Dec 282012
iPad apps: iGo Chinese

IQChinese is a series of apps for children; four progressive levels are currently offered. The core of each app is a story. This is supplemented with songs, quizzes, and writing practice. I looked at iGo Chinese vol. 4 for the purposes of this review. The app settings let you choose between simplified or traditional characters. From the starting screen, there are several options. Lesson/Story These are essentially the same thing. The story is 24 pages total. The lessons are this story divided into six lessons of four pages each. Each page is a still image with audio. The text of the dialogue is printed in boxes on the pages. The text always has characters with pinyin underneath. You can’t hide the text or even hide just the pinyin. But you’ll be glad the pinyin was there when you see what the quizzes are like. You can play the story (or … [read more]

Jan 232012
Nian again

If the Rye Studio version of the story of Nian discussed in the last post was a little advanced for you, try the iOS app by 5QChannel, Nian is Coming 年来了. This one has a fully animated version as well as an illustrated storybook. The 5QChannel apps have a few other nice features: Choice of hanzi or hanzi with pinyin. For English speakers, there is a vocabulary list in the app. There is also a transcript with paragraph-by-paragraph hanzi and and English translation. The reading is more dramatized, with different voices for different characters. There is an icon that lets you choose pages by thumbnail (rather like the new navigation feature in iBooks textbooks). Export individual pages to e-mail and Facebook. The text size on the page seems designed for children to read themselves, whereas the text in the Rye Studio apps seemed meant for an adult to read. Cons: … [read more]

Jan 212012
Chinese New Year and the beast Nian

春乐节快!/ 春樂節快! Chūnjié kuàilè! 新年快乐!/ 新年快樂! Xīnnián kuàilè! It’s nearly Chinese New Year (Spring Festival). The word 年 nián ‘year’ is said to be the name of a legendary monster who used to terrorize people at this time of year. You can hear or read the story in any number of places, but a cute version is the iOS app The Beast Nian by Rye Studio. Here are a few useful vocabulary items for the story:   繁 简 pinyin English 除夕 chúxī (New Year’s) Eve 獸 兽 shòu beast 凶猛 xiōngměng ferocious 躲避 duǒbì hide, avoid 鞭炮 biānpào firecrackers 驅逐 驱逐 qūzhú drive out This is a good opportunity to review the Rye Studio apps. Rye Studio has released a few dozen RyeBooks on the App Store. The ones that I’ve seen are all children’s picture books with text and optional audio storytelling (both in a choice of languages). … [read more]

May 022011
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Aang

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated series, not to be confused with that later movie with the blue aliens, although A:TLA did spawn a live-action feature film as well. Although the setting is a fantasy world, it is heavily influenced by various Asian cultures and I enjoy watching for the Chinese bits that come up (I actually do like the show a lot generally). Names of people and things are one fruitful area. For example, the protagonist’s name Aang seemed obviously to be a rendering of Chinese 安 ān ‘peace’, like the given name of the director Ang Lee 李安 (pinyin: Lǐ Ān). But Aang’s name is written using two Chinese characters 安昂 (ān áng) which can be understood as ‘peaceful soaring’ (see the Avatar Wiki), specifically  in the episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se” (according to Wikipedia). The use of Chinese isn’t gratuitous; it tends to be meaningful in the context. Aang’s name is entirely appropriate for a … [read more]

Dec 092010
神奇树房 Magic Tree House

The Magic Tree House (神奇树房 / 神奇樹房 shénqí shù fáng) book series for children has been published in bilingual editions (English text at back of book) by Hubei Children’s Press. I picked up a copy of number 13 at a conference in the US. I love how the English title is Vacation under the Volcano but the Chinese title is 古城末日 Gǔchéng mòrì, literally Ancient City Doomsday.” This one will not teach you anything about Chinese culture, but rather a bit about ancient Roman culture (the volcano is Mt. Vesuvius). I wanted no. 14 Day of the Dragon King, which is about a Chinese myth, but it wasn’t available at the time. Bilingual editions of the Magic Tree House Books are available in the US from ChinaSprout. The simplified character versions do not have pinyin. ChinaSprout says the traditional character editions have zhuyin (they seem to be from a different publisher). … [read more]