OMG, She Said What?!

Bobcat transcends barriers to school Chinese audiences in American slang

By Kaitrin McCoy

Think you could define the term "oopsy" to a foreign friend?

What about "muffin top" or "cheesy"?

Jessica Beinecke, BSJ '08, is one cultural ambassador willing to translate these distinctly American phrases for Mandarin speakers.

As the host of the Voice of America Web series "OMG Meiyu," Beinecke teaches American slang and culture in short two- to three-minute segments to a Chinese audience.

Recent episodes have featured these phrases, as well as "you're a peach," "sweating bullets" and "booger" — which was defined during an episode titled "Yucky Gunk" that went viral, garnering millions of hits on Youku, the Chinese equivalent of YouTube.

Beinecke's approach of pairing lessons with lighthearted joking and pop music has made her something of an Internet sensation, with devoted followers and even a few copycats.

"If you asked me five years ago what I wanted to be doing, I certainly would not have even been able to fathom what's happening right now," says Beinecke. "Each year is just so much more exciting than the past year."

"OMG Meiyu" broadcasts online every day on YouTube and Twitter, and on their Chinese counterparts, Youku and Weibo. The show has more than 160,000 fans online.

Beinecke also hosts a monthly educational travel show broadcast on television in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. She's toured destinations across the United States and overseas in the United Kingdom all while providing English language lessons to her audience.

But "OMG Meiyu," which she describes as a "fun way to break down barriers and talk about language and culture," is the focus of her work — and a perfect fit for her, she adds.

Beinecke discovered her passion for Mandarin while studying public relations at Ohio University. A musician in high school, she abandoned her music study when she enrolled in the journalism school. "I was looking for a new outlet," she says. "I'd heard that Mandarin was a musical language and that really intrigued me."

She fell in love with the melodic nature of the language and vowed to dedicate her life's work to its study. And she means it: When she first graduated, she sought out only those job opportunities that involved the chance to work with Mandarin and plans on keeping that stipulation in the future.

One of the most exciting aspects of Beinecke's job is the "intense feedback" she receives from her fans. Her viewers watch and comment minutes after she posts a new episode, and her videos recently surpassed 5 million hits in only 3.5 months. It was a group of fans who created an app for iPhone and Android ("OMG Meiyu") that presents all of her videos in a simple list.

Beinecke takes her popularity among her Chinese audience very seriously. "I have a certain influence, and being a teacher, you need to honor their enthusiasm for you by creating lessons that will help them."

As her students might say, that's "rockin'."