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Comic Explained: 5 Things Often Said During Chinese Immersion Summer Camp

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Left side: Magnus trying to talk about birthdays. Top Right: Magnus saying "WELCOME" in Chinese! Bottom Right: Attempting to tell a story only using Chinese and drawing.


In July 2013 I had the privilege of working for the US Department of Defense in their Strategic Languages section and assisted others in teaching the future of America the Chinese language.  In other words, I worked at a Chinese Immersion Summer Camp for kids called StarTalk.  It was a blast and we did a comic recently about the experience that I thought might need some explanation.  So without further ado here is COMIC EXPLAINED: 5 Things Often Said During Chinese Immersion Summer Camp

1.  Can you speak English?

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I heard this at the Chinese Immersion Summer Camp because I took the requirement seriously: Speak Chinese all the time.  On the second day of doing this, I had a couple kids ask me this question.  Deep in my mind I was really happy!  From time to time when meeting parents before or after classes I had to speak in English and the students were shocked to hear it.  The only drawback to this is that I didn’t really get to know the kids very well.  Lunch, a time to really connect, was just fun and games and nothing serious.  I could ask them all kinds of questions but only in Chinese and they wouldn’t understand.

2.  Where’s Confucius?  孔子在哪里?  Kǒngzǐ zài nǎlǐ?

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This was an idea that came from experience teaching Chinese in Middle School.  I used to do a “Where’s the Teacher” vignette in class every Tuesday where I would show my students a picture of me when I travelled around China and the map of China.  Finally after a couple weeks of doing the “Where’s the Teacher” activity, I found that without teaching “WHERE” in Chinese, the fun activity actually taught the students the new word.
At the summer camp there was a wooden figure of Confucius in our classroom and I started hiding it around the room for the students to find.  When they realized that Confucius was missing they alerted me and I would say over and over again “Where’s Confucius?!” until we found him.  Just another simple way to teach basic words!  (You can actually see the Confucius statue behind the clipboard in the picture!)

3.  My stomach is hungry.  肚子饿了. Dùzi èle.

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During summer camp we had snack time and lunch.  This was the perfect opportunity to teach them this phrase.  The English doesn’t quite work, it should be “I’m hungry.” But that is the translation from Chinese.  Before we broke into the Chee-zits or popcorn I would hit my tummy and say this phrase a ton of times.  After a few days of this, the students would initiate this phrase meaning that they had gotten it!  (Yes, that is almost 50 lbs of popcorn!  JOKE!)

4.  Butterfly class line up!  蝴蝶班排队! Húdié bān páiduì!

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At summer camp there has to be a way to control and categorize the students.  Much like cabins at a traditional sleep over summer camp, we had classes which had names.  I had the Butterfly class which initially did not inspire me since butterflies are just nice looking bugs.  But I quickly enjoyed the name since the characters are very complex and fun to write.  Also, the Chinese name of butterfly is fun to say and when you add “LINE UP” in Chinese, it ended up being one of the most common phrases I said during the 2 weeks of camp.

5.  Go pee. Wash hands. Girls here. Boys here.  小便. 洗手. 男的. 女的. Xiǎobiàn. xǐshǒu. nán de. nǚ de.

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Bathrooms are vital for any summer camp.  At a Chinese Summer camp it is no exception.  We had to talk about this the first day.  The motions are simple, especially to “WASH HANDS” but I used a simple way to have the students ask me to go to the bathroom.  I used this when I taught in Middle school too.  I have the students put their hands up in the shape of a W and a C which means WATER CLOSET which is often used in China to mean bathroom.
For those who have taught in STARTALK and those interested here are a couple of links.
Video introducing the multi-language program from 2010
Article and video of a NYC high school partnering with StarTalk for a 6 week intensive immersion Chinese class!
OMG!美语 did a video on her recent visit to a NYC Startalk this summer!
Yes, even in Bangor, Maine they have Startalk Chinese!

We’ve just published our 2nd Kindle Book! Our Bilingual Boy’s Tweets: Chinese and English

We’re pretty excited!  We’ve published our 2nd Kindle book, another collection of our boy’s bilingual tweets!  You can follow us on Twitter @MandMx and follow his tweets now but we’ve made it easier for you!  We’ve collected his second year.  You see our boy speaks both English and Chinese and some of the stuff he says is funny or interesting or touching.  We tweet it out and it’s fun for many out there who are interested in Chinese/English study and also bilingual studies in a bi-cultural family.  Here’s from the Amazon page:

“A year’s worth of our son’s bilingual tweets on Twitter. Follow us on @MandMx He speaks both English and Chinese and his bilingual communication is funny and interesting in both Chinese and English. Magnus is an American Cartoonist and Teacher and Ming Xing is a Shanghainese world traveler and Businesswoman.”

We’re pretty excited.  Won’t you spread the word and help support this website and the work we do?!  Head over and buy the book!  It’s at a super cheap price and it’s fun reading.  While you’re at it you can also buy our 1st book! Bilingual Chinese/English Tweets 1: An Collection

Here’s an example from almost from the book:
From our 2nd book!

Here’s our post announcing the first book!

18 Christmas Songs, Movies or Lyrics we’d like to see with a Chinese Twist! #ChineseChristmasClassics

The other day I brainstormed ideas for Christmas songs and movies with a Chinese twist. Twitter makes it easy to post simple ideas so I shared them with the twittersphere. If you can think of anymore, that would be great. Use the HASHTAG #ChineseChristmasClassics
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Holiday Shopping Guide: 6 Amazing Movies (including trailers) about China and one new book!

-This looks like a great book and very creative.

Roots, Fruits, Shoots and Leaves: A Guide to Shopping at Chinese Fresh Food Markets

Have you ever wondered about that wacky-looking fruit staring back at you in the market? Or did you want to know how to prepare a seasonal Chinese vegetable, but don’t have the language or culinary skills? This pocket-sized guidebook to fresh produce – with photographs, pronunciation guides, Chinese characters and advice on cooking – will help tourists, foodies and adventurous shoppers navigate the colorful markets of China, Hong Kong and Chinatowns around the world.


 -This whole series of “Scenic Musical Journeys” looks really good!  But we’re biased to Shanghai!  Watch the Trailer here.

Naxos Scenic Musical Journeys Shanghai A Cultural Tour with Traditional Chinese Music

The city of Shanghai, China’s most important port, owes some of its prosperity to the so-called unequal treatises forced on China during the 19th century. The place had its origin as a settlement during the Tang dynasty (618-906 C.E.), but the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 ceded Hong Kong to the British and made possible the development of foreign trade through the five ‘treaty ports’, of which Shanghai became the most important. The growth of Shanghai into an international trading centre and the concessions made to various foreign countries explain the interesting mixture of architectural styles, continued today with the high-rise buildings of recent years. The music chosen for this tour of Shanghai is played on traditional Chinese instruments. Performing the music are the wind and string ensembles known as ‘silk and bamboo’, from their silk strings and bamboo pipes, and ensembles that also include percussion. Instruments given prominence include the dizi, heard first in Moonlight Autumn Night by the Lake, a transverse bamboo flute, and the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer whose strings are struck with two bamboo sticks. Traditional Chinese music, like Chinese painting, is largely representational, its character indicated in its titles, although these may sometimes be drawn from opera or from poems.


-Huge game in China, relatively unknown in the west… until now?  Watch the trailer here. 
Weiqi Wonders: Conversations About the Game of Go in China

Known as “Go” in English, Weiqi is a Chinese board game that has cultural associations ranging from Confucian nobility to military strategies. In talking about this game people reveal themselves, their society, and their views of other cultures.

Explore a different side of China through interviews with teachers, university students, senior citizens, amateurs and professionals.


-Haunting… watch the trailer here. 

Aftershock by Feng Xiaogang

Tangshan, 1976. Two seven-year-old twins are buried under the rubble of the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century. The rescue team explains to their mother that freeing either child will almost certainly result in the death of the other. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses to save her son. Though left behind as dead, the little girl miraculously survives, unbeknownst to her brother and mother. AFTERSHOCK follows the family on their separate journeys over the course of the next 32 years, as they build lives forever shadowed by the traumatic experience of the earthquake, and eventually face each other and the decisions of the past.

The acclaimed epic that broke all box-office records in China, AFTERSHOCK Featuring an all-star cast including Jingchu Zhang (Rush Hour 3) and Daoming Chen (Hero), AFTERSHOCK shines with its powerful exploration of how one moment can change a family s life forever.


-Oh no they didn’t…  find the trailer here.
Disney World Cinema High School Musical: China

From the Disney World Cinema Collection, High School Musical China captures all the excitement, drama, music and dance of the original U.S. film with unique Chinese characters and extraordinary adventures. A new student at an international college in Shanghai meets a gifted young man, with whom she shares a secret passion for singing. Without her parents’ support, she and her new group of friends enter an inter-school singing competition and discover their true calling and the value of friendship. Anything is possible when you follow your dreams!


-Looks low budget. See the trailer here. 

An American in China

It’s time I chose a direction and the Far East is as good as any,” shrugs David Braddock (James Snyder, Sheís the Man), exactly the kind of aimlessness that has his parents worried about their newly minted college grad. Pressured to travel to Shanghai on behalf of the troubled family business, the party’s over and David is reluctantly thrust into a country strangely unaltered by the modern world. His translator (popular Chinese actress Fei Fei Sun), a beautiful young girl as directed as he is directionless, attempts to help the struggling David. Problem is no one seems to take him seriously there either! But ñ despite the language barrier, cultural differences, culinary shock and a near international incident – romance blossoms. David returns a changed man, but the family business is in worse jeopardy than before. Determined, David returns to Chinato see things through both professionally and personally. Will this fish-out-of-water finally find his way?
-I’ve seen it and it’s AWESOME!  See the video and trailer here. 

Last Train Home

Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as an astonishing 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This mass exodus is the largest human migration on the planet – an epic spectacle that reveals a country tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future.

Working over several years in classic verité style Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan (with the producers of the hit documentary Up the Yangtze) travels with one couple who have embarked on this annual trek for almost two decades. Like so many of China s rural poor, Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin left behind their two infant children for grueling factory jobs. Their daughter Qin – now a restless teenager – both bitterly resents their absence and longs for her own freedom away from school, much to the utter devastation of her parents.

Emotionally powerful and starkly beautiful, the multi-award-winning Last Train Home‘s intimate observation of one fractured family sheds unprecedented light on the human cost of China’s economic ‘miracle’.

What 8 US Middle Schoolers Think About China Ruling the World.

From Materialism to Nukes, My Students Have a Fascinating View of China’s Ever Expanding Growth and Power
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Recently on a test I asked my students an opinion question.  Most of them have their own opinion about many things: sneakers, Nikki Minaj, the 2012 election results and a plethora of other pressing issues of today.  But some of their answers to the opinion question I posed were too priceless to pass up.  The names have been changed to protect the ignorant or innocent.  But the answers do reflect education or lack thereof and it’s interesting to get a real middle school response from American kids who have lived their entire life post 9/11 not knowing the whole story of 9/11.  Not that I’m into conspiracies (I’m not) but children today post 9/11 still have a similar view of American strength as I did growing up pre-9/11.   Here is the question and some answers:

China will one day rule the world!  Do you agree or disagree?

1.  “Yes, I agree because China makes most of the stuff we buy.”
Susan’s answer is the cynical American’s view.  China rules us because they make everything that we use.  Besides the inherent untruth to that, imagine if that were actually true!  Take a second today and count just how many things you buy on a daily basis that are “Made in China” and you’d be surprised how few there are.

2.  “I disagree with this statement.  I disagree because I believe in my country.”
Sam’s answer begs the question, “Does America rule the world?”  To which I would surmise his answer to be yes.  Another further question should be posited to be “what exactly do you believe your country should be able to do?”

3.  “No, I disagree because China and USA have gone to war before and USA has won.”

So true, Greg.  But that resulted in the creation of North and South Korea, and too many deaths on both sides.  We don’t want that to happen again right?

4.  “No, every country and state has its own rights.  One place can’t control the whole world.  There are many differences between everyone’s religion.”
Arianna has the jack of all trades answer.  It tries to be everything to everybody.  Yes, there are rights and yes, not one place can control the whole world, but why was religion brought into the picture?
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5.  “Agree. China is our enemy and lots of people to kill us! Shiver Shiver.”
Perhaps it’s a good reason why this student forgot his name on the test.  Mx and I had a good laugh at this one.  Especially the “shiver shiver” part.

6.  “I don’t agree because in America we have more stuff than China and China’s technology is not as fast as our technology in America.  I don’t even think they have cellphones.”
Interesting Gary.  Very interesting.  So materialism will save America, right?  And what exactly do you mean by China’s tech isn’t as fast as US tech?  Are we talking fast computers or the rate of growth?  But you’re 100% wrong about the whole cellphone thing.

7.  “I disagree because so we’ll all have peace.”
Well, Justin, just because you disagree that China will rule us all one day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be peace.  I guess one could look at the Cold War as a period of peace but what a tenuous peace.

8.  “I disagree because we will nuke them if they try to take over because they will try to eliminate us.”
Manuel’s answer might take the “video game answer award!”  We’ll just nuke ‘em!  Nice.  Too bad China’s a nuclear power too (since the 60s) and they won’t take it so lightly that we’ve fired a nuke at them and most likely they’ll retaliate.  Nice. Back to the Cold War.
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For more experiences in Teaching Chinese in America go here.

Ryan Speaks Chinese 睿恩说中文:My Good Mommy Song 我的好妈妈

Mx is such a great teacher and our boy can really memorize songs. (perhaps he gets that from MX, not me.)  This was a song that she taught him a while back and a song that many children learn while growing up in China.  Since our boy is creative and has all these grandparents he decided to sing to each one of them.  The song might be repetitive but hopefully by the end of 3 minutes you too can sing the song.

For those of our fans in China here’s the Youku video!