House of Cards used to teach Mandarin

Updated: 2014-03-27 13:20

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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A New York-based entrepreneur is using the popular American television show House of Cards to teach Mandarin and English to millions of netizens around the globe.

For her latest teaching tool, Jessica Beinecke has tapped characters of the Netflix original series with the hope of giving people "an insight into conversational and colloquial" language.

"US-China cultural exchange is something that drove me to begin my new startup," she said Tuesday in an interview with China Daily. "House of Cards is blowing up in America and China, and what a great way to offer a fun and creative way to learn a foreign language."

Beinecke, or Bai Jie, as she is known among her more than 400,000 social media followers in China, is the founder and host of Crazy Fresh Chinese (CFC) and BaiJie LaLaLa (BJ LLL), a two-pronged online cross-cultural platform.

Since launching in January, the website helps promote interest in the language and culture of the world's two largest economies by publishing weekly clips that help students learn specific words or phrases for use in their everyday conversations.

Beinecke began her most recent series of online videos on the CFC website last week, in which she goes to great lengths to assume the persona of characters from the hit TV program.

Congressman Frank Underwood, played by American actor Kevin Spacey, has been featured early on in the series.

Despite the novelty of Beinecke's idea, some students at Columbia University are not convinced of its ability to aid in the teaching process.

Gregory Swong, a freshman at Columbia who has been studying Chinese for less than a year, said attaching a specific action or motion to a phrase might help students retain the things they learn in class.

"When things are more specific - like a teacher impersonating Kevin Spacey's character - it's easier to learn," Swong said. "So I see how it could be useful in a class setting."

Stephen Brady, a postbaccaulaureate student in Columbia's School of Continuing Education, said the fact that CFC is not using footage from the show makes it "far less effective" as a teaching tool.

"The point of watching someone speak in a foreign language is to get a better understanding for natural pauses," Brady said Wednesday in an interview.

 House of Cards used to teach Mandarin

Jessica Beinecke (front center), host and founder of online cross-cultural platform Crazy Fresh Chinese, poses for a photo on Tuesday with students at a middle school in Brockton, Massachusetts. Beinecke launched the language instruction site in January in partnership with the 100,000 Strong Foundation. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/27/2014 page3)