About this project
***** Update: to say thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far we are giving everyone who has pledged £70 or more a free large screensaver. We will also give a free small screensaver to anyone who has pledged between £5 and £67! ***********
Because we make learning Chinese…easy! Sorry for the pun. Seriously though, it works! Our illustrations are fun, quirky and memorable and we have plans, big plans, if you will help us! Chineasy has been on the Internet now for a few months, since my TED talk, and we have already amassed quite a following, if we do say so ourselves. We have turned to Kickstarter because we KNOW that there is a real desire for a book, as well as other Chineasy material. We are here because people won’t stop asking us for MORE!
It is evident that people are hungry to learn about China. People are keen to be able to communicate with the 1.3 billion people. Yet there is not much out there to enable them to do so. Whilst the entire Chinese population is learning English, it is time for us to really comprehend this complex economy and society with our own eyes, knowledge and judgment. Knowing their language is the first baby step but a crucial one.
The real agenda behind this project is to bridge the gap between the East and the West.
I want to give the West a real understanding and knowledge of China and Chinese culture through their own eyes rather than through layers of packaging, manipulation or loss in translation. Chineasy will become the first step for anyone in the world who wants to understand China, Chinese culture and its language. It is educational, social, cultural and inspirational. I am demonstrating the beauty of this deep and ancient culture with a modern interpretation through sleek modern design. For me this is also an arts project, as I grew up in an artistic family. I am connecting the dots by going back to my artistic upbringing, and connecting my life's journey through the East and the West.
The Chinese language has long been considered the most difficult major language to learn, largely on account of the vast number and complexity of its characters. Being a Taiwanese native now living in London, this is a fact I am acutely aware of. When I began to teach my British born children Chinese, I realized just how difficult Chinese characters are for a native English speaker to learn. It was like torture for my kids! So I spent many years looking for a fun and easy way to teach them how to read Chinese. After years of searching, I realised that none of the methods out there were engaging or efficient enough. So I did what any entrepreneur would do, I created my own method to learn how to read Chinese characters: Chineasy. And you know what? It works.
Chineasy allows people to learn to read Chinese easily by recognising common characters through simple illustrations. Behind the charming and engaging illustrations, the entire system is based on a rather complex programme I designed on my computer by breaking down and reconstructing thousands of characters. It is the CPU behind this method.
The magical power of the Chineasy method is that by learning one small set of building blocks, students can build many new words, characters, and phrases. Master a few building block sets and your learning will accelerate to a whole new level. With very little effort, learners are able to read several hundred Chinese characters and phrases whilst simultaneously gaining a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural influences behind the vocabulary. Even though there are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, only a few hundred are actually necessary to comprehend basic Chinese literature and begin to delve into Chinese culture and art.
The Oxford English Dictionary has 171,476 words in it, but I think it is safe to say that most people do not know all 171,476 of them. In Chinese, though we have thousands of characters, not all of them are needed to understand the language. For instance:
- 20,000 = Characters in a Scholar's vocabulary
- 1,000 = Characters used in standard literacy
- 200 = Characters used Basic literacy
With top 200 most frequently used characters a person will be able to understand about 40% of the basic Chinese literature. The trick is to know how to build phrases by using those characters. This is enough to understand Chinese found in Menus and on road signs.
In Chineasy we started off with 8. With these 8 building blocks we can quickly build hundreds of compounds (made up of two or more building blocks) and phrases (made up of two or more building blocks & compounds). Have a look at Chineasy.org then you will be amazed how many more characters and phrases you are able to recognise and remember just knowing the first set of 8 building blocks.
Are you are confused by all of the terminology? See below
How we create illustrations
What makes Chineasy unique is its beautiful visual style, which is highly memorable, but also captures the fun and modern side of Chinese. But, these simple illustrations are anything but simple to create – as our three designers will tell you! Each character we create has to follow the same three guidelines: they have to look stunning, be stylistically consistent with what we have produced before and most importantly they have to be educationally effective.
Before we even start designing our team researches the definition, origin and history of the character. We then move on to the applications (for example, how to build more characters and phrases) and finally we consider how to make stories out of them.
After this research our designers create their different interpretations of the character. We always have several versions and numerous drawings for each. Between us we then discuss, debate, bounce ideas and then finally decide on a final version to you. Each character is one of our children!
With your help we would like to publish a Chineasy book. We have already made a start, but we want to do more and we want to share the characters with you in all of their Glory! With your help we can finish our first batch of characters and publish them in a beautifully bound book. We hope to include characters and phrases and stories (what sort of book would it be without some stories!)
If we succeed we would also like to produce even more educational material such as an App and audio recordings, we have so many things planned!!!!!!
ShaoLan in her own words: Hiya All! Growing up as the daughter of a calligrapher and ceramic artist in Taiwan, art and an appreciation for the beauty of the Chinese language has always been a huge part of my life, but I admit…it is not easy to learn!
I’d like to think of myself as an entrepreneur, geek, writer, traveler and dreamer. I have had several dramatic career changes in the past and, while studying for an MBA, I wrote four best-selling books on software.. In my second semester I co-founded my first venture, pAsia Inc, which became a major player in the Internet sector in the Greater China area in the late 1990’s. After moving to London, I began investing in and advising young technology companies through Caravel Capital, which I founded in 2005 whilst studying at the University of Cambridge. So you could say that I have now come full circle with Chineasy as I have finally gone back to my artistic roots...
But, Chineasy isn’t a one-man band! We have been incredibly lucky to have the artistic talents of the illustrator Noma Bar supporting us. He saw something in Chineasy and has been helping the whole team come up with fun and memorable illustrations for all of the characters – it is not an easy task!
Breaking down the Great Wall of Chinese one character at a time!
What Your Support Means!
As well as the book, the money we raise on Kickstarter will also let us fund the expansion of Chineasy in the following ways:
Chineasy Rewards - Go on, you know you want them!
Risks and challenges
Everything is uncertain in life, but the one thing you can be sure of is that if we get the money you will get the rewards of your choice. It may not look exactly like our mocks, but it will be only better and full of Chineasy goodness. We will aim to get everything to you by Christmas so that you can share the Chineasy love with the whole family, but unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for the post (though we will do our best!).
All stretch goals will be initiated once the campaign is successful, but wont be completed for at least 4 months due to the commissioning process.
Once we get the book published copies will eventually become commercially available in early 2014, however Kickstarter backers would get theirs first.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Yes, every character in the book will have its Pinyin written next to it so that you can learn to pronounce as well as read Chinese!
At the moment we plan to produce the ebook for all major readers excluding PDF.
This is for a number of reasons:
- The main is that should a established publisher wish to work with us, they will not support distribution through this method.
- We also work with a established artists who has requested that his work not be published in PDF format.
- Finally, though we know it is not full proof in today's electronic world, we would like to try and protect the Chineasy book from piracy where-ever possible.
The good news, is that both kindle and ibooks offer free software, which allows you to read their books on your desktop, laptop or phone. This means that no one should miss out :)
Yes, check out our £60 bracket!
Yes, though the ebook and print books will have the same teaching content, the print book will also feature an exclusive illustrated story!
In addition to a few hundred useful characters and phrases, you will be able to construct and recognise some short sentences.
Here are some examples at the end of my book:
'The younger sister got married in Japan'
'How much does this flower cost?'
'Madam Lin is returning on 3rd May'
'Good morning everybody'.
In Chineasy I teach a mixture of simplified and traditional forms - whichever we think makes the most sense according to the system I designed. If you read carefully, I always point out the counter part (either simplified or traditional) so that you can learn both.
Please don't worry which system you are learning. It’s like knowing the difference between British spelling and American spelling. For instance, in the UK you spell ‘flavour’ like this, but in the US you spell it without the ‘u’, like this ‘flavor’. In real life you tend to come across both around the world.
In general, people from Mainland China and Singapore use simplified Chinese, whereas people in Taiwan and Hong Kong use the traditional form. In Chineasy, we focus on teaching you Chinese characters (both simplified and traditional) but I also mark ‘Japanese Kanji’ so you will know how useful each character is!
Written records of the Chinese language have been discovered as far back as the 14th to 11th centuries BCE during the Shang dynasty in their use of oracle bone script. Since then, Chinese has spread to its neighbouring countries including Japan. Japanese Kanji share an incredible number of characters (approximately 2,000 to 3,000) with Chinese, sometimes there is slight variation in meaning, but most of the time the meaning is either identical or differs only slightly. I managed to get around Japan over the years without knowing how to speaking a word of Japanese because I could read their Kanji!
Over the past few thousands years, Chinese's spoken dialects have evolved at different rates depending on their geographical location, whilst written Chinese has, comparatively, changed very little. However, starting in 1949 in an attempt to promote mass literacy the Communist party started simplifying Traditional Chinese characters. This process involved removing or altering the number of strokes comprising Traditional characters, making them easier to read and write. To date, about 2,000 characters have been simplified. Any character altered or substituted after 1949 is considered Simplified Chinese.
Traditional Chinese characters are comprised of all characters which predate the Communist party's reforms. The modern shapes of Traditional Chinese derives from the emergence of the Clerical Script during the Han Dynasty, and has been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties.).
Kanji, on the other hand, are the adopted logographic Chinese characters (hanzi) that are used in the modern Japanese writing system, alongside: hiragana (ひらがな, 平仮名), katakana (カタカナ, 片仮名), Hindu-Arabic numerals, and occasionally the Latin alphabet. The Japanese term kanji (漢字) referring to the Chinese characters literally mean "Han characters" and is written using the same characters as the Chinese hanzi (漢字).
Unfortunately, Kickstarter support most major credit cards, but they do not support payment with Paypal at this time. Sorry!
Good questions. For those want the most comprehensive guide the book is the best choice (e or print) but if you want to quiz yourself or others or are buying a product for children, the flashcards are the way to go!
Book: 300+ new words
Flashcards: 150 new words (30 radicals 90 compounds and 30 phrases)
Postcards: 100 new words
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