Note from the author: This blog uses the term “white privilege.” The correct term is “white-passing privilege.” Please note that white-passing privilege is what I am referring to in this blog.
First off, I think it’s important to say that I do not, and have not ever primarily identified as white. On my mother’s side, I’m Native American, enrolled in
my Tribe, and, to a large extent, raised in my culture. I was born on the reservation and lived on or near reservations for much of my life. Indigenous cultural signifiers are important to me – I love Coastal designs and canoes. I love to eat Salmon, attend gatherings, and socialize at potlatches or powwows. However, due to genetics (while both my grandparents on my mother’s side are Indigenous, my grandmother is light-skinned, and my grandfather, of mixed ancestry) it so happens that I am light. Like, really light. Light…
I’ve been playing with this “fingerpaint karaoke” idea some more and got my son to read one of my favourite quotes about languages and language learning. I love the quote, but hearing my son reading it makes it even sweeter. I’m not so obsessed with the idea of teaching him many languages, but I’ll be delighted if he can grow up with an appreciation of what Wade Davis describes in this quote.
If you would like to hear the original, the quote here is taken from two parts of this TED talk, but he’s expressed these ideas in many interviews and lectures (a message definitely worth repeating!)
It’s father’s day today, so I indulged myself with some hobby time and finally finished this video. I had the idea for “Fingerpaint Karaoke” ages ago– in another iteration, I called it “Whiteboard Karaoke”, which is a lot cleaner, but certainly not as fun:) This is was also an idea that gained momentum when I was thinking of ways to introduce my son to language learning in light/fun ways.
When it comes to Mandarin, what I need most is practice with writing, so I thought this might be a fun way to do something different. Most of the strategies using music for language study are driven toward the speaking/singing part of things, so the idea of using music to fuel writing practice might not be an intuitive one. I tried to find other examples of this online, but I don’t think I’m using the right keywords– if anyone knows of something, can you leave a comment with a link?
Through this project, I learned the correct stroke order for several characters; however, like regular karaoke, step one is “learning the song”, and then continuing to practice and have fun with it— the nice part about fingerpaint/whiteboard/doodle karaoke is I can really do it anywhere: just try and recall the lyrics and see if I can recall the characters.
As for the song— wow! as soon as I heard “夜空中最亮的星“, I knew it would be a great campfire song and wanted to learn how to play it. I can’t sing as high as the original version, so my guitar is tuned down a step. 逃跑计划 （Escape Plan) have got quite a few good songs that are worth checking out!
My general philosophy is that mnemonics are a very personal thing, so it’s often better if you come up with your own mnemonics; having said that, Cornelious continues to come up with fantastic logical images that certainly seem to ‘stick’ for me.
Cornelius– to your point about Chinese idioms not using modern grammar or vocabulary, I would counter that idioms are used much much more widely in Putonghua than they are in English, so a good portfolio of 4-character idioms that you recognize is a core skill that all learners should work on (I could improve in this area for sure).
I was thinking about doing a whole bunch of illustrations of idioms. But then I didn’t actually manage to find many that were suitable for my purposes. Still, I did two (will post the other one tomorrow) and I like how they turned out so maybe I will come back to that idea at some point.
Regardless, I do want to point out that for a beginner like me there are some issues with using idioms and/or proverbs for learning purposes. For one thing, they do not necessarily use standard modern grammar or vocabulary.
Also, using them appropriately can be tricky. When you look up a word…
I was reading a blog article the other day about encouraging your child’s language learning through active encouragement of their progress, and the post definitely struck a chord with me. When I thought back to the children’s language school where I worked in China, you could definitely tell a difference in the enthusiasm and proficiency on the faces of the children who had parents who also liked to make English small talk with the teachers and staff.
As most working adults can sympathize, there never seems to be enough time to do everything you want (or need!) to do. With limited time to spend on language learning, it’s always great when you can combine it with other passions—- for me, spending time with my son watching Chinese cartoons has been a fantastic experience that enriches both of us. On that note, we’ve been working on singing the theme song to 熊出没 (Boonie Bears) and this video shows where we’re at now, including our practice writing out the lyrics.
I’m very proud of the progress that my son has made with Mandarin– it wasn’t something he was really interested in until we discovered this cartoon. It’s not our intention to ‘force’ him to learn Chinese, but watching this show has been solid source of inspiration on which to build.