My Teacher is a Martian
BREAKTHROUGH LEVEL (150 unique characters)
Two students are fascinated by outer space, but when their new teacher seems to know more about Mars than anyone could possibly know, they start to suspect that something is unusual. As they encounter inexplicable events, they become convinced their teacher is actually from Mars. How can they prove it and who will believe them? They may be the only ones who can discover the truth!
Any learner that has managed to learn 150 Chinese characters knows it is not an easy task, and the prospect of reading a real text in Chinese seems discouragingly far off. Typically textbook dialogs are the only reading material available for years on end. That’s why being able to read an actual story with only 150 Chinese characters is a very big deal, and a huge help to the fluency development of early-stage learners.
The stories told at this 150-character Breakthrough Level are special, however. Nouns, verbs amd adjectives at this level are in short supply, and the stories revolve around the limited vocabulary by necessity. This is why Breakthrough Level stories are not adaptation of western classics. They are original stories co-written by John Pasden and Jared Turner, specifically designed to be engaging to readers despite the limitations.
When John and Jared were generating story ideas at the Breakthrough Level, the character for “fire,” ⽕ (huǒ), and for “star,” 星(xīng), were on a sheet of possible characters to be used. Together, these characters form the Chinese word for Mars: ⽕星 (Huǒxīng), and set off the quest to create a sci-fi story using the Chinese name of the fourth planet in our solar system. Jared recalled reading a story called “My Teacher is an Alien” in his youth, which provided the inspiration for a story about two Chinese elementary school students who suspect their teacher is, in fact, from Mars. From this genesis of an idea, the Mandarin Companion story My Teacher is a Martian was born. For those who can read this book at an enjoyable pace, you are already well on your way towards progressing to the Level 1 stories.
P.S. There are two “Mandarin Companion Universe” and two sci-fi easter eggs hidden in the illustrations of this book. Can you find them?
The following is a list of the characters from The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng in Chinese followed by their corresponding English names from this original story. There are, of course, other characters in the story besides these, but many do not have exact correspondences to the original. The names below aren’t translations; they’re new Chinese names used for the Chinese versions of the original characters. Think of them as all-new characters in a Chinese story.
- 谢心月(Xiè Xīnyuè) Xie Xinyue
- 马天明(Mǎ Tiānmíng) Ma Tianming
- 车老师(Chē Lǎoshī) Mr. Che
- 方老师(Fāng Lǎoshī) Ms. Fang
- 水老师(Shuǐ Lǎoshī) Mr. Shui
- 星星 xīngxing n. star, stars
- 火星 Huǒxīng pn. Mars
- 每次 měi cì phrase every time
- 就 jiù adv. just
- 时候 shíhou n. when
- 已经 yǐjing adv. already
- 回来 huílai vc. to come back
- 拿 ná v. to get, to hold
- 门边 mén biān phrase by the door
- 里面 lǐmiàn n. inside
- 一边 yībiān conj. while (doing)
- 可能 kěnéng adv. maybe
- 这样 zhèyàng pr. like this
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