Xiaoli is very weird

I just discovered these bizarre videos on Youtube called iamxiaoli. They’re supposed to be for learning Chinese, but they’re a little unorthodox, to say the least. Here are two of the ones I found more interesting:

0003 How To Say “Friend” In Chinese

0005 How To Say “What is This?” & “He Doesn’t Know” In Chinese

I’m curious how effective these videos are at teaching Chinese. Can anyone voice for having learned some words or phrases from these videos?

Anyway, Xiaoli got my attention. The (sparse) website is at iamxiaoli.com.

Not in content, obviously, but in some ways this stuff reminds me of ChinesePod in its early days, trying something new and different, unafraid to explore and experiment. I’m not surprised that this particular effort came out of Beijing.

Via Study More Chinese, via Social Mandarin.


John Pasden

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


  1. I saw these reposted somewhere a while ago. Great stuff — let’s face it, learning (and teaching) the absolute basics is no fun at all, so anything that tries to break the mold is a-OK in my book. Video is a better way of handling it than straight audio, since you can put in more stuff without distracting too much from the lesson content.

    • Yeah, I see these videos as a great supplement for beginners.

      The two videos I posted are kinda exceptional, though. Many of Xiaoli’s videos are comparatively uninspired.

  2. genius, two thumbs up, 5 stars, wow!

  3. Hilariously funny!

  4. Harland Says: May 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Does this blog ever link to anything that’s viewable in China?

    • There was a time when you could reasonably get by without a VPN in China. That time is over.

    • light487 Says: May 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Here is a prime example of where YouTube has been used by Chinese people to target a non-Chinese audience. A non-Chinese audience is not going to find these videos, by themselves, if they are not on an easily accessible site.

  5. I’d be curious to try it in a language I didn’t know. I’d guess the first one is pretty effective. The second one, not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people think “他不知道” means “He’s being tortured.” I think the idea behind them is good, even if the execution is, in my opinion, a little weird.

  6. Very cute girl, however I just can’t stand her voice. As of actually learning Chinese with that … Well … You’re better off watching 电视剧 over and over again … At least it’s natural speech (sort of), plus you get to learn 汉字 at the same time, without effort.

    Just my 0.13 RMB

  7. This is an interesting strategy. There’s a series of Star Wars reviews on youtube (here’s the first part of the first one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI ) that does something very similar…”content” (at times a really in depth critique of what went wrong in the Star Wars prequels) intercut with a sort of ongoing narrative about the women the narrator has tied up in his basement (spoilers eventually we learn he’s not killing them, just trying to get them to watch Attack of the Clones with him and talk about how bad it is).

    Anyway, it’s an interesting strategy, better executed in those reviews than in these videos, I think.

    That said, I’m with Brendan; this stuff is hella boring so anything you can do to spice it up is good. I’ve always wanted to create something for Chinese learners that had some spine, that wasn’t all happy and propaganda-y. But these videos aren’t exactly what I had in mind. Def interesting though.

  8. I am both intrigued and terrified at the same time, but I like it – so, like Xiaoli says, I guess I aught to subscribe to it. 🙂

  9. “Bizarre” is about right. Checkout “I am scared” – it’s even creepier. What an interesting find, too bad I’m not a beginner. Though maybe if I was, I’d come to associate speaking Chinese with a sense of confusion and foreboding.

  10. Haha, cute! I’m beyond this level, but I’ll watch it for fun. Maybe she should do some on newspaper reading and political jargon to broaden her fanbase 😉

  11. I ended up subscribing to the xiaoli website and got directed to a Shanghai massage therapy center. I went for my first lesson yesterday. Kind of expensive. In the States, I was paying $90 per hour. This place was charging $500 for 30 minutes and they weren’t even registered therapists. But, I did learn how to say “What is this ?” in Chinese. And so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

  12. miss igirisu Says: May 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm


    I’m around this level and I find the videos very helpful, especially the repetition. I just wish that she put the Chinese text in the video description so I can read as I listen.

  13. […] gotten quite a few questions about VPNs lately. I also opined in a recent comment that, “There was a time when you could reasonably get by without a VPN in China. That time is […]

  14. 黄建才 Says: July 5, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I’m sure she is not seriously trying to teach chinese, its just a laugh at language learning.

    I like it, you just need to have a weird sense of humor to understand…

  15. […] hours ago), I just needed an excuse to post the above video, slightly NSFW, which reminds me of Xiao Li. I’m still unclear as to whether this company has a physical school or not, though its […]

  16. […] could take a semester to deconstruct iamxiaoli’s “learning Chinese” videos. See John Pasden’s intro here. At least they’re better than the video that came in #1 on this Beijing Sounds […]

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