So I just stumbled across Chinese with Mike. I can’t decide if this gentleman is the worst Chinese teacher since my boss forced my coworkers and I to learn “Tianmimi,” or the best Chinese teacher ever, like a mullet-enhanced Dashan. He certainly holds my interest as a Chinese language learner, and that’s half the battle. I mean, this man is constantly rocking a Hawaiian shirt and questionable haircut, and his classroom is plastered with pictures of him, yet I’ve still managed to waste countless precious hours this week I should be spending on prep time (harf harf) learning Chinese with the motherfucker.
My Chinese ability is, uh, interesting. It was pieced together (in the most literal sense of the word) in lovely Henan province, where all the men growl like farmers and the women do, too. I adore the place, but it was fucking hard to use the Standard Pirate Mandarin I was picking up through Pimsleur, only to get in response a stream of unintelligible, second-tone exclamations peppered with a healthy dose of 中中中中中s. I (mostly) picked it up eventually, but I was never really able to find a competent Chinese teacher who could formally direct my learning.
My aforementioned boss was a veteran of the Chinese public school system, so her lesson plan usually included a bunch of random, unrelated vocabulary words, followed by a Confucius Say. I can say the hell out of 三人行必有我师, but it’s never been used for anything other than making new Chinese friends smile. After about a year in China, I hired a private Chinese tutor to come to my house and kick my 普通话 into overdrive. Her first lesson, which was supposed to be an hour, consisted entirely of “你好” “你好吗” and “我很好.” Once we established after five minutes that I knew how to say all that perfectly well, I asked her what was next. She said, “Nothing,” before awkwardly packing up her things and leaving. I called her a couple of times to see if we could arrange another class, but never heard back.
After that, the Zhengzhou North Tea Market was my primary source for conversation practice, and while my listening improved, my pronunciation and knowledge of grammar stagnated. It was frustrating, because all I wanted was someone who taught Chinese like I teach English. Competent language instruction is pretty easy if you focus on a few points. Emphasize the communicative importance of language. Logically group vocabulary and grammar. Include activities that are fluency-focused (minimal teacher correction) and accuracy-focused (teacher correction of target vocabulary, grammar). Make the class interesting.
Chinese with Mike does a lot of things that offend a lot of my formally-trained teaching sensibilities. For one, his lessons are a good 70 to 80 percent English, which is excessive even for an early beginner class. He also doesn’t give any wait time for his viewers to reflect on or repeat the language. When presenting a language point (such as his “There is/there are” lesson), he constantly re-translates the grammar back into English, which is quite confusing. Mike, you only need to explain once that “there is/there are” switch into “[noun] have/ [noun] has” in Chinese. And you have the grammar topic written in English at the top of the whiteboard!
Any TEFL course not purchased for $60 on Groupon will hammer home the importance of student-centered lessons. Good TEFL teachers work on reducing the ratio of TTT (teacher talk time) to STT (student talk time) in their classes as much as possible. Student-to-student interaction is gold, and should be the ultimate goal of any TEFL class. If you can get a pair of 10-year-old Chinese students to have an authentic conversation in English, you are doing your job exactly as Jesus intended.
Now that I’ve got that party-line stuff out of the way: Mike does a lot of stuff quite well. First of all, he looks like NFL sackmaster Jared Allen, and now that Allen doesn’t play for the Kansas City Chiefs I am totally in favor of that guy. (Go Broncos.)
Mike’s methodology is solid. It’s obvious that he’s the Dashan of Chicago. He could probably cross-talk my puny Chinese into a gang-controlled sidwalk, but instead he levels his language to ridiculous depths in order to connect with true beginners. His gestures that emphasize tones are great, and he even changes his height and lateral position to hammer home the importance of perfect pronunciation. He includes extremely useful visual examples from time to time, and I’m sure that the “downloads are currently being revised” will return in the near future with a supplemental vengeance.
The best thing about Chinese with Mike is that the guy delivers interesting lessons. He makes dry jokes, throws markers for effect, dresses extra-conspicuously and tries to make his viewers guess how he’s changed his appearance from week to week. Jokes are beginner-level and come out of nowhere.
And in that last video about prepositions, when he excuses himself for 烤肉, he looks at the camera with a quiet confidence, turns around and makes an epic fist pump at the board. Doing that, he kind of looks like our new favorite Bostonian, Donnie. The mannerisms, the accent, the on-camera swagger… the resemblance is…
Nah, can’t be.
Greg is an ESL instructor who spent two productive years teaching in China. He currently lives in Colorado.
Previously: Real-World Language Learning Advice: Have A Drink
It will only take 8 minutes to read this post!
The Written Chinese Elves are continuously working hard to create new and interesting tools and features to help us study Chinese. I say ‘Us’ because Nora and I are studying Chinese ourselves, so we know the trials and tribulations of a Chinese student. This, as well as all your feedback and comments about the Written Chinese Dictionary app, has helped us create new features, tools and resources to help everyone study Chinese.
The Written Chinese Online Study Space
WWhat we had wanted to do for a long time, was create an area that could be the centre of our Chinese learning experience. So we created the Written Chinese Online Study Space. The Online Study Space is an online platform that you can access on your laptop or desktop computer but also syncs to your mobile devices (as long as you have created an account and logged in).
Here are some of the features of the Online Study Space:
- – Study the Character of the Day
- – Learn more about the character, including how to write it, it’s radicals and example sentences
- – Post your homework and have the delightful Chamcen check your work
- – View, edit and add flashcards to your Flashcard Sets
- – Read Chinese storybooks
- – Buy flashcard sets, storybooks and other tools that can be used on the online Study Space and synced to your mobile devices (for this you need the free Written Chinese Dictionary mobile app)
- – Use other online tools such as the Tone Trainer and the Online Dictionary
If you’re interested in having all these features on your desktop you can sign into your Written Chinese account here, or if you’re new to Written Chinese, sign up for an account here. If you want to learn more about the features of the Online Study Space, keep reading!
Create an Account and Sync Between Devices
First, to see the Online Study Space, you need to create an account. Yes, I hear you groaning thousands of miles across the ocean, but there’s a really good reason for it.
If you create an account with Written Chinese you will be able to access your account on both the web and the Written Chinese Dictionary app! This means that you’ll be able to make digital purchases on the web and they’ll be available in your mobile app. All the flashcards that you have made with the Unlimited Flashcards List feature, or with the Quicklist option will also be synced so you can access them wherever you are.
A great positive to the Online Study Space is that if you’re unable to purchase any products via your mobile, you can purchase with Paypal, sync and ta-da, your purchased items will be on your mobile device too!
You can create an account (or login if you already have an account on the Written Chinese mobile app) here, and when you return to WrittenChinese.Com or the Written Chinese Online Dictionary, you can access your account by clicking on the Log In button in the top right side of the page.
OK, now you can fill in your deets and we’re ready to go!
Study the Character of the Day
Each day a new character will appear on your dashboard showing both simplified and traditional characters.
Tip: Don’t forget to turn on your sound, because you can listen to the pronunciation of the character by clicking the ‘speaker’ button.
To the left of the Character of the Day there’s a definition and also a Learn More button that will take you to the character page.
If you click on the Learn More button, you will go to the Character of the Day’s page. On these ‘details’ pages, you can do the following (and more!):
- – learn how to write the character
- – learn how to use the character with example sentences
- – view the radicals that make up the character
- – post mnemonics, pictures and stories to help others remember the character
- – post homework
- – add a character or bigram to your flashcard sets
Homework of the Day
Your can access the Homework of the Day feature on both the Online Study Space and Written Chinese Dictionary app. Each day, like the character, you will see a different homework question to work on.
Once you’ve completed your homework, you can post it on the character of the day page. Now, I know it’s maybe a little nerve wrecking to post your work online, but imagine how great it would be if every day, we posted our sentences, photos, and stories to share with each other. Firstly, it would be epic and secondly, there would be a wealth of example sentences, mnemonics and helpful tips to remember a character!
Also, we’ll* be checking the character page every day to give some feedback and comments. Rest assured, Nora will have gotten there first 😉
*Chamcen, a native Chinese Elf will check, not me (phew)!
If you’re using the Written Chinese Dictionary app and want to post homework, your mobile device will open a browser window for you to post on the Online Dictionary.
The homework is a great way to test your existing understanding of a character, and also a great opportunity to share your methods for remembering characters with other Chinese learners like yourself!
Remember Mike’s blog post about learning Chinese characters? Mike created (and still follows) a schedule for his studying to help him achieve his goals and utilise his time. If you’re setting goals for your Chinese, the ‘Homework of the Day’ feature can fit perfectly into your daily Chinese learning.
The character of the day is also perfect if you’re just beginning to study Chinese characters as you only get 1 character a day to focus on instead of being bombarded with 100s of characters!
Studying Your Chinese Flashcards Online
The Written Chinese Online Study Space has almost all the same features as the Written Chinese Dictionary app. You can access all your existing flashcard lists, including purchased and custom sets.
To add a flashcard to an existing list, simply click the + sign next to any single character flashcard or bigram (2 character combinations) and choose the flashcard list to add it to.
Once the flashcard is added to a list, it will show a red + instead of a grey one.
You can go to your Flashcard Sets from the Online Study Space and select the flashcard set you just added the flashcard to. The newly added flashcard should be at the top of your list!
To remove a flashcard from a list, go to the right side of the flashcard and click the trash can. You can also click the red + and untick the list. The + will become grey again.
To study your flashcards simply click the ‘STUDY’ button in the top right-hand corner of your chosen flashcard set. Select your study options and click ‘GO!’ to begin your study session.
We hope you enjoy using the Online Study Space! If you have any questions, problems or comments about the Written Chinese Online Study Space or any of our other tools and features please leave feedback in the comment section below.
Tags: account, online, sync
Hollie has been part of the Written Chinese team since July 2014 and is the British half of the Two White Chicks in China podcast. She loves vintage inspired fashion, crime dramas and Taobao!
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