Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Below is my official "welcome email" to all new and returning Cantonese I students from the initial registration list for the 2017-2018 academic year at ALESN, taught at NYC's MS 131 with support from the YMCA's Beacon educational outreach program.

Please refer to for more information on this amazing program. Please also feel free to contact me directly with any questions regarding ALESN or our 2017-2018 classes and workshops.

Best wishes to All,

Hi Gang,

Brendan here. Looking forward to meeting all of the new people and seeing all of the returning students again this evening. Tonight, I will go over the textbook, my various expectations for the coming academic year, and my general teaching approach / philosophy, which has significantly changed from past years.

For new students, I will do what I can this year to help you achieve at least a bare minimum threshold level of intelligible Chinese pronunciation, so that by the end of the academic year, native speakers will understand you at the most basic, most fundamental level if you try to say hello to someone, tell them your name, ask what their name is, ask where the bathroom is located -- that kind of very basic communicative language. Some of you will achieve much more than this. Some of you will find that you can't pronounce Chinese at even the most basic level despite your best intentions and various amounts of focused or non-focused self-study.

PLEASE NOTE: This year, beginning around mid-November, I am going to start gently and as nicely as possible encouraging students with the worst pronunciation to quit my class and pursue a different hobby. Life is too short to waste your time trying to do something you may not be cut out to do. If this makes any of you angry or you think I am a jerk for saying this, GOOD! Maybe it will encourage more students this year to speak intelligible Chinese, instead of gobble-di-gook that doesn't sound anything like the material will be studying. The whole point of learning to speak Chinese is LEARNING TO SPEAK CHINESE -- so that Chinese people can understand you -- not so you can have a place to hang out every week, look at a textbook, and then months later not be able to pronounce the material covered the first or second week of class.
Sorry to be blunt, but I want to help anyone in class this year who really wants to learn to speak Chinese to learn to SPEAK CHINESE -- not to learn their own made-up pronunciation of the words in our textbook, Let's all start classes this year with this exact expectation in mind. Thanks in advance to everyone!

FOR MY RETURNING STUDENTS: If you are unable to achieve a threshold level of the most basic survival pronunciation of your chosen Chinese dialect by the beginning of November, I will ask you politely to leave the class and not return until you have achieved the most basic, tolerable level of "accurate enough" pronunciation on your own via tutoring or intense self-study and self-practice. In other words, if you have taken my class before and you still cannot tell me what your name is, that you are American, ask me what my name is, and ask me where something is located (the bathroom, the library, AMERICA) in a way that I can understand what you are trying to communicate, you will need to leave my class and not return until you have fixed your major pronunciation errors.

I mean no disrespect, and some of my returning students with the worst pronunciation issues are literally my favorite people I have ever met at ALESN. I am just going to be very strict this year, and I do not want to start off the year by playing favorites with returning students with horrible, unacceptable pronunciation at the most basic survival level.

I will evaluate remedial returning students on a person by person basis, so please do not let this scare you away -- just know that I am not going to hold anyone's hand this year. THIS DOES NOT PERTAIN TO ANY NEW STUDENTS -- ONLY TO RETURNING STUDENTS WITH PRONUNCIATION SO BAD THAT I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU ARE TRYING TO SPEAK CHINESE.

Thanks in advance to everyone -- new and returning students, and I look forward to teaching you this year!

Best wishes,

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