Ohio Journalist

Beinecke’s Wise Words

By Mallorie Sullivan

(December 1, 2015) — How does one say “living the dream” in Mandarin Chinese? Jessica Beinecke (BSJ ’08) certainly knows how — and she’ll tell you with a big smile.

That’s because the self-proclaimed “bubbly blonde blogger” has taken her love for the language and transformed it into a lifestyle, not only for herself, but also for her growing, web-based audience.

Beinecke, whose affinity for Mandarin flourished during her time at Ohio University, has been using her craft to engage with young Chinese adults through a series of online web shows to help them learn about American slang and culture.

More recently, however, she has built a proverbial bridge between the two cultures.

Her goals are clear: Beinecke — known to many of her Chinese fans as Bai Jie, meaning white and pure — wants to help young Chinese and Americans understand each others’ language in an innovative and exciting new way.

Operating under her new start-up production company, JM Beinecke, Inc., Beinecke in January launched the cross-cultural platform “Crazy Fresh Chinese,” which teaches American students Chinese slang through one minute web shows, and “BaiJie LaLaLa,” the Chinese equivalent that teaches Chinese students popular American slang and culture.

And through a partnership with the 100,000 Strong Foundation — an organization focused on encouraging students across the country both to learn Mandarin and study in China — Beinecke has been given the opportunity to carry out her ideas.

“I want to empower young people in both countries,” she said, referring to the U.S. and China. “[The project is] a fun and interactive way to build global relationships.”

In an effort to build those relationships, Beinecke either takes words that young people are currently using or grabs ideas from her students when they are in the classroom. Then, she relates the words to the language they are learning, whether it is English or Chinese.

One of the most recent words she has taught her viewers comes with no surprise: “We just learned how to say ‘twerk.’” The word, which translates into diàn tún wu — or, quite literally, “electric butt dance” — joins a growing list of videos that teach viewers how to say trendy words such as “selfie,” “medium soy latte” and “swag,” and more commonly used expressions such as “awesome,” “awkward” and “I’m starving!”

In addition to teaching Chinese students American slang, the Columbus, Ohio, native also has picked up some common Chinese slang. “I’ve learned ‘jiayóu,’ which means to add oil,” she said. “[The Chinese] say this when they want to encourage friends and cheer them on.”

While her online following is largely made up of 15- to 30-year-old Chinese fans, Beinecke has also been noticed by several American media organizations, such as The Washington Post, Yahoo, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. According to PBS, the web-show host is “one of the best-known American women in China.” Foreign Policy recently recognized Beinecke as one of its 50 people shaping U.S.-China relations.

The Ohio University alumna also was recognized by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last year at the U.S.-China Dialogue on People-to-People Exchange in Washington, D.C., where she discussed — in English and in Chinese — her work with her online shows.

Although the web-show host is only a few months into her new venture, her videos overall have reached more than 40 million views and 400-plus million social-media impressions — and it’s only going up from there.

Beinecke said she posts a new word every day on the website, using both text and video components to further her viewers’ understanding of each word. “I think learning a language can be difficult…but if you can relate, a connection is made,” Beinecke said. “It’s a magical thing.”

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