The Chairman’s Bao: Learning Chinese in Context

by Kiana Duncan

If you’re experiencing language app burnout, maybe it’s time to give something else a try. Learning a language is a multi-faceted endeavor, but sometimes sneaking that extra 20 minutes of immersion can be a challenge- especially if you’re not living in a Mandarin-speaking country. 

The Chairman’s Bao was born out of a need for learning Chinese in context.

The Chairman’s Bao is a subscription-based service where subscribers can choose from thousands of news stories, levels 1 through 6, coordinating with the HSK’s current testing levels. After selecting a news story, subscribers can listen to the audio and read the characters as well as pinyin to follow along. Below the story in a dropdown menu are keywords, grammar, and proper nouns listeners may not be familiar with or want to work on in more depth. 

The idea for something different came to Co-Founder and Managing Director Sean McGibney during his time in university. The Chairman’s Bao was born out of a need for learning Chinese in context. 

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.” McGibney says of his app. 

When resources for language-learning went online, Chinese was one that was left behind.

McGibney lived in Shanghai for seven years in the early 2000s, allowing him to learn the language and make Chinese friends and create memories.  Following this experience, he studied Spanish and Chinese at University of Leeds in the UK. His course covered other topics, such as politics, trade, and newspaper reading.  

It gave me a much deeper insight into China, both past and present,” McGibney says.  

He also notes that when resources for language-learning went online, Chinese was one that was left behind. Other than dictionaries and rote memorization lessons, learners struggled to bring social currency to their lessons. This is exactly what McGibney and his team strive to provide –– daily lessons tailored to the learner’s level, using modern words, and with interaction 

“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.” 

Sean McGibneyCo-Founder and Managing Director

The Chairman’s Bao certainly does focus on modern vocabulary. With a wide of articles and blogs focusing on both Chinese and international news, students get cultural information ranging from holidays to everyday life in China. These stories are selected from various sources, and then written by a team of 15 native writers and editors.  

With over 100,000 registered global users and over 250 global schools and colleges in 28 different countries, it’s clear that McGibney and his team have found what learners are after- real life context for grammar and vocabulary lessons.  

“Learning a language breaks down barriers of communication on a much bigger level than simply the understanding of language,” McGibney says. “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!”