Joliet Junior College English professor Mike Hainzinger wanted an outlet for teaching Mandarin Chinese, so he started a video project in his garage and posted it on YouTube just for fun.
More than 50 episodes and a million views later, a representative from John Murray Press, a London-based book publisher, was scrolling through YouTube when he found “Learn Chinese with Mike” – and offered Hainzinger a book deal.
Now “Chinese with Mike: A Coursebook for Absolute Beginners” is available in the U.K. and for pre-order in the U.S. at Amazon.com. It will become available in U.S. stores this November. The course book includes the first 20 videos of “Chinese with Mike,” an audio CD with native Chinese speakers, and an instructional workbook.
Hainzinger, of New Lenox, said he never thought his videos would turn into a professional project – he just wanted to share his enthusiasm for the Chinese language. At JJC, Hainzinger teaches a Chinese course through the Self Instructional Language Program (SILP), but only when there’s enough interest.
“I started ‘Chinese with Mike,’ because putting something like this online would allow more people to learn and make me feel like my teaching was reaching more people,” he said. “So, I set up a little digital camera, had a whiteboard in my garage, and I thought it would be funny to dress up in a bandana and a Hawaiian shirt with sunglasses. I thought I’d just do a few lessons. At first, it was meant to be a joke – I didn’t think it would take off.”
After Hainzinger posted that first video and shared it on his Facebook page nearly five years ago, JJC colleague Geoff Rusch watched it and was intrigued. He saw potential for Hainzinger’s videos and wanted to help. At JJC, Rusch regularly creates and edits video as an electronic media technician in the Media Services office, so he thought he’d give Hainzinger some pointers.
“I really liked his teaching style and felt that there could potentially be a large audience for this type of content,” Rusch said. “As his friend, I offered to give him some tips on how to make his productions more professional, and after some conversations, I eventually agreed to produce them.”
“Geoff offered to help me out with the production and sound quality, so we met in my garage and filmed a number of episodes,” Hainzinger added. “This really became a JJC driven project.”
In his videos, Hainzinger teaches Chinese as Mike Laoshi (or “Teacher Mike”) in a way that is laid back, simple and easy to understand. Students will learn the basics, sentence and grammar structure, and some conversational Chinese by following Hainzinger’s video and course book lessons.
“It’s a nontraditional way of learning a new language,” Hainzinger said. “The audio component, the video lessons, and the books make it great for different learning styles.”
Hainzinger was not always an expert in the Chinese language. After graduating from college as an English major, not really sure about where his career would lead him, he was given an opportunity to teach English abroad in Taiwan.
One of the most difficult parts about being in Taiwan was that he didn’t know how to speak Chinese.
“I asked myself, should I continue going around smiling and pointing at things, or take a stab at learning the language?” he said. “I wound up giving it a shot.”
Hainzinger taught himself Chinese, and practiced with friends until he realized something important: “Learning the language became the main reason I was there,” he said.
When he came back to the U.S., Hainzinger taught Chinese at Prairie State College before coming to JJC. Teaching at JJC was not Hainzinger’s first experience at the college, either – he took more than 50 credits as a student after high school. In fact, Hainzinger continues to take JJC classes now, and just finished a Japanese SILP class last semester.
In addition to “Chinese with Mike,” Hainzinger is currently working on a project called “English with Mike,” for Chinese speakers. A second installment of “Chinese with Mike,” will be published in the U.S. in 2015. If enough people buy Hainzinger’s series, he will continue to create more Chinese language learning books and videos.
To view the first ten videos in Hainzinger’s series, visit www.chinesewithmike.com. For more information about taking Hainzinger’s Chinese SILP class this fall, visit www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/arts-sciences/english-world-lang/Pages/silp.aspx, or sign up for the class using JJC’s e-Resources.
Hainzinger’s book can also be pre-ordered through Amazon.com.