I’m currently obsessed with the Happy Chinese Learning series. Here’s a sample, if you have time to watch:
Here’s a playlist of the whole series.
There is a website with seemingly related material. Or maybe they’re unrelated, I can’t tell.
Anyway, the cool thing about this Happy Chinese Learning is that the video is actually very high quality language-learning material. There is highly polished videos… some would say that the transitions and animated vignettes… and certainly the audio design… are all overproduced. But the live-action itself is excellent. Here’s why I like it:
- The actors are all native speakers (including Susan, the white girl).
- They are all over-acting, which is a dream for language-learners.
- The speech is not dumbed-down to insulting level, they use real expressions that wouldn’t be taught in a curriculum (remember, listening comprehension follows a radically different syllabus than first year textbooks).
- They’re talking normal speed for actors.
- The characters are sit-com goofy, written to be lovable.
- The animated vignettes that review the vocabulary are kind of awesome.
- Listening comprehension target is just above where I am now, which is great for me, but since they start with “你好” I have to conclude their aim was quite a bit lower. Someone with listening proficiency lower than my own could enjoy this show aesthetically, but they’d need hella support to even start to focus on form. It shows that they have zero concept of the novice language learner’s experience. In the classroom, that’s maddening… but as a YouTube artifact it’s kinda funny.
- The grammatical commentary is presented in a special segment… but it’s so textbooky and technical that, although it’s academically solid, it’s all kinds of ineffective. Paired with over-wrought sound design and animation overload, I cannot help but see comedy in it.
- There’s the requisite clueless foreigner whose personal life is a disaster, and who speaks perfectly but due to some cultural differences, ends up stumbling into hilarious situations that everyone learns from. The character is supposed to be American, but her mannerisms are 100% Asian (trust me, I know) and the rare occasions when she does say English words (e.g., “dad,” “early”) she manages to not say them with the accent of an native speaker of American English. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but as a character I find her hard to believe in.