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Chineasy, Breaking Down The Great Wall Of Language

March 16, 2014
Fire

Source: Chineasy

Whether we’re on vacation or venturing to far flung islands in search of adventure and cultural enlightenment, language barriers can put more of a damper on a trip than inclement weather. To many who use Latin-based alphabets in their daily linguistic exchanges, the Chinese language often presents itself as a formidable challenge. Recognizing that, one pioneering London-based language teacher is attempting to, as she puts it, break down the great wall of language that divides the East and West.

Jade

Source: Chineasy

Moon

Source: Chineasy

ShaoLan Hseuh is a Taiwanese technology fanatic and the inventor of Chineasy, a series of graphically designed aids to make learning Mandarin a cinch. Along with her team at Brave New World, she’s come up with a novel way to break the language barrier. While notoriously difficult to grasp if you’re not native, nearly one billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. This of course begs the question, shouldn’t we be making more of an effort to learn it?

Mouth

Source: Chineasy

Mountain

Source: Chineasy

ShaoLan’s graphics work with the idea that our brains retain more information when stimulated by visual aids, or, in this case, linguistic and artistic building blocks. By following her method, you simply connect the blocks like Legos and keep building to make different words and phrases. Don’t worry, though, your language kit won’t be 20,000 characters deep. Instead, the Chineasy method aims to teach its users roughly 200 characters, enabling them to read approximately 40% of basic Chinese literature. Once students master the basics, it’s a lot easier to pick up the rest. And without all the technical terminology to confuse Chineasy users, the method is as educational as it is eye-catching.

Person

Source: Chineasy

Sun

Source: Chineasy

Though ShaoLan says she’s simply “connecting the dots” between two linguistic cultures, there’s a precise science behind what she does. While the graphics may look straightforward, she’s had to break down thousands of them to construct the Chineasy database, and has created a complex computer system that maps out how they all fit together. Resembling something of a linguistic spider web, the Chineasy algorithm took months to design but can now be used to produce hundreds of characters.

Tree

Source: Chineasy

Roof

Source: Chineasy

After the algorithm comes the illustrations, which Noma Bar creates to help the Chineasy community learn the language. Combined with a handy key which tells you the character’s origins, how frequently it’s used and how to pronounce it, learning Mandarin Chinese really has never been easier. You can even share your journey with the world wide web on social media. For now, 12 building blocks are available for prospective pupils, but there are still big plans ahead for Brave New World.

Woman

Source: Chineasy

Water

Source: Chineasy

Door

Source: Chineasy

Having smashed their Kickstarter fundraising goal by doubling it, the team has raised more than $300,000 to create another set of the colorful characters, audio aids and what looks to be a rather beautiful book. Not to mention, they’ve already amassed quite a following on Facebook. While the book won’t be out for a while, you can still browse the Chineasy website and become part of the mission to banish the language barrier.


Via All That Is Interesting: Chineasy, Breaking Down The Great Wall Of Language

The Science Of Spiciness

March 15, 2014

Rose Eveleth explains the history and science behind spicy foods, and why Sriracha sauce is heaven for some and gustatory hell for others.


Via All That Is Interesting: The Science Of Spiciness

Alexander Khokhlov’s Surreal 2D Portraits

Many have borrowed from William Shakespeare’s famed “To be, or not to be” line in their work, even those living beyond the literary world’s borders. Alexander Khokhlov is one of them. Fitting up the phrase for the 21st century, ‘2D or Not 2D’ is Khokhlov’s latest series of photos that brings traditional painted portraiture to life. Using a little post-production trompe l’oeil trickery and crafty make-up techniques, the photographer turns traditional 3D portraits into a living replica of 2D art.

The Russian photographer first discovered his love for all things visual back in 2007 and has spearheaded photo shoots for musicians, fashionistas and families alike from across the world. From crazed alchemists to models wearing little more than a cling film dress, Khokhlov is no stranger to experimenting with the medium, and ‘2D or not 2D’ is just the latest in a long line of conceptually creative portrait projects.

He released his first installment of the ‘Art of Face’ series in 2012, in collaboration with seasoned make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan. By approaching the way makeup is used in photography under an artistic lens, the duo created a striking set of images called ‘Weird Beauty’, which saw surreal two-tone logos and illusions applied to the face of female models. 2D QR codes were given over to the contours of a 3D canvas, and the black and white body paint allowed the Russian dream team to draw beauty out of our every day signs and symbols.

Now turning his attention away from the monochromatic and toward the concept of colorful close-ups, Khokhlov has transformed traditional portraits into forms we might recognize in art galleries. Along with Kutsan, he’s replicated a pixelated Mona Lisa in the flesh, a punchy pop art design on a modern pin-up and even a take on Obama’s election poster. Originally inspired by Andy Warhol’s portraits, the photos have given birth to a whole new medium of their own.

As the face is the most obvious device that channels our emotions outward, many don’t view it as an ideal subject, not a canvas. Khokhlov wants us to rethink that. Why can it not be both? As he told Yahoo, “We want to say that our faces are the big space for new creative.” Khokhlov has deemed his work ‘alive posters’, and encourages others to pick up the face paint in the name of color coating their own living portraits.

Spanning thirteen different artistic techniques from oil paint to water color, the portraits tread a fine line between second and third dimensions; so much so that if it weren’t for the whites of the models’ eyes, many could be fooled into thinking they were paintings. Each image takes up to six days to create with several hours set aside for make-up, an hour to shoot the modern masterpieces and then a good few days to retouch and produce the portraits. At the end, one question remains: are they 2D, or not 2D?


Via All That Is Interesting: Alexander Khokhlov’s Surreal 2D Portraits