Interview with Haiying Yang

Interview with Haiying Yang

I used to have bad insomnia back in my college days. Really bad. One of the few things besides melatonin gummies (they are magical) that could get me to sleep was ASMR videos. 
Back then the ASMR community was super small and nothing like it is today so it felt like I had found the lost city of Atlantis. That’s how I ran across Haiying. 
Even back then her videos were way different from what I was used to seeing on YouTube. So simple and relaxing but also informative. From travel to cooking to Chinese calligraphy, she had videos about nearly everything. I’ve been subbed for a little over 6 years now and I wanted to know about her. 
I reached out. And she said yes!
So I hope you enjoy one of the most relaxing interviews I’ve ever done haha. 
LeDonna: So to start out with, I like went way back. So like your first videos, and you’ve been on YouTube for 13 years. Which is like almost the beginning. So my first question is, how did you get started on YouTube? Like what made you want to start a YouTube channel?
Haiying: The very first is a private video. And that times YouTube started so I take picture, take make a video of my son. And I teach Chinese so I made a video of my son. And then there is a Yahoo group…people doing Chinese painting. And I see other people do painting I do not need to write so many. So I do a video. It’s a bamboo painting. Everything started from there from one subscriber to Yes.
LeDonna: Over time you’ve just kind of added more and more variety of videos so it might be hard to choose. But if you had to choose what are some of your favorite videos to make?
Haiying: I think something relaxing, or something, no goal. Just to put on the camera, you can see the cameras here. And everything ready, I do my things. It’s not stressed. This is something I like. Now I do not do cooking video, because every one stay at home. Kitchen is occupied. Sometimes when there’s nobody in the middle of the night, I do my things. And why not record it? There was not a particular goal to share something. No, no, it’s mostly for my own pleasure or health.
L: So as someone who kind of makes videos or made videos without like a real goal— you know, some people are like, “Oh, I want 50,000 subscribers. I want a silver plaque.” How has it been seeing so many people just like in love with your videos? Is that something you expected?
H: No. I I still do not understand. Because my family, they do not understand. My my children knows a bit. And if I tell my family back in China they will not understand. How can you be such a just not good looking so ordinary, so ordinary, nothing special.
And this one is something that I think maybe the cultural difference. My parents never say I look good. They have high expectation. And also, if you do not have things you strive to be better on other things. So if you have a good face, maybe you’ll get a good marriage or things. But if if you are short of things, you have to develop your own ability. So this is might be something behind—inside the cultural part.
So even now, people say “Oh, you’re married to your husband, you are lucky.” And I went back to China with my husband he’s French. When I go back to China, and raise my children people will say “…So you are the nanny of the kids.” So nobody could understand that something. So I feel I’m lucky in a lot of things from my parents, just they have done enough good karma. For me to just be lucky I. I am very grateful.
L: Personally, some of my favorite videos are the ones where you did the walks through the museums. So is it kind of like no, you don’t have a goal but do you just kind of decide ‘I’m going to start doing museum walks now’ or ‘I’m going to start doing some videos in French?’
H: Okay, so here is why I start making this video. So I start doing these randomly talking. It’s because I am stressed in class. There was one student talking about, yeah, I get that. I said, Today we do Zentangle or something quiet to do it. In art, there’s no mistake, so you do a lot of doodle. And then I start to doodle, doodle, each circle become a rose. So I say, when you calm down, anything you can make into art. So this is one of those videos. So by calming down myself. And also, ‘I am not good looking.’ ‘I am not talented, talented.’ Just to think. ‘I have nothing.’ The only thing what I can do is to do the better self. So I have a second life that I am the better self.
I do not curse, usually do not curse. So I have a second life that I am the better self. I do not curse, usually do not curse. So it’s usually I do not too bad words. That is one thing. And also, there is a chance you can be your dream person, why not be that dream person, and you want to be good. So I want to be good. And people also are very kind to me that encourage this good cycle of energy.
There was one lady she was she was homebound because of the health. So every time I make video, I think maybe I can let some people who do not travel to see it. So I have done a lot of those videos without gimbal, without anything. And it was very poor quality. Still people are interested because of just to see new place. So I started to be a little bit more serious. Gimbal I never bought, my husband bought [it]. Usually guys are more serious about the materials. Yeah. So that’s how I started.
woman wearing glasses and a purple mask in front of artwork at a museum
woman wearing glasses standing in front of a building and smiling
L: Some of my other favorite videos you’ve done are your travel ones. Like I know we can’t really travel much right now because of Corona. It’s just been very difficult for me. But, was there a specific inspiration for traveling because I know it’s not everyone’s thing. Did you have something that really inspires you when you travel?
H: I like to see different places. The big tourist attraction. It is interesting. But most interesting is the street. I have a habit: take a public bus from beginning to the end. It’s usually around the city, the more I traveled place. And put her camera just to see, without camera, myself seeing it, you see the people getting on off bus, talk. And it’s the most ordinary people. And in different country it’s different group of people. Because American’s mostly people have car. So different kinds of people in Europe, in China. And in places, public transportation is more developed. So you see all kinds of people you are in it. And it’s very real.
L: So you’ve got Chinese, of course, and you’ve got French. Are there any other languages that you know, or that you’ve thought about learning? Obviously, English.
H: I used to learn Portuguese because I lived in Brazil for six months. And it’s very interesting. I already started learning French, I already speak French. So it’s all in Latin language. There is something similar. So I understand a little bit.
As far as how many new language I want, I feel language is important in using it. So I use French, because I teach art class in one or two of the class in French. [That] is one of the motivation for me to learn French. And Chinese is my language. And other languages, Italian or or Spanish. It’s very musical. Interesting. But not yet. So as I teach language, I know how difficult it takes. And a lot of time you put so much energy, you just cannot get there. The result? The return in result? That’s significant, right?
L: I think my biggest question would be throughout all these videos that you make, what’s one thing that you want people to learn or take away about your culture? Chinese language, arts? What do you hope that people really kind of internalize from the videos that you give to us and show to us?
H: We are all people. You and I can be connected. Disregard of color. When the heart is connected, there is some universal truths, universal goodness. Not to be lazy, not to steal. Some very basic honesty. Some very basic value. No matter who you vote for, no matter which Bible you read, no matter which religion there is some universal truths. Humanity beyond everything. And another thing is about, be yourself.
Your weakness is your strengths. My white hair can become my strengths. And I’m not speaking perfect English with accent. There are people who likes it. You cannot be another person better be the best of yourself or be the most unique of yourself. If they want to see pretty lady they do not come to my channel. If they want to se a lady silly, and funny, and dance, cook everything together. So, do not try too hard. Just be yourself. When you be yourself and let other people see that everything is possible.
Even blind cat will not die of starvation. There is a way; heaven give every one of us a way. Just be yourself you will find your way and that is inspiration.
I had such a wonderful time talking with Haiying. I felt so calm but also really motivated afterward, haha.
If you’d like to see the full interview you can head over to her YouTube channel.  
Also support Haiying on Skillshare! She has multiple classes available on Chinese calligraphy, watercolor painting, and more. 

Learning a language in 2021

Black man studying

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2020 Recap

So…2020 is officially OVER!


Three copies of a man dancing one wearing red one wearing green and one wearing yellow


I know 2021 has already shown us that there are plenty of shenanigans to come but I don’t care. I just need last year to be in the rearview.

As far as language study, last year was definitely mostly me slacking. I’m gonna be honest, I just wasn’t in the headspace for it. Every time I woke up it felt like another thousand things on this planet were exploding. And parsing conjugations wasn’t high on my list of ways to cope.

The only thing I did semi-regularly was talking to my friend in Korea.

That being said, I miss it a lot. And now that I’ve said all that about what mostly didn’t happen last year, let’s get on to my plans for this year!

German Korean and Japanese flags

Language Focus

German – Maintain


If you’ve been around for a minute you know that German is my second language. I’ve been studying it for over half my life at this point so it’s always going to be a permanent fixture. While I feel my grasp on the language hasn’t slipped too much, I don’t use it nearly as much as I need to to keep it fresh in my mind.

So for 2021, I’ll be working on maintaining my German at the B2 level. My Virgo moon initially had me wanting to try and hit C1 by the end of the year but I’ve been working hard to tamp down on my perfectionism lately. There’s nothing wrong with making sure my foundation is as solid as can be before hopping up to the next level.


Korean – Advance


I want to kick my Korean up a notch and sit comfortably around the A2 level. I actually engage with Korean the most on a daily basis so I’m expecting to see the most progress here out of the three.

I’m fairly covered on speaking practice (thanks 언니 ^^), so I’ll be focusing more on writing and listening to bring them up to par.


Japanese – Begin […sort of]


I’ve actually studied Japanese before. Twice! Once my senior year of high school and the second time my senior year of college. College was very strange because I was in this weird middle ground between true beginner and high beginner. So of course I just took both classes simultaneously. Why am I like this? I still don’t know.

But I miss it. A LOT. I always said I would return to Japanese when I reach an intermediate level of Korean but that’s going out the window in 2021. It’s 日本語 time! I can’t freaking wait. 


Sidenote: I feel like I should add that the older I get the less I feel obligated to put so much emphasis on the CEFR levels.

They’re still a useful way to gauge where I am in my language learning process, but I’m more interested in my ability to use the language how I want. Yeah, I might be A1, but if I can hold a 15-minute conversation then that means more to me than anything else.


Textbooks black women having a conversation person holding a cellphone


Now, goals are all well and good yeah, but what am I going to use to actually accomplish them? Well, I’m glad you asked.




A few months back I discovered that I had hella italki credits on my account. I think my teacher at the time had to cancel the sessions I’d bought because she was working on her master’s thesis or something. Either way, there’s money chilling in there and I’m going to put it to good use.

Because I already have a friend in Korea that I speak with on a regular basis, I’ll only be using it for German and Japanese.

With Japanese, I’ll need an actual teacher, preferably one who provides their own materials.

My German is much stronger so I’ll be looking for a community tutor to have consistent conversations with. I need to get used to using it regularly again.




It’s no secret that I love textbooks. I know they’re not as flashy as apps (which I also love) but I feel so much more accomplished when I finish a textbook chapter!

I don’t know what kind of shenanigans go on with German textbooks but I’ve never had one. Ever. And I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for one. The best I can do is reference books. At this point, any textbook I’d find at B2 level would probably be mostly reading and writing anyway. I’ll just use articles on the interwebs and social media.

I have a plethora of Korean textbooks. I can feel you judging me. Don’t judge! They all do different things I swear. I prefer the Ewha set and plan to continue working out of those.

For Japanese, I technically have the Genki textbook. I bought it because that’s what we used when I learned in high school. It’s very much structured for classroom learning rather than solo learning but I think I can finesse it.




I also love apps but I’m starting to be more selective about which ones I use regularly. The main app I’ll be working through is Lingodeer. I did a review of the app last year. 

I’ve only tried it out for Korean so I’m excited to see how it approaches Japanese. Especially with Kanji. Originally I planned to only use it for those two but I might slide over to German occasionally as well. 




I need more German podcasts. I only have one that I listen to regularly and lowkey it’s been kind of depressing since it’s a travel-related podcast, haha. 

I’m on a true crime kick so if anyone has a favorite German-language podcast in the genre please let me know! And if all these apps and companies want to really do something unique, they can make it easier for us to find podcasts in our target language that aren’t just “Let’s learn this language!” 

If there’s anything last year showed me it’s that I don’t have to do all the things even though I desperately want to. While I won’t say I’ll never dabble in anything else this year, I’ll be keeping my focus on these core three languages. 

What about you all? Are you learning any new languages this year? Keeping up with some of the new ones from last year? 

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Sisters Only Language Summit Recap

Sisters Only Language Summit Recap

This past weekend we held the second Sisters Only Language Summit and it was everything we could have asked for. Obviously, it’s difficult to condense a whole day of programming but I’ll give it a shot. Let’s do a short recap!


Raising Multilingual Children with Tiara Harris aka Chocolate Sushi Roll

I don’t have any kids myself but a lot of our past attendees said they’d love to hear from mothers who are actively teaching their kids to be multilingual. Enter Tiara aka Chocolate Sushi Roll. She’s raising both of her children to be fluent in Japanese! Even though the presentation was focused on kids, I had a few takeaways for myself.

You can find more awesome videos about how she’s teaching her kids to be multilingual on her Youtube channel.


Total Immersion: How to Go from Absolute Beginner to Fluent Abroad with Shahidah Foster

If you’re a black woman in the language space then you’ve probably heard about Shahidah. Not only did she reach German fluency without formal teaching, but she was also able to reach her long-term goal of working abroad in Germany. Her presentation had excellent advice on how to get your language game up to par for making the transition.

You can find out more about her absolute amazingness at Black Girls Learn Languages.


Panel Discussion: How to Get started on your language learning journey.

One of our missions for the summit is “Expanding the Community of Multilingual Black Women.” And this includes women who don’t yet speak another language. Panelists spoke about their experiences getting started with language learning, as well as how being a Black woman specifically affected those experiences. It was much needed and you should definitely check them out:


Morenita mommy

Errol is a trilingual copywriter and translator who is raising her son trilingual in Spanish, English, and Japanese.


Speaking Tongues Pod 

Elle Charisse is the creator of Speaking Tongues Pod where she has conversations with multilinguals on varying topics.


Ethnic Ties

Acacia is the founder of Ethnic Ties, a company that offers personalized language and culture-based travel assistance for those who want to be prepared when going abroad.


African Language Presentations

Although many of us are learning European languages, there was a desire to highlight more languages from the African continent. And your presenters definitely delivered. I have a couple of lessons to book! We had presentations on:


Pamela Vera presented on Shona history and language.


You can learn Amharic with Yeabsira over on iTalki.


Glory presented on Swahili. She’s also knowledgeable about touring Tanzania!


Thando gave us a history of isiZulu. Definitely check out her Youtube where she gives tips on learning the language. You can also book a lesson with her!


Turn Your Language passion into profits with Tamara Marie

I was lucky enough to be present when Tamara first conceptualized Spanish Con Salsa and since then she’s grown it into something truly great. She dropped some priceless gems about building a business in the language space.

You can check her out at Learn Spanish Con Salsa and also take a minute to listen to her podcast!


Language proficiency test prep by……..Moi!

And finally, there was yours truly. I did a presentation on things you should do to prepare yourself for a proficiency test. I know the world is uncertain right now but if you wanted to certify for work or school then it’s the perfect time to get your studying in.


If you missed the summit live, (and you are a Black woman) you can still purchase recordings HERE.

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