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.