OMG! 美语
May 3, 2015 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I saw this on LL a couple of days ago -- her interview with the Chinaful blog (linked by someone in the comments) provides a lot of detail on her history and training.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:44 PM on May 3, 2015

accessing any of the chinese sites seems like a minefield with captchas and logins and what not.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:46 PM on May 3, 2015

oh shes absolutely adorable and must be a great and fun teacher
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:56 PM on May 3, 2015

cant stop watching shes mesmerising halp
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:58 PM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Very cool! It's great that Voice of America is supporting stuff like this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:00 PM on May 3, 2015

Fun stuff!

The videos are giving the Youtube auto-translation quite the work-out.
posted by slater at 4:26 PM on May 3, 2015

Native speakers -- is she actually good?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:35 PM on May 3, 2015

She is excellent. Perfect accent, sounds just like a Chinese woman of the same age. (I'm not quite a native speaker but have spoken/read Mandarin/Chinese for several decades in various jobs in China, HK, Taiwan.) Would be interested if any truly native Mandarin speakers notice any trace of foreign accent at all.
posted by mono blanco at 4:49 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ha, these are excellent. I could use something like this in reverse. (汉语 for 美国人)
posted by ctmf at 4:52 PM on May 3, 2015

She looks like she's having so much fun. Guys' hairstyles.
posted by ctmf at 4:57 PM on May 3, 2015

She shows a good understanding of her own level of fluency in the OP's last link.

It takes a lot of focus at home to work on the cadence of your Mandarin and be able to stand in front of a rolling camera with a lot of distractions and people staring, and focus to deliver a great line. It’s taken a long time, and I don’t know if you would call that fluent, but I like to say I’m entertainment fluent. After spending 2 weeks in China, Mandarin comes back to me and I can just roll. But now, sometimes in conversation I stumble because I’m not using it constantly. I think it’s difficult to quantify fluency, because I feel like I’ll never stop learning. Even at the point that you feel most fluent, you’ll still probably have mistakes. It’s a process.

Exactly. When you learn a foreign language at an advanced level you discover that there aren't just four competencies (listening/speaking/reading/writing) but hundreds, and you have to pick the two or three you want. You can get very good at, say, speaking like a banker, or street slang, or pop songs, or reading novels, or giving speeches, or tech speak, or whatever. Depends what you want to spend your time on. She works on sounding natural & lively on video, and she succeeds brilliantly.
posted by mono blanco at 5:05 PM on May 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

OMG! Double!
posted by hot_monster at 5:38 PM on May 3, 2015

> OMG! Double!

Cool Papa Bell was skeptical then, too:
Can anyone tell us if she's actually good at speaking fluently? Or is there some kitsch to this?
posted by languagehat at 6:00 PM on May 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mod note: It's been long enough that she has a ton of new content, so I'm inclined to leave the post up even though it's a double.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:10 PM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Native speakers -- is she actually good?

For context, I grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese, though my Chinese is only rudimentary, and I also speak with an American accent(!). My wife is from Mainland China, and I speak Mandarin regularly with the in-laws.

She speaks really well, and only has a small hint of an accent. She would be able to hold a great conversation with any native speaker without any problems. I've even recommended her videos to a colleague at my university who teaches Chinese, and he liked her videos too.
posted by jasonhong at 7:05 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Victor Mair at Language Log claims her Mandarin is "phenomenal." Of course he's not a native speaker.
posted by col_pogo at 7:11 PM on May 3, 2015

Cool Papa Bell was skeptical then, too:

She should join the Coast Guard and go rescue people for a living.
posted by threeants at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

oh shes absolutely adorable and must be a great and fun teacher
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:56 PM on May 3

I trot out Marshall McLuhan's quote as often as I can: Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either. As a maxim, I find it more useful than many applied in education.

It is not surprising a young and energetic, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman is successful in China, for reasons both harmless and some not so much. She's explicating pop-culture and slang, and earnest about it. The edits on pronunciation are rapid, nuanced and useful. It's a candy, and I'll use it to prompt more structured discussion and expression.

There's a spectrum of video resources that range from teachers fulfilling course requirements in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint to demonstrate a "complete" lesson, and things like OMG! 美语. I wonder what's in the middle.

I know of one (MamaHuhu), and will leave three here. Apple Watch TuHao Edition: Made for China; Things Chinese People Say (to foreigners); and Things Chinese People Are Tired of Hearing (from foreigners)
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just learned about salad and bagels and fun!
posted by vrakatar at 8:49 PM on May 3, 2015

Native Mandarin speaker here... she's very very good, though occasionally slurs her pronunciation a bit. Also the tones don't sound quite right to me all the time.

Oh, hey, I made pretty much just this comment last time, lol.

"Her accent's pretty good, but you can definitely tell she's not a native speaker. A lot of the vowel sounds seem slurred or just plain incorrect, and tones are all over the place. The quality seems to vary between different videos too. Caveat: I'm speaking from the perspective of a Beijing native and my putonghua is very much Beijing flavored."
posted by kmz at 9:40 PM on May 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is bullshit. I actually am basically Joey.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:57 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Daily I engage interactions with people who have never seen me and don't know much about me, but who speak or chat with me at length about the business at hand by phone or in text. I'm based in Beijing, and speak Mandarin, and most of those interactions end up being with Chinese people, in Mandarin.

Then I meet them.

OMG YOU'RE FOREIGN" reaction averages 2:47 minutes (I have discreetly timed a few); average 0.68 times a day (measured over a month with moderate socializing). Apparently my accent routinely fools people who've never seen me.

Their friends they introduce me to later say they can hear inconsistencies in my accent, while at the same time telling me their own accents aren't as standard as mine, because they speak some local variety, which often I can't detect, but sometimes I definitely can.

Depending on how much coffee I've had that day it's irritating or entertaining.

People also constantly ask me if I'm Cao Cao/曹操, a Mandarin-speaking American actor who is fairly famous here, or if I've heard of/know this woman. Not...outside of Youtube, no. Mamahuhu seems to have a bigger following in the expat circles or among Chinese people familiar with expats.

Then I go to Shenzhen and all the taxi drivers tell me either 1) I have amazing Chinese, or 2) that all the foreigners in Beijing speak really good Chinese. Then they speak Cantonese to me as a joke. Then I go to Guangzhou and my friends there all just speak Cantonese except to me, no, they speak Mandarin to me, even though they can recite the words to Whiz Khalifa songs and speak with other "foreigners" in perfectly acceptable English, almost never Mandarin. They're trilingual and they live on another planet. Oh but in Hong Kong Mandarin is the backup when English doesn't work, NEVER start in Mandarin or they'll be pissed, and no matter what you speak they'll answer in Cantonese if they think it's not essential communication.

The foreign/Anglosphere community thinks it's funny when they speak Chinese with each other. Then when I try to lengthen or expound on the joke in Mandarin, I invariably have to explain why it's funny, and they all start checking Wechat messages, and then they ask me if this text message has anything to do with their plane ticket to Vietnam or something.

In conclusion, Mandarin coming from a foreigner's mouth is a land of contrasts?
posted by saysthis at 11:07 PM on May 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

I once studied Cantonese just for the hell of it, and when I went into a Chinese restaurant and decided to try it out, it worked surprisingly well in that the waiter could understand me and I could understand him—he spoke so slowly and clearly it was a piece of cake. The reason for this became apparent when he fumbled for a word and confessed his native language was Mandarin, he had to learn some Cantonese because so many customers spoke it. Oh what a chuckle we had!
posted by languagehat at 10:02 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

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