Global Citizenship,  MSW INTERVIEWS

MSW Interviews: Why You Should Learn Chinese with Peggy Lee

Today, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with Peggy Lee, hostess of Peggy Teaches Chinese. We’ve had a tremendous response to Peggy’s Chinese language video series for learning Chinese since its launch in January 2010. Peggy reports that her YouTube subscribers have doubled in the past two months. Judging from the number of hits, tweets, stumbles, and comments I’ve received, I would say that people seem to be enjoying her video series.

What do you think of Peggy’s videos?  Do you have any thoughts or advice about this video series?

And now, on with our interview…

MSW: Hi Peggy. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy school schedule to be with us here today. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Peggy Lee. I was born and raised in Taiwan. I am 20 years old. I am the youngest in my family. I have three older sisters, who had to begin working at the young age of 12 due to a lack of financial resources in my family. I remember when I was in fourth grade, my mother worked very hard in order to enroll me in English classes. Honestly, I was lucky to be sent to a cram school considering my family’s situation in my family at the time.

Unfortunately, I still couldn’t speak English well after two years of studying English. I tried to improve my English by myself through whatever resource I could get, such as going to church to practice my English with foreigners, watching HBO and CNN. After investing a lot of time and effort, my English gradually improved until I was able to communicate fluently. I’m proud that I never had to study English abroad.

Currently, I am in my junior year in the Department of Applied English in Ming Chuan University. I completed literature and social studies a few years ago. My goal is to complete my Masters degree in Sociology, which has become the main drive that pushes me forward in life.

MSW: How did you decide to get started with Chinese language videos on YouTube? Have people been interested in learning Chinese with you?

When I was 17, I began tutoring Chinese part-time to make a little extra money. At the same time, I was also able to practice my English. I started advertising my lessons around Chungli and got lucky with my first student in a few weeks. Since then, my private Mandarin lessons have become a part-time job for me over the past three years.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching Mandarin. But I did’t consider putting my Chinese lessons on YouTube until I met my boyfriend, Louis Huang, who is also my producer. He believed I would be able to reach a wider audience and probably make some money by becoming a YouTube partner. I thought that was a good idea so we signed up for a YouTube account, bought a digital camera, and began to shoot our first video.

MSW: Tell us about the process of putting a video together. How do you choose your topics? How long does it take to shoot and edit a video?

Two words I can come up with to describe the process of putting a language video together are brainstorming and fun. Once I decide on the topic of the lesson, my producer and I spend a lot of time coming up with ideas for our video. We want our videos to be ‘edutainment’!

We really rack our brains for ideas to make relevant clips for each lesson. When we have an idea for our video, we try to improvise to keep our expenses low, because we still haven’t made money from YouTube yet.

I’ll play the main actress as well as the extras. Sometimes we get our family members or friends to be in the video if possible. Louis is the producer, director, and editor. So, technically, each video is done by only the two of us.

MSW: Can you tell us a little about your web site?

PeggyTeachesChinese is an online community for people who are interested in learning Chinese. The website is designed by the producer, Louis Huang. We’ve provided a hub for our visitors to communicate with people within the same niche worldwide. You can learn Mandarin through our Chinese language videos, join our forums, or read my personal blog and lesson updates.

MSW: How would you say that your online presence and teaching style has changed in the past year?

As anyone can see from my first video, I try to give a good explanation of every point I make. I include the meaning of each character and comparisons in terms of cultural usages. That’s how I teach in real life when I have more time and when I can interact with my students. I realized, however, that this doesn’t work very well on YouTube. Viewers get bored easily when the video is too long. Moreover, each video is limited to 10 minutes if you are not a YouTube partner. Therefore, we figured we would put a scenario clip at the beginning of each lesson. Then, I go on to explain the sentence patterns and vocabulary in the clip. It takes less time and has become more entertaining to learn.

MSW: Do you have any projects on the go right now?

We were invited to take part in a research project on Mandarin learning efficiency by an educator from an American school in Taichung. We would be providing online assistance to American teenagers by making language videos that can be used to learn Chinese. To date, the grant is still pending.

MSW: Can you tell us about your one-on-one Skype lessons?

Basically, there are two parts. For beginners, there is Basic Chinese which focuses on basic tones, pronouns, and basic greetings pertaining to scenarios you might encounter in real life. We talk about sentences and vocabulary that are commonly used in each situation.

I also offer Sentence Patten lessons for intermediate level students. I provide worksheets that focus on building stronger sentence structure for nonnative speakers. I also encourage my students to give me their own ideas for their lessons. Some students have very specific goals.

MSW: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I will graduate from university in a year and half, and I hope to be a YouTube partner before then. By then, I’ll have a few more years of experience in teaching Mandarin. However, I believe teaching experience goes hand in hand with professional training, so I plan on taking a class in Teaching Mandarin as a Second Language after I graduate. Hopefully I’ll still be making videos for YouTube. After a while, if possible, I’d love to teach in the States and studying Sociology at graduate school.

MSW: I wish you the best of luck, Peggy. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll accomplish your dreams. One more quick question before we wrap things up. What’s one tip you would give to anyone thinking of studying Chinese?

Try to find a way to enjoy learning Chinese and you’ll learn it a lot easier and faster.

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!


  • Jason

    Stumbled onto your site randomly – the learn Chinese posts caught my eye and as a result of them have checked out Peggy’s site as well. Despite having stayed in Hong Kong for 12 years, I never tried learning Cantonese or Mandarin – silly when you think about it.

    I’ve always planned to start learning someday, the sooner the better. What would probably be better is if Peggy compiled her tips into a structured guide (although I have no idea if this is possible) – I don’t have the time for things like tutoring or even watching too many videos, but I’d definitely be interested in something I could go through at my own pace. I’m assuming others would too. 🙂
    .-= Jason´s last blog ..How I Plan To Take This Blog To 10,000 Subscribers =-.

    • Carrie

      Hi Jason,

      Peggy is working on getting her site and videos all set up. She’s also a full-time student, but she is very passionate about what she does and I think you can expect some truly great things coming from her in the next year. I’m not sure how she would go about doing what you’ve suggested, but I know she has a fan page on Facebook. Maybe you could make your suggestions there. I know she would be thrilled to hear from you.

  • Jesse

    I really find Chinese language as too complex at first but the fun of learning each word is like a great achievement especially once I try to use it somewhere.

    • Carrie

      Hi Jesse,

      Learning Chinese is difficult, but it’s the same with any language. You have to be up for a challenge if you really want to learn. It sounds like you have the right attitude. Good luck!

  • Anthony

    Hi Carrie,

    Thank you for promoting Peggy Lee. She is really wonderful and is an excellent teacher. Her classes are fun and she offers tons of useful information. Furthermore, her English is excellent, it’s the best of any non-native speaker I’ve ever met, so her English speaking students will not have any problems communicating with her. Her one-on-one tutoring rates are pretty good and she offers greater discounts when you sign up for a larger number of classes. So buy in bulk! 😉

    OR viewers can just watch her amazing videos for free, and still learn alot. Here is a quick link to her YouTube site, so anyone interested in learning Mandarin Chinese can get started now!

    Keep up the good work Carrie. You have a beautiful website, by the way. And thanks again for helping to support PeggyTeachesChinese!

  • Paras

    Me too I really find Chinese language as too complex at first but then slowly started to pick up the language.worst part i failed the first try exam for it …lolz

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