My wife recently gave her old computer away to her Chinese language student, who discovered a bunch of language-learning videos on the hard drive—featuring her own teacher and her teacher’s husband!

Back during the 2011/2012 school year, my wife and I taught Chinese as a foreign language at the Shanghai Institute of Health Sciences. In addition to tutoring and formal classes, the school asked me to design a custom curriculum to go on the school’s internal website.

This “Survival Chinese” course was to be highly localized, including things like how to tell taxi drivers how to get to the school, and how to order popular dishes in the school’s cafeteria. It was to be rather ChinesePod-ish, based on dialogues and accompanied with exercises on the website for each lesson.

Both the video production and website code were handled by outside companies. I was in charge of supplying them with everything they needed—from budget to script to actors. As someone with college degrees in both cinema and Chinese, this was a fantastic opportunity.

I never got to see the finished product in use, but it was exciting to see everything come together. It even included some tools I had always wanted in my language-learning, but hadn’t seen anywhere else.

One of my big takeaways was seeing how simple video production is in China. Without the legal quagmire we have in the U.S., video production can be done at lightning speed. With little planning, we just hopped in a car, drove until we saw a fruit stand, talked to the owner, and got the scene shot—all within an hour. The efficiency was astonishing.

Looking back, it definitely had some deficiencies (not the least of which were continuity and audio quality!), but given the shoestring budget and lightning-fast schedule, I’m not too embarrassed. Some of the scenes were a lot of fun to shoot, such as the one below.

The school’s administration has long since changed hands, and this program was tossed aside. So, as painful as it is to see myself on camera, I thought I’d begin posting some of the videos for posterity. This first video is an introduction to how to use the now defunct website.

The second introductory video is on Pinyin.

Here’s another English-language video where I introduce some popular dishes in the school’s cafeteria.

Sorry, the last two words seem to have been cut off: “some friends.”

Featured Image: Shooting a scene in the school’s cafeteria