I was contacted on Facebook a while ago by Patrick Bresnahan asking me to review the “Learn a Chinese Phrase” series of videos on YouTube. Patrick, his fellow students and their Chinese teachers at the Confucius institute of Wayne state university have produced a great series of videos that achieves what it sets out to do: teach viewers a Chinese phrase.
The videos are suitable for Chinese learners from beginners right up to advanced (at least for the advanced students who haven’t come across these particular idioms before). The videos are all short, humourous, with good explanations of what the phrases mean, and plenty of repetition. Putting all these things together then you have a package that is easy to watch but effective helping you remember the new vocab that they are teaching you.
The phrases that they are teaching you are relevant too. I hadn’t learnt the phrase 八卦 (ba1gua4) in any text book, but having watched their video, then yesterday I understood what my teachers were taking about when they were talking about some people 八卦 other people. I think it is great when there is such a short period between learning a phrase in theory, and then very soon afterwards hearing it being used by native Chinese speakers.
The videos can be found on youku / souku for those in China, and on youtube for everyone else (or anyone with VPN).
Learning Chinese history 101
We have previously mentioned on this blog the importance of understanding culture , and how understanding history is an important part of understanding culture. Having had time to listen to more of the Chinese History Podcasts by Laszlo Montgomery, then I am happy to continue to recommend the podcasts series.
There are other ways of getting up to speed on your Chinese history, but Laszlo’s easy way of narrating, depth of research, and making a story out of the details makes it a good option for me.
However, with each podcast episode being 30 minutes long, and there already being over a hundred podcasts in the series, some readers may find it helpful to be pointed to the podcasts that are particularly relevant and helpful for understanding current Chinese culture and attitudes.
Of the recent podcasts I have listened to then in my opinion, the following episodes were particularly interesting
- CHP-048 The Founding of the CCP
- CHP-053 China in the Early 1920s
- CHP-055 The Shanghai Massacre 1927
- CHP-056 China and Japan 1895-1945
- CHP 058 Sir Robert Hart
(Prior to this, Laszlo had been concentrating on doing broad Summaries of each dynasty starting with the Qin dynasty (episode 2), and finishing with the Qing Dynasty (episodes 35-41), but it is now that he is covering the events of the 20th Century that the history becomes particularly relevant. )
Useful lesson for language students
The episode on Sir Robert Hart contains a helpful reminder for all us language students: succeeding in China is not just about becoming fluent in the language. Sir Robert Hart succeeded where his predecessor (Horatio Nelson Lay) failed despite both these men became entirely fluent in Chinese. The key reason for this disparity is that it seems that Hart made the effort to really understand the culture and have respect for the people he was working with, which Horatio Nelson Lay failed to do.
You can listen to the full story play on iTunes, or via the China history podcast website. Let us know what you think.