So, at one point or another, we’ve all had a really strange teacher, the kind you still tell stories about long after your school days have ended. This new original Mandarin Companion story follows two students who are convinced their teacher is in fact a Martian. Far-fetched you might say? Well, if your teacher seemed to know more about Mars than anyone could possibly know, eats gargantuan meals in nanoseconds, and with your own eyes have seen him writing with both hands and reading at the same time, what might you think? If you think that is strange, wait till you see what else they discover!
When John and I were coming up with story ideas at the Breakthrough Level, the character for “fire,” 火 (huǒ), and for “star,” 星 (xīng), were on a sheet of possible characters we could use. Together, these characters form the Chinese word for Mars: 火星 (Huǒxīng). This brought back memories from elementary school when I had read a book titled “My Teacher is an Alien”. This provided the inspiration for this sci-fi story using the Chinese name of the fourth planet in our solar system and resulted in the birth of “My Teacher is a Martian”.
Once we had the story concept, we had to work through the plot, something that is quite challenging when you are working with only 150 characters. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives are in short supply and no sooner than you have a brilliant idea for the story, you quickly realize you don’t have the vocabulary to write it. We had to have the teacher engage in strange behavior without ever being able to use words to describe the behavior as “strange”. However, as we slowly trekked through the vocabulary-parched plot points, we found our path as the story began to take shape and come to life.
We were even able to test this story with a 7th grade Chinese dual-immersion class in Utah (shout out to ACYI Intermediate School). The story was so engaging that, for the sake of class discussion and activities, we had to ask the students to stop reading ahead at home! It generated memorable and lively discussion and the students even wrote very entertaining additional chapters to the story as part of a class assignments.
We hope that you enjoy this story! And for everyone for whom this is the first book you will have read in Chinese; welcome to the Mandarin Companion family! You’re in good company here and you’ll soon join the ranks of those who have read entire books in Chinese. You can do it!