I sat down to watch a few DVR days worth of Nick Jr’s “Ni Hao Kai-Lan” with my virusy family. It made it’s debut on Chinese New Year. (btw Xin Nian Kuai Le! 農曆新年) Jayden’s picked up more Chinese in one week than he has since he was born. The show is an interesting venture capitalizing on the bilingualism of Dora the Explorer and the play along think along techniques of Blues Clues. What’s more interesting to me is the emotional intelligence that Kai-Lan teaches. During the middle of the episode a character demonstrates some issue and Kai-Lan encourages kids to figure out why they acted in that way and find a solution. I can appreciate that and the Mandarin lessons.
The NYTimes has a good article on the show and its creator, Karen Chau. I found her relationship with her dad quite amusing and all too familiar.
Ms. Chao, who earned a degree in digital art from the University of California, Irvine, in 2000, didn’t quite follow the path her father preferred. “He set me up for an internship at PaineWebber, but I doodled on the cold-call sheets and taped the phone receiver down,” she said. “I wasn’t a very good worker bee, but Dad was ecstatic because I was wearing business outfits with shoulder pads and big pants. In Chinese culture criticism is love. So my dad must really, really love me, because he has a lot to say.”
Kai-Lan is timely. Kids are more influenced by Asian culture than ever before getting beyond Kung-Fu and Moo-Shu Pork of my childhood experience. Makes me think of all those years of Chinese school. To think, my parents were cutting edge then. It’s essential now to learn Chinese in American schools in order to prepare for a global economy.
An estimated 50,000 American children are being taught Mandarin in public schools, with an additional 50,000 studying in private settings. Next month the first 2,000 high school students will take the College Board’s new Advanced Placement exam in Mandarin. The number is small but an indication of big things to come, said Tom Matts, director of the board’s World Languages Initiative. “We expect to see growth in this course unlike any other introduced in the last decade or so.”