Welcome to
Fun with Chinese!

Here, you will be able to see what is happening in the elementary school Chinese language classes I teach here in Janesville. I also provide some recipes for making some Chinese dishes that I really like, as well as offer the opportunity to learn more about Chinese history and culture. There are so many fun things here that are waiting for you to explore.

Enjoy, and have fun!

Jessica Wang Jacobs   

At New Year’s tables across China, this year's culinary bling: Maine lobster

posted Feb 26, 2015, 7:09 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us   [ updated Feb 26, 2015, 7:10 AM ]

Dumplings, red packets of money, long noodles symbolizing long life, fireworks at midnight — all of these are traditional Chinese trappings of Asian Lunar New Year celebrations happening around the globe. However, this year, many Chinese tables will feature a new, unlikely addition to their traditional meals: Maine lobster.

China's hunger for this storied slice of Americana has been growing over the past decade. Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Company wholesaler in Kennebunkport, Maine, says in 2009, China bought virtually no lobster from Maine. Now, the Chinese New Year is the busiest time of year — even busier than Christmas.

"With Christmas, it's only one day," Nadeau says. By contrast, she says she'll spend four weeks this year filling her Chinese New Year orders.

“It’s my busiest year ever,” she adds. “The Chinese are very fond of live seafood.”

And how much does the New Year’s bounty weigh in at? “Probably 400,000 pounds,” Nadeau says.

“In Hong Kong, they use — almost exclusively — small one-pound lobsters,” she says. “Maybe 40 miles away in Guangzhou, which used to be Canton, they prefer a two- or three-pound lobster.”

As China's middle class has developed increasingly cosmopolitan tastes, their presence has been felt in unlikely areas of the global economy. The majority of Maine lobster exports still go to Canada, but even with record catches, wholesalers say they hadn't anticipated this much demand from a country so geographically distant — a major concern when shipping live seafood.

Flying nearly half a million pounds of lobster to China has proven especially challenging this year.

“There’s been [a lot] of difficulty this year because of all the bad weather we’ve had in Boston and New York,” adds Nadeau. “This time of the year, because the water’s so cold, we harvest very few lobsters — they pretty much hibernate in the winter. All the lobsters that we’re shipping now were caught mostly in December and early January.”

In order to accommodate the new demand, Nadeau says her business has built a new facility in Canada that holds about 120,000 pounds of live lobster.

Like other Maine lobster companies, Nadeau’s business is ticking up because Chinese lobster eaters are looking abroad to revive old traditions in new ways. Spiny lobsters used to abound in the South China Sea, but overfishing has destroyed their Chinese habitat and driven up prices. Even though they’ve logged more air miles, American lobsters are a bargain in China.

“Our Maine lobsters are filling the middle-class void,” Nadeau says. “We’re working round the clock to get lobsters into China for the holiday.”

Maine lobster offer softer meat and a finer flavor and allow Chinese consumers to return to old recipes — lobster is often steamed and dipped in wasabi and soy sauce, or eaten with noodles in a garlic sauce.

Maine lobster is often called "Boston Lobster" on Chinese menus. Nadeau, a native Mainer, says she doesn’t mind being upstaged by her metropolitan neighbor to the south — as long as the orders keep coming in.

Aside from providing the perfect combination of flavor, value, and American cachet, Nadeau says that Maine lobster — possibly the most typically New England food after clam chowder — has one decisive advantage in China.

“They like ours because they look like a dragon,” she adds.

This story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.

Whatever Floats Your Goat: The 2015 Lunar New Year Animal Is Up For Debate

posted Feb 19, 2015, 10:33 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us   [ updated Feb 19, 2015, 10:34 AM ]

Many East Asian cultures use zodiac animals to symbolize each New Year and predict a person's fortunes. But which animal represents 2015 is up for debate. 

You may have seen goat, sheep or ram as the English translation for this year's animal according to the Chinese zodiac – yang in Mandarin. All of them are correct, says Lala Zuo, a Chinese language and culture professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. "

I don't think there's a wrong translation," she says. "I think there are various ways of translation. It really depends on the context."

Some Chinese words are vague and not as specific as English words, so yang could refer to either a goat, sheep or even a ram.

But in ancient times, Zuo says, that Chinese character meant goat.

"I think goat is more commonly seen by people in China, both in the north and south," she says.

Not in Korea, though, according to Sang-Seok Yoon, a Korean-language instructor at the University of Iowa.

"China is big and there are many different types of one animal, but Korea is small and the most prototypical image of yang for Korean people is sheep," he says.

The correct way to describe this Vietnamese New Year is the year of the goat – or mùi in Vietnamese, according to James Lap, who teaches the language at Columbia University.

"In Vietnam, there is no sheep or ram at all because the weather is so hot," Lap says.

Some cultures go beyond the goat-sheep divide and assign one of five elements borrowed from Chinese astrology and even a gender to a zodiac animal. All of these characteristics can, supposedly, predict what's to come in the New Year.

In Tibetan culture, this is the year of the female wood sheep, according to Tsering Shakya, who teaches Tibetan literature at the University of British Columbia.

"A female year tends to be much more sort of peaceful than say male," he says. "Male is aggressive, and female will be more calm."

The Mongolian zodiac also forecasts a peaceful new year under the blue female sheep.

The sheep is culturally important in Mongolian in part because they are better for the environment, says Myagmariin Saruul-Erdene, who teaches Mongolian at the Foreign Service Institute.

"When sheep eat grass, they leave the roots there," he explains. "But when the goats eat them, they just take everything, so next year, there'll be like no more grass."

As for 2016, next year will be the year of the monkey, or the ape, depending on who you ask.

By http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch

"Happy Lunar New Year" From Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

posted Feb 19, 2015, 8:25 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us


New Year's celebrations can cause much stress for China's workers

posted Feb 10, 2015, 10:29 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us   [ updated Feb 19, 2015, 8:31 AM ]

By McClatchy, adapted by Newsela staff

BEIJING — For Americans, Chinese New Year brings to mind colorful parades and fireworks in Chinatowns across the United States. 

In China, it involves millions of people returning home. The Lunar New Year festival, or Spring Festival, starts Friday for this Year of the Horse. Chinese workers are expected to return to their home villages for the holiday. It's an occasion to share time and gifts with family and friends.

Yet, Chinese New Year has become a busy time of travel across the world’s most populated country. Hundreds of millions have moved from rural areas to cities in recent years. When they return home, some call it “the world’s largest human migration.”

During the New Year’s festivities, government officials estimate people will make 3.6 billion trips. More than 154 million train tickets have been sold already.

The Holiday's Many Strains

For the past week, train stations in Beijing have been mobbed. Subways were crowded with passengers carrying bags and gifts. On a subway last Saturday, a woman with luggage dropped a box of kiwis she was carrying. As the fruits rolled around the car, several passengers were kind enough to pick them up and return them to her.

Airports also are busy, but with a different class of customer. They’re used by wealthy Chinese who are returning home. Others spend the week in beach resorts. Passengers will make about 42 million air trips during the 40-day period, according to a Chinese government report.

For weeks in China, newspapers have published reports about the strain of the holiday. Obtaining train tickets is a hassle. Anxiety abounds about what gifts to take. For the young unwed, there will be unavoidable questions about why they haven’t yet married. For those who don’t or can’t return home, there’ll be some guilt. They'll regret not following through on tradition.

Earlier this month, a Chinese woman in Guangdong province was so upset over her long-lost son that she purchased a front-page ad in the Chinese Melbourne Daily. The newspaper is published in Australia, where the son is living. She urged him to visit for the holiday.

“We hope you will come home for Lunar New Year,” read the ad. “Dad and Mom will never again pressure you to marry.”

In One Migrant Community

Relying on Chinese media for reports about Spring Festival can be tricky. A story in the China Daily reported that 40 percent of Chinese migrant workers surveyed said they wouldn’t return home for the holiday this year.

Of those who said they wouldn’t return, nearly half said they were too embarrassed to. They felt that they'd earned too little money in the past year. The survey was taken of 13,156 migrant workers nationwide by job-hunting site daguu.com.

It was an astounding finding. Beijing is reportedly home to 8 million migrant workers, more than a third of its population. Most of them are young men from all corners of the country. They moved to Beijing to take factory or office jobs, often living in run-down and crowded conditions.

The survey’s findings couldn't easily be checked. A well-known migrant community called Pi Village sits in northwestern Beijing. Nearly everyone there, it seemed, was traveling or had plans to. One man estimated that 90 percent of the migrant workers in Pi Village had already left. He believed that many of the rest would be leaving soon.

One woman staying behind said she wasn’t going home because her employer hadn’t paid her. When she was asked for her name and details, she got nervous and walked away. 

A day earlier, Chinese officials reported that they were trying to help migrants get money they were owed. The money could help migrants return home for Spring Festival. Pressure on stingy and crooked bosses had recovered $1.8 billion in unpaid wages for more than 1.5 million workers across the country, according to the Chinese government.

In China, there’s a popular song with a line that goes: “No matter if you have money or not, you should return home for Spring Festival.”

It’s a nice thought. But for millions of workers here, returning home depends on whether they get paid.

The NBA is breaking out special uniforms for Chinese New Year

posted Jan 30, 2015, 10:17 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us   [ updated Jan 30, 2015, 10:22 AM ]


Nian Story

posted Jan 14, 2015, 11:51 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us

YouTube Video


posted Dec 12, 2014, 6:25 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us   [ updated Dec 10, 2015, 6:20 AM ]


YouTube Video

How to Say "Thank You" in Chinese

posted Nov 21, 2014, 6:17 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us

Happy Thanksgiving! 感恩节快乐!

posted Nov 14, 2014, 8:09 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us

Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin in Beijing_The New York Times

posted Oct 24, 2014, 8:23 AM by jjacobs@janesville.k12.wi.us

YouTube Video

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