Writer and entrepreneur ShaoLan Hsueh had begun teaching her British-born children about her culture — and language — when she got frustrated with the educational tools available: “I couldn’t find anything out there that was engaging or interesting for them, so I decided to create it myself.”
Hsueh approached the huge project step-by-step. First, the problem: learning to read Chinese is hard, even for some native speakers — how could she make it easy? After testing many options, she landed on what would become the basis of Chineasy, her illustrated methodology for learning the language: “I decided to use beautiful illustrations and animations to make the characters come to life. By adding the element of storytelling, especially in a language that is so broad and rich in culture and history, a person could easily understand the meaning and utility of the words.” After sharing her ideas in a popular TED talk, she launched a project for Chineasy on Kickstarter in 2013.
With the support of over 5,000 backers, she was able to create Chineasy books and flashcards that are now available for speakers of nineteen different languages. “Through the whole campaign, we learned about the process of bringing an idea into life… from high-level strategy to the nitty-gritty implementation details.” Most importantly, putting her idea out there allowed Hsueh to connect with “parents, teachers, and learners all over the world.”
With input from her initial supporters — an ongoing relationship she describes as a cycle of feedback and creativity — she returned to Kickstarter to launch a new project for Kickstarter Gold. Chineasy Tiles transforms the concepts developed in Chineasy into a series of games like Bingo, Charades, and more. “We wanted to make something new, something playful, that would help everyone’s Chinese-learning journey.”