Learn English with Obama

At the book store last night this book caught my eye:

Follow Barack Obama to Learn English

The book [link on DangDang] claims to teach English using nine of Obama’s famous speeches, teaching you how to speak English like Obama. It even comes with an MP3 CD of audio content. Interesting!

Here’s another one [link on DangDang] that simply takes Obama’s speeches and translates them on the opposing page:

Selected Speeches by Barack Obama (English-Chinese)

Without even trying, Obama has already begun to do his part to add to the glut of English-learning materials in China.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I know I guy here in Hunan who always carries around a copy of Obama’s election night speech in his man purse. He always has it.

  2. Matthew Stinson Says: May 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Makes sense, before that people were selling learn English from Tony Blair recordings and also Bill Clinton. Strangely enough, no one wanted to learn English from W. 😉

  3. This is great, just great. Does that mean all the future Chinese politicians in China are going to sound like OBAMA!??!!

    (Since he’s a good speaker that might make the boring CCCCCCCCCP meeting more interesting!)

    How would you translate these phrases…

    1. Now let me be clear…

    2. Waterboarding is torture.

    3. We just want to spread the wealth around.

    Did you know that in the states there are some calling him CHAIRMAN MAO-BAMA?!?! Funny!

  4. Wow. This should be a lot more effective than those “Learn English with George W. Bush” packages they sold when I was living in China. Mainly because Obama actually knows how to speak English properly.

  5. I think his weekly white house podcast would be a great help to anyone learning English too.

  6. kastner Says: May 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    胡敏, again, ugh.

  7. Erick Garcia Says: May 25, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I wonder if Obama is really popular in China?

  8. That book’s actually published in cooperation with our school.

    Although I would be worried if people started speaking in daily conversation the way Obama speaks in his speeches(!), I think that the speeches are great for interested learners.

    Perhaps the next edition should also include interviews to show different styles of speaking in different situations.

    I wonder when the “Learn Chinese with Hu Jintao” books will start to hit the US market. 😉

  9. I work with Chinese professionals to help them improve their oral English, and I think that Obama’s speeches are excellent for this purpose. I’ve found that Chinese students with a high level of English tend to talk too quickly, so pausing like Obama does in his speeches is a very useful exercise.

    Also, I think that Chinese people really are interested in Barack Obama, so that’s an added bonus 🙂

  10. lotsofwordsandnospaces Says: May 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Obama has received a mild ribbing in the UK for his sometimes convoluted way of speaking. He speaks with an excellent pace, and with a fair bit of clarity, just so long as the students don’t think that his speeches are a good choice for a pub chat build-up.

  11. And I thought it odd that I kept seeing the inaugural speech being sold around the US. But, I guess it’s better than teaching them to speak English by using Bushisms.

  12. Hmm…the English title is weird because of the way they translated “跟.” Wouldn’t “Learn English with Obama” be a better English title?

  13. @Chinamatt:
    You think learning English from Bushisms would be A Bad Thing?
    Imagine Palin as a paradigm.

  14. It should come with a free teleprompter.

  15. @hobielover Yeah, probably. I think the “follow” emphasizes the “repeat after me aspect”, but I would have preferred “learn with” as well.

  16. Obama = $$$$$. His speeches and intellect are highly praised appreciated and unequaled. Check out the ASU commencement speech the President gave recently. As usual, it’s total confidence, comedy relief, timing and lightheartedness.

    The book could’ve put Morpheus (The Matrix character from 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions) on the cover as if you watch Morpheus in the cave scene giving his famous speech — “let’s celebrate humans and have a giant orgy in this cave dancing naked to our impending doom” — you’ll know where Obama gets his influence for powerful speaking accents and crescendo.

  17. @Erick Garcia – Obama is immensely popular in China, if only because he’s not Bush. He’s viewed in much the same light as Clinton was – very charismatic and intelligent. Hu could only hope to be so popular, but Chinese politicians put people to sleep. Anyone heard their speeches? Zhong…. Guo…. Ren…. Min… Doesn’t matter who gets up to the podium, they all sound constipated to me.

    John – I had a student once who was learning English from Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. He had a large vocabulary but was a terrible speaker. This kind of stuff is way too advanced for the average speaker. Though I grimace at the thought, all the language learning packs selling Friends DVDs in book stores might be a better idea. (Though jokes are harder to translate and ‘get’, and a generation of young people speaking like Ross or Joey is frightening.)

  18. About two months ago, I read about this in the newspaper except it was an article about Japan and how learning Obama speeches was a sort of craze in Japan for the moment. I guess about two months is how long it takes for materials to get translated from Japanese?

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