pinyin, classic literature, Confucian Analects, and much more. All of these categories are divided by language level for non-natives on the English site. As a temporary intern at the company I was given an insiders look at the inner workings of the smaller branch in Taipei, an introduction to their products, and a free users subscription to last the duration of my time in Taiwan. I was also asked to rate the level of some of the animations as a non-native speaker, which consisted of me watching a ton of the animations and determining around how difficult it was for me to comprehend.
[me with the lovely staff and the companies founder Mr. Tseng]
Though the material is aimed at younger age groups, Chinese learners of all ages can enjoy the services the website has to offer; the material is not only fun to read, but it is also extremely fun to watch. That is not something I say lightly about Chinese language animation.
Honestly – there are many amazing features that 5Qchannel has to offer as a learning service (animations surrounding some of the Confucian Analects for example), but for today — I am going to be focusing primarily on their presentations of Chinese Idioms:
The first time I ever learned a Chinese idiom was at San Francisco State University. I was taking Chinese 103 and we were using the Chinese Link series as our textbook which has page long [成語故事 ] or Idiom Stories to heighten our cultural-linguistic competency. Chinese Link is not a bad textbook, but when it came to introducing idioms, me and my classmates often felt confused about when and how exactly we were supposed to use the idiom, not to mention a little overwhelmed having to memorize so many in such a short time. Idioms are not an easy linguistic category to learn, as they are very language and culture specific. The textbook would give us one sentence in Chinese \, usually an example of the idiom in context with grammatical usage, but often the example given — unless the idiom was pretty straightforward — was lacking in it’s ability to clarify the nuances of the saying.
I don’t know why are society decides, as students get older that our textbooks need to become less and less fun to read. For learning a language especially — sometimes simple black words on a white page aren’t enough. That where 5Qchannel comes in:
This manga comes in two forms: a comic form as pictured about, and as a short animation — that way learners can both practice reading and listening, and is used as a supplementary modern day example of the idiom 掩耳盜鈴 [yan er dao ling] “to cover ones ears while stealing a bell” in other words — to deceive yourself. It details a boy who changes his grades on a test, which his sister details is only [掩耳盜鈴], deceiving oneself.
In Chinese classes I often found it hard to think up examples in which to use the “Chengyu”s or Idiom Stories I was learning. The examples were more about learning the grammar of the phrase, rather than the application. What I like about 5QChannel is the illustrations help me to better visualize how such idioms can be applied to real world situations, and the comic details an actual situation. Not just a sentence utilizing the idiom.
In addition to such features, there are even some animations and comics on the site that come with additional learning practice — downloadable PDFs and PowerPoints for teachers to utilize in the classroom, some reading comprehension activities, sing-alongs for really young children, and so forth.
Plus — watching the animations is strangely addicting. It does not feel much like studying at all. The art work is adorable, with fun voice overs, and a wide range of expressions. I thought the following was cute and funny:
He turned to ice people! 哈哈~
When I was a kid, I loved playing a game on floppy disk (oh! how the years have flown by) called Reader Rabbit — a similar software design to provide children with an interactive and fun way to learn language.
It makes the 24-year-old college student who sometimes feels like tossing in the towel when it comes to learning Chinese, who is sometimes so burnt out by testing, memorizing, and staring at plain old black and white textbooks want to keep studying.
It makes learning Chinese fun again.