Okay, so it’s not quite Japan-related. But, for those of us whose interests in East Asia – and/or professional requirements/expectations – extend beyond Japan, Jessica Beinecke’s twin YouTube programs Crazy Fresh Chinese and OMG! Meiyu are a fun way to get listening to some Mandarin, and to learn some contemporary lingo.
Beinecke, who goes by the Chinese name Bai Jie (白洁) in the videos, was recently featured in an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek of all places, which is where I first learned of her series. She has been producing videos for the last three years, and has accumulated over 40 million views, totalled across all the episodes; many (all?) are available on YouTube, but BusinessWeek tells us that she amassed 100,000 followers on Weibo in her first month alone, back in 2011, and I imagine that most of her followers and views are over there, on Chinese sites like Weibo and Youku.
Crazy Fresh Chinese is conducted mostly in English, and introduces English-speaking viewers to Chinese terms, such as 無語搖頭 (wú yǔ yáo tóu), which means “SMH“, or literally “speechless & shaking my head,” and 我的錯 (wǒ de cuò), which means, basically, “my bad!” These videos tend to be quite short, less than a minute long, just introducing the one phrase.
In OMG! Meiyu, meanwhile, Bai Jie introduces Chinese-speaking viewers to English terms, repeating most of what she says in the video in both languages. These tend to be quite a bit longer, addressing broader families of phrases, such as things to say when going clothes shopping (e.g. “do I look weird in this shirt?” and “it’s your color”), and words about bread (“a loaf,” “bagel,” “toast”). Bai Jie has also added a third channel, BaiJieLaLaLa, which is more directly the reverse (converse?) of Crazy Fresh Chinese, offering 30-second videos introducing just a single English phrase to Chinese speakers.
While two out of these three channels are really aimed at teaching English phrases, and so as a native English speaker I’m not the target audience, I found these nice to listen to. Learning one phrase is great, but listening to Bai Jie speak fuller sentences, comparing what I’m hearing to the subtitles, and trying to make sense of the subtitles based on my kanji skills from years of studying Japanese, I get even more out of it. Plus, it’s nice just getting a sense of listening to Chinese, as spoken by someone speaking relatively slowly and clearly.