Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Sean McGibney and I’m the Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Chairman’s Bao [TCB], a news-based online resource for students of Chinese. I lived in Shanghai from 2003-2010 and went on to study Chinese and Spanish at University of Leeds in the UK. I love both technology and languages and TCB has given us a platform to share this passion with the world
What was your original inspiration for creating The Chairman’s Bao?
The inspiration for TCB came during our time at university as we were looking for a resource to provide daily, manageable articles in Chinese to facilitate study through engaging topics. We spotted a gap in the market for such a product and launched our website and app soon after. We’ve since grown to a global userbase of over 100,000 and we also work with over 250 global Chinese teaching institutions.
What sort of obstacles do students face when trying to find suitable reading material?
When the shift for language learners moved online, it felt very much as if Chinese initially got left behind. There were some good dictionary apps, but there was still a focus on the rote-learning traditional method of studying Chinese. We created TCB to bridge this gap, to bring social currency to Chinese learning by providing daily, levelled lessons for all levels of study and across a wide range of topics and interests.
Why did you create an app that shares news, as opposed to traditional language apps?
News is ever-changing and covers all topics so it exposes students to a much wider range of vocabulary. Over time this vocabulary builds on the foundations but you can be sure that any language being used is current and useable in day-to-day life. With many of the traditional study methods of Chinese, much of the modern vocabulary is missing and not reinforced at regular intervals, whereas news allows us to challenge this.
Why do you think learning through immersion is effective?
I think the most important thing is to study little and often and not to feel overwhelmed by any assignment or task. Much like studying the piano when you’re younger, studying 20 minutes per day will stand you in much greater stead than cramming for two hours before your weekly class. Practice little and often!
How do you recommend using The Chairman’s Bao for best results?
We hear from lots of students who use TCB differently. My personal preference would be to study lessons at my level “on the go” with the mobile app and then study more in-depth, higher level lessons at home on my laptop. The functionality is the same across both platforms, I just like the aspect of being able to study wherever I find myself on the mobile app and then studying at my desk to push myself further.
Do you teach any cultural components through the news stories you select?
The great thing about news is that it introduces students to many cultural aspects of China. We also have a collection of blogs that introduce students to cultural events such as Chinese New Year, Chinese Valentine’s Day and the annual Double 11 shopping event (to name but a few!).
How do you select your news stories?
We choose our stories from a wide range of sources, both within China and internationally. Each story is then researched and written to the attained level of study by our native speaking content team.
Who writes your news stories?
We have a team of 15 native-speaking writers and editors, who cover all of our topics and levels (HSK 1-6+).
How many subscribers do you have, in how many countries?
We have over 100,000 registered global users and we work with over 250 global schools/colleges (across 28 countries).
Lastly, why do you feel learning Chinese, or any foreign language, is important?
Learning a language breaks down barriers of communication on a much bigger level than simply the understanding of language. It allows you to develop deeper relationships with people you meet and also opens up opportunities for work. Particularly in the current climate, having mutual cultural understanding is extremely important!