I suppose Ni Hao, Kai-Lan is the 800 pound gorilla in the English-Chinese bilingual space, but put me down for unimpressed after watching the first episode of this DVD, the titular “Kai-Lan’s Carnival.” The entire episode makes a serious effort to teach only one Chinese word, “lā” (拉), and a half-hearted run at teaching Chinese numbers. There’s also some fuzzy message about apologizing or something like that, which represents the biggest lost opportunity: the singing is all-English. Nothing helps stick words in your head like a good song, so why they didn’t even try to throw some Chinese in there baffles me. (They didn’t try teaching the Chinese equivalent of “I’m sorry,” either).
The one thing I am impressed with so far about Ni Hao, Kai-Lan is that it’s relatively calm and evenly paced (in sharp contrast to the seizure-inducing Yo Gabba Gabba). Kai Lan often pauses to ask the viewer what she thinks, and based on watching friends’ kids reactions, it’s a technique that works. Too bad most of the questions she asks in this episode have nothing to do with Chinese.