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English, baby! in the WSJ

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal includes an article about American slang that features several quotes from English, baby! co-founder and CEO John Hayden. It’s an honor to be alongside so many exciting companies and fascinating individuals in this story in one of our country’s most well-respected and widely read publications.

We had fun looking at our most popular English lessons and terms gathering information for the story, too. We can’t really give too much thought to what slang people want to learn and why. The writer of the piece, Alina Dizik, did a great job of pressing us to think hard about these questions and including some great perspectives and anecdotes in the piece.

I especially like the story about Jie Teng, a business student in China who misused the term “hook up.” This is exactly the situation we had in mind while creating an upcoming lesson on the term “fool around.” We walked a fine line to make it clear that this term has plenty of innocent meanings–and a not-so-innocent one–without being over the top.

In fact, I think someone like Jie Teng is often who we have in mind when we create our lessons in general. She’s driven and studying English for a purpose. It’s crucial that we be honest with her and show her how Americans really speak so that she can pursue her goals. Our members trust us not to lead them into embarrassing mistakes, and we take that responsibility very seriously.




Yi Jianlian on Learning English

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

One of the most watched NBA games ever took place in November of 2007. Why would a game near the beginning of the season be watched by so many people? Most of the fans watching were in China. It was the first time Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets played against young star Yi Jianlian and the team that drafted him, the Milwaukee Bucks. More than 200 million people tuned in to what came to be known as the “Chinese Super Bowl.”

Though in the US, Yi’s fame is nowhere near that of Yao’s, he is a superstar in China and he’s still new to the NBA. His game has to improve if he’s going to take over where Yao leaves off, but his English is coming along nicely. When he first arrived in the US, he used an interpreter and spoke little English. But when we approached him–in English–for an interview at a recent Washington Wizards media session, he didn’t hesitate and confidently agreed. The result is our latest Celebrity English Lesson in which Yi teaches the phrase “put the ball on the floor.”

One thing we cut from this video is a part where I asked Yi if there were any basketball terms he had a hard time with when he first came here. The answer surprised me. He said he didn’t know what was meant by “cut to the basket.” Of course, this phrase means to run quickly toward the basket so that your teammate can pass you the ball and you can score. It’s not something I think of basketball slang exactly, so Yi’s comment may help us find more good basketball idioms we’ve been overlooking.

Gold Medal English Lessons with Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Olympic gold medalists Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue on English, baby!

Just when we thought interviewing the Chinese snowboarding team was as good as it could get for us during our visit to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics to help our members learn English, we got an incredible opportunity. A few days after winning the gold medal in pairs figure skating, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo met with English, baby! outside the skating practice facility in Vancouver.

This couple is one of the best stories of the Olympics. After skating together for more than 17 years, Zhao Hongbo proposed to Shen Xue on the ice in 2007. This year, the pair came out of retirement to try for Olympic gold, the only championship they had not yet claimed, and in Vancouver, their dreams came true.

Our dreams came true when Honbgo agreed to lift Xue for us in this lesson on the term “lift.”

After we got to know each other a bit, we asked Hongbo and Xue to do another lesson on the phrase “head over heels.” You can really see how warm these athletes are in this rare look at their personal side. This video was an immediate hit in China. It got more than 50,000 views in the first weekend on this Chinese video site without us promoting it at all!

As far as we know, this was the only English interview Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue gave while in Canada. We are so honored to have been able to participate in a little bit of their gold medal moment.

申雪 赵宏博 甜蜜拥抱, 并用英文表示他们有多相爱!

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

申雪和赵宏博是人人稱羨的情侶,赵宏博在東京世錦賽比賽結束後向申雪的求婚,是個大家都知道的浪漫故事。訪問前可以看見申雪用手幫赵宏博梳理頭髮, 夫妻關懷之情自然流露。

先問他們怎麼學英文的,赵宏博先說 “在學校學的“,然後一時語塞,申雪馬上替赵宏博接口用英文說 “但是不夠“ 。他們的感情也在他們時時甜蜜微笑相擁時展露。

因為希望可以請申雪和赵宏博教大家什麼是 “Head over Heels”,我們也問了他們何時知道他們深陷爱河的,申雪和赵宏博異口同聲的說“2007年”。再問是突然有一刻感受到他們深陷愛河呢,還是慢慢體會到的,申雪回答,他们在一起多年了,愛情是慢慢产生的。

这是他们身为一对已婚夫后首次参加奥运,还获得了奥运金牌。赵宏博說 “我们知道,即使我们没有拿到冠军,我们也会开开心心的体验这次奥运会”。
赵宏博解释说,夺得金牌并不比与妻子一起比最后一次比赛重要。很明显的,他们互相深爱。English, baby! 覺得申雪和赵宏博把 “Head over Heels”教的很好。


Thursday, February 25th, 2010

English, baby! 的网站访客来自世界各国。我们经常访问名人、运动员、和演艺人员,并请他们教英文,帮助世界各地的人学习英语。这次我们很高兴有机会访问中国冬奥会金牌赢家赵宏博和申雪。我们知道他们在中国及世界滑冰界里大有名气,他们能够在十五年的专业运动生涯结束前拿到冬奥金牌,划下完美句点,全世界都为之感动。

在访问中,赵宏博、申雪展现了他们优秀的英文能力及绝佳的亲和力,问到他们知不知道什么是一个“Lift”,赵宏博轻松回答并表示是他们滑冰节目里三项之一。申雪的话比较少,但是可以看出她和赵宏博之间深深的默契,当问他们可不可以亲身示范一下什么是 “Lift“,申雪将双手交给赵宏博,我们眼前的下一幕就是赵宏博轻而易举的将申雪举在半空中!看过这英文视频后,我们相信English, baby!各国的会员都学会了一个新英文单字!在这里看赵宏博和申雪示范 “Lift”!

Learning with Liu Jiayu at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Liu Jiayu

So many Olympic sports come down to perfection. Can you do what you are attempting to do perfectly? In the luge, a few thousandths of a second can separate the competitors, and in half pipe snowboarding, one small wobble can cost you the gold.

And so it was with Liu Jiayu on Thursday night in the ladies’ half pipe finals, who just a few days before taught an English lesson on the term “goofy” for English, baby! Unlike the men’s half pipe, in which Shaun White just got so much higher than everyone else and was the undisputed victor, the ladies’ competition could have been won by any of the competitors going into the second run. Liu Jiayu–who entered the competition ranked 2nd–came into the final run in fourth place. She looked so good up until her final trick, when her board grazed the blue rim of the half pipe. She didn’t fall, but she wobbled, and instantly she and everyone watching knew, she would not advance past fourth.

But as this Chinese new article points out, fourth is a huge victory in this event for China which had never fielded a finalist before. This year, they had two–Sun Zhifeng, who English, baby! also interviewed earlier this week–qualified as well and finished 7th.

So while she was explaining what it means to ride goofy earlier in the week (although she rides regular), Liu Jiayu actually ended up demonstrating the other meaning of goofy–you know, funny looking and silly. Because for a split second after she hit the rim of the half pipe on that final run, she looked a little goofy catching her balance. But at age 18, I have a feeling the world will be getting to know Liu Jiayu better over the next few years and that she will continue to demonstrate how uncharacteristic that goofy moment was.

Speaking English with Sun Zhifeng, Cai Xuetong and Liu Jiayu (孙志峰、蔡雪彤、刘佳宇)

Friday, February 19th, 2010

china still 6

If it weren’t for the cameras, you wouldn’t have known they were Olympic athletes. At the airport, the Chinese snowboarding team just looked like a bunch of kids arriving in Vancouver to head up to the mountain.

Two media outlets were there to capture the arrival of the greatest foreign threat to a sport dominated by Americans, CCTV–the NBC of China–and English, baby!

CCTV’s coverage aired that night. The story took the angle that the athletes’ first challenge in Canada was to use their English skills with the media.

The athletes acted like seasoned, secretive stars and didn’t give any in-depth responses to questions from the CCTV reporter. Luckily, we weren’t looking for anything in-depth from them, we were just hoping to have fun making a couple of English lessons. Take a look at our first video with Liu Jiayu(刘佳宇), Sun Zhifeng(孙志峰), and Cai Xuetong(蔡雪彤), a lesson on the phrase “drop in.”

The finals for women’s half pipe are just about to start and we are excited to see how Liu Jiayu and Sun Zhifeng, who made it through the preliminary rounds will do!

Ni Hao from Shane Battier

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

This week English, baby! is featuring a really fun English lesson with Shane Battier from the Houston Rockets. I came across this blog which determined that Shane is (or at least was, not sure what the current numbers are) the best at buzzer beating (specifically shot clock buzzers). So we asked him to teach “buzzer beater” and other last-second vocab.

After we approached Shane, we learned he knows a little Mandarin. He gets lessons every year before he goes to China for a couple of weeks to promote his Peak signature shoe. He was shy about sharing his full Mandarin vocabulary in the video, but he dropped a “ni hao” for his fans in China.

And boy, does Shane have fans in China. This Chinese news clip, from which I pulled the shot of the t-shirt above, shows the welcome he got while getting off a plane. The Chinese aren’t just big fans smart basketball and stellar defense, Shane’s profile is boosted by frequent airing of TV commercials he stars in (you can see most of them on Battier’s MogoTXT site). This blog post even has a quote from an NBA player who spent some time in China and got really tired of seeing Shane on TV!

I think it’s great that Shane is so well-known in China. He’s such a well-rounded an unselfish player, he makes a great ambassador for the US and basketball. He has a reputation for being a smart guy, and, in fact, he saved me when we were taping this interview. I started talking to him and then completely blanked out. I had to wait in the media room for a while because the team was late to their shoot around that day and I let my mind get sleepy! Anyway, when he saw I had blanked out, Shane said, “buzzer beater, man,” and reminded me what we were supposed to be talking about. It was clear he had thought about the definition of the term in advance. No wonder his is the best celebrity English lesson we’ve done so far!

Ebaby! in Successful Promotions Magazine

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

The April issue of Successful Promotions not only features Miley Cryus on the cover, it also has a five page story on viral marketing dos and don’ts by Kenneth Hein, a managing editor at AdweekMedia. The article outlines lessons that can be learned from the elven efforts of OfficeMax, a Carl’s Jr. mobile campain launched at a Lakers game, as well as anecdotes about 7-Eleven, Burger King, Axe, and a company you might have heard of called English, baby!

Kenneth tells the tale of our bonus guerrilla marketing sucess at the Beijing Olympics (we thought we were just making videos for marking later–turned out we were marking on the ground as well). Take a look at the portion of the article that’s about us here and the whole thing here. We’re really happy to have been included with such good company in such a good story.

Sasha Vujacic on his New Signature Shoe

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Sasha Vujacic’s lesson on “the machine” was really popular. There were lots of comments from people talking what kind of machine they want to be, and the video even appeared on the website of the LA Times.

But in the interest of time, we left out a lot of good stuff from the interview, like Sasha talking about his new shoe deal in China and growing up in (the now former) Yugoslavia.

Jason: So you have a shoe deal coming up in China, is that right?

Sasha: Yes, I do. I’m very excited about it. We reached an agreement and I’m going to have my own signature shoe. The company is called Peak and I can’t wait to wear them in the games. It’s going to be fun.

Jason: Did you help design the shoes yourself and pick what they’re going to look like?

: Yes, I did. I wanted not only to help design it, but to make it feel as comfortable as they can be and as stable as they can be for basketball players to play with them. I think it’s gonna be a good shoe.

Jason: Have you ever been to China?

Sasha: Yes, I went there for Basketball Without Borders to promote basketball in Asia with Yao and Scottie Pippen. It was fun. It was an amazing experience.

: What’s your strategy for learning languages?

Sasha: Well, the thing is, I was very young when my country kind of split apart. So as a young kid, I spoke two languages already. And then going to Italy, it was very new for me. I didn’t know anything but, “Good morning.” In five years there I realized that all my friends and everybody I was playing with or hanging out with, they spoke just Italian and English was optional. At times, when they wanted to, they spoke it, but most of the time it was Italian. Lucky for me, I knew a little bit of English when I came to Italia and spending a lot of time there, I learned Italian.

: And then when you came here, how hard was it for you to learn English?

Sasha:  I knew English since I was probably eleven or ten. In school we always had English as a second language. I started in school very young. Our country is very small so in order to have a second language or third language, you have to go with English or Italian or whatever you think you’re going to do later on in life and in school we always English as a second language.

Jason:  So when you first got here, did you do any speaking Italian with Kobe?

Sasha:  Yes, I did since day one. He speaks really good Italian and we kind of clicked from day one. Coming to America, I didn’t expect that anybody would speak Italian and then learning about the Lakers, learning about Kobe, I had the opportunity to find out that he speaks really good Italian and we kind of clicked from day one.

: Did you know what “the Machine” meant right away? Were you familiar with the English slang calling someone a machine?

Sasha: Yes, of course. This is my fifth year in the states and five years in Los Angeles, you learn a lot from slang to…anything. I thought it was fun in the beginning, but everybody liked it and I’ve got to just represent it.

Jason: Do you ever feel like it’s a lot of pressure to be “the Machine”?

Sasha: No, I think it’s good. I think it’s good if people recognize you as the Machine and I just gotta play up to that level and I’m waiting for opportunities to shine in the upcoming game.

Jason: Do any of your teammates call you the Machine?

Sasha: Last year, when all this started, it was kind of funny because some of the trainers brought up a YouTube video by people that made something about myself and it was just funny. It was interior joke in the locker room and inside the practice facility and it was going on forever.

Here’s the latest “Machine” video: