about john patrick | 万吉平

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I was born and raised in Olympia, Washington.  I went to University of Washington in Seattle, and after that, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  I concentrated on foreign language pedagogy, first and second language acquisition, and minimalist syntax.

I’ve studied abroad in Avignon, France; Rome, Italy; Antigua, Guatemala; and most recently in Hangzhou, China.

For the past 8 years, I was a Spanish teacher and campus minister at a Jesuit high school in Seattle. Now I’m moving to Shanghai, China to work for a company developing online study material for people learning Spanish.

The posts previous to September 2007 have been imported from my previous blogs you don’t have to read and China Trippin’. I’ve decided to move to wordpress.com because it’s easier to use in China.

This blog is just a journal. Sometimes I tell stories, but mostly I just take pictures of my food, worry about diabetes, and complain about my life. This new blog will probably be about the wonders and challenges of my new life in Shanghai.  I hope you enjoy it.

john patrick | 万吉平


It’s 2010. I was in China for about 2 years, working at SpanishPod. Now I’m in living in Battery Park City Manhattan, working in Midtown at Spanishpod101.


It’s almost the end of 2010.  I was downsized from Spanishpod101, but months before I had applied for teaching jobs.  The best offer was from… wait for it… the Jesuit high school I used to teach at before I went to China!  So I took the summer off in Las Vegas, with the folks, and then when school started I moved back to Seattle.  So now I’m back to my old life; same office, same townhouse… it’s almost like I never left.  I hope this goes well!


It’s the fall of 2015. In a lot of ways, my 2nd round of high school teaching was nice; I got to live in Seattle again, I got to teach Chinese, I was finally making grown-up money, and there was a renovation at the school that made my work day better:  an office with a million dollar view, a pretty swanky classroom of my own, etc.  But in the end the workload was piled on to me in a way that I thought was inequitable, and I didn’t have time to take care of myself.  It was miserable.  Others suggested that I take my professional standards down a notch, an idea that was an anathema to me… but in the end, my students were getting fewer carefully crafted speaking and learning opportunities, and more worksheets. When I saw that there was no end in sight, I left.

I took the summer vacation I always wanted to:  six weeks in the Philippines with extended family and daily Tagalog lessons.  And then I reported to work in Glendale, California, where I work in an office, developing language learning activities for an online early learning website.

I never thought I’d be in LA.  But here I am!  Let’s see where this new path takes me.

From Me

Update IV

It’s the fall of 2017.  I left that corporate job in LA after 10 months of boredom.  I was getting a nice paycheck but not doing the project they had hired me to do, and not helping anyone learn language.  I had to leave.

I took a job at a Jesuit high school in the Coachella Valley, teaching Spanish initially, but now I’m building a Mandarin Chinese program too. I’m actually teaching AP Spanish Language and Culture, which is something I’ve been against for most of my career, but here I am doing it for money.  I’m still annoyed with the corporate aspect of it, but it’s gratifying to teach people how to be good students and get good results.

California is weird to me and I’m not a Californian. I’ll stay here as long as the job works out for me, it might be years or decades before I move again, I don’t know. If I stay, it will be because they have allowed me to build a strong Mandarin program.

I’m going to write a memoire, a collection of short stories from my adventures, which illustrate how I’ve become a multilingual as an adult.  When people who know me from SpanishPod hear this, they are often enthusiastic.  When people who know me from my work in the classroom hear this, I see a curtain of boredom fall over their gaze. Not sure what to make of it.  I know a bunch of people who are not multilingual, and honestly I’m not sure why they’d want to stay that way. In any case, I have to keep believing that what I have to say is interesting and worth telling.  After that, book deal, media pundit, disposable income, etc.  Wish me luck.

36 thoughts on “about john patrick | 万吉平

  1. Hi JP, nice blog!

    I was checking out SpanishPod and listening to some episodes just about an hour ago. Then I came online and accidentally found you from Kelly’s blog. Man, you are real!

    I like SpanishPod much more than its predecessor. Keep up the good work!

    BTW, I was told that you cannot access YouTube in China. Or can you?


  2. hi jp!
    wow you guys from cpod are just awesome wish i could be like you. i love writing and i love learning a different language wehter its the third of fourth just want you to know you guys inspire people like me so keep going! God Bless


    • Hi Edd, I was in China for 2 years, and now I’m back in the USA. Although I was so glad to be back, I did pick up some ex-pat habits, like getting massages, having a cleaning lady, getting clothes tailored… stuff that we don’t do in the US that I’m finding hard to live without. Well, maybe not hard, but I definitely learned to appreciate the luxury.


  3. Nice to know u. I don’t know whether you understand what I said because my English is poor. well. I heard that you can speak 7 cuntries’ language .So surprised to me.


  4. Hi JP,
    I like your Spod shows, you and Lilian performed great there! I have got all newbie and elementary audios, shows, dialogs and pdf’s (don’rt ask me how). I plan to listen to a new show every day and then to repeat each dialog every 1-3-7-30 days. This way I plan to learn enough to communicate with my Cuban friend face to face. Do you think it will work? I know to start speaking is difficult even if you can understand absolutely all what is said. And I am surprised why nobody offers the tools similar to what AJ Hodge made in English, mini stories with questions, pauses and correct answers.
    take care


    • Hi Alexei,
      Thanks for coming to my blog!

      Let me know how your plan works! I think some people like to listen to a dialog repeatedly until they feel they’ve mastered it, before moving on to the next one. But I’m not sure if there’s a wrong way to use the audio, as long as you’re enjoying it. It’s meant to be entertaining, so if a dialog or podcast doesn’t interest you, just move on; there are hundreds more!

      Listen, no matter what anyone tells you, no one product is going to teach you to speak/understand/read/write/be culturally competent. SpanishPod is a well-crafted listening comprehension tool, and can help you with your vocabulary. People report that after six months of using it, their listening comprehension improves drastically.

      You get good at what you practice doing. So if you listen to SpanishPod, your listening comprehension will improve, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your speaking, reading, or writing will improve… in order for those skills to improve, you have to practice them!

      As for other language learning products…. it’s not as easy as you might think to make a product that has a) high instructional value, and b) high entertainment value. Many products are made by instructors who have no idea how irritating they are, or entertainers who don’t know how to teach. Actually, more often, products are made by business and/tech people who have poor knowledge of instruction or entertainment at all, but they know that people are desperate to learn, so they’re quit to sell them their garbage.

      Me, I’m used to handling the instruction/entertainment side of things; but if you can put me in touch with someone with a head for business and tech, let me know! I’d be happy to put something new out there.

      Thanks again for coming by and happy listening!


  5. Hello JP,
    I’l very curious about your use of WordPress in China, it’s supposed to be censored by the Chinese governement, so do you have any tips to use/have access to it from China? Thanks!


    • Hi Ash,
      I moved to China in 2007, and switched from blogger to wordpress because at the time wordpress was not blocked. After a while they blocked wordpress too, and I ended up posting by email. Around that time people started following free vpns, to get around the firewall. Nowadays, I think the expats in china just pay for vpns, as they are more reliable than the free ones that were always getting shut down. The last I heard, wordpress was totally unblocked in china, but that may have changed. They have robots that scour the internet for key words, and if the find something offensive they shut down or slow down access to the whole domain. I left China in mid 2009. Hope that helps!


  6. You know what sucks, not finding your blog earlier. Came here through Google+. Think you added me using the Chinese language circle that got shared some time back.

    Instantly dig your blog! In my RSS reader already.


  7. Dear John,

    You haven’t heard from me before. I’m the Language Marketing and Publicity Coordinator at Tuttle Publishing. If you have not heard of Tuttle, we have been producing quality language books since 1948 and are a market leader for Chinese language study books.

    I have identified You Don’t Have to Read 2.0 as a prominent online organization and would like to ask you if you would be willing to review one or more books for us. Language learners truly listen to the opinions of important online personalities, like you. I believe we have some great Chinese books and would love to hear your opinion.

    Please let me know what you think. My email address is below.

    Best regards,


  8. JP I just tweeted at you but thought I’d try here too: the stuff you made for SpanishPod is without equal and you (and your dynamic with the native Spanish speaking hosts) were my favorite thing(s) about it. Not only is it super high quality, but you guys were SO prolific! Just want you to know that it really made and is making a difference in my Spanish acquisition and that I fantasize about you starting your own podcast with the old gang somehow again. Maybe one about multi-lingualism in general.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Joe for the kind words. I will be updating this about me page soon with some more exciting adventures in language learning and teaching, I hope you’ll stay tuned!


  9. Hola, JP. I’m very happy I’ve found you here – it has been a pleasure listening to you and Liliana discussing Spanish grammar y la palabra clave! I enjoy your humour and voice and interaction between you two. Pity it did not continue and I’m sorry about your working conditions back there. If ever there is a chance to hear you somewhere again, please let me know, you are addictive y te hecho de menos! Abrazos desde Francia.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey man! I think I’ve sampled just about every Spanish podcast out there, and definitely Pa’ Que Sepas and Q&A Spanish are the most enjoyable, and the most helpful, I’ve found. Are you doing anything similar currently and I just haven’t been able to find you? If not, is there any chance you will again sometime soon? A similar style and format, but perhaps longer, and specifically geared towards upper-intermediate/advanced learners, would really be fucking awesome!


    • Thanks Aaron! Sorry to say I’m not podcasting anymore, just teaching full time. My next project is to write a memoire of becoming multilingual; we’ll see where that takes me. Good luck! 🙂


  11. I’m so happy to have found your blog! I loved your old podcasts, the way you taught and explained Spanish. As a Mexican, I yearned for Spanish teachers like you in grade and high school. I was wondering why it was becoming gradually more difficult to find content from the Spanish pod team, not knowing all the background story. I just happened to recently Google one day, and I found your blog! I am becoming bilingual as an adult, and I am blown away at how much my brain is working and how my thoughts and perspective have expanded as a result of having more words to describe the human experience. I couldn’t agree more with you about being clueless to why someone would want to stay monolingual. Thank you so much for your Spanish resources! I definitely trust them coming from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, it’s so cool to be a polyglotte (as we say in French) – and you can learn a new language anytime in your life, it’s not true that it’s only possible when you’re young. I like how it unfolds – first, you just get the melody of it, then a few separate words, then you kind of guess the context from some key words, then you get the structure, tenses, phrases, the bricks and the cement so to speak, then you understand more than you can speak and finally,one day, you wake up and it comes out naturally and fluently. Bonne chance et que la plume soit légère! (good luck with your writings).


  12. hey JP. I was listening to Spanish pod for about a year up until April or whenever it just disappeared. So disappointing. You and Liliana did a fantastic job with beginner and intermediate. Since then, I’ve looked online for something as good as that to continue my Spanish, but nothing comes close. the other resources are way too English-based and the speakers a bit annoying in many cases. Anyway, would love to somehow see you guys reunited and doing spanish pod again. btw, I lived in Beijing for many years and back in the day used chinesepod at the beginning of the neverending mandarin journey. Was always solid. Were chinesepod and spanishpod affiliated?


    • Hi Tommattessi, thanks for the kind note. I’m sorry to hear that my podcasts have disappeared! I’d love to make another podcast but I don’t see it in the cards. SpanishPod and the others were all spin-offs of ChinesePod, all in the same office. Thanks for listening!


  13. Hi JP, stumbled my way here because your podcasts (Spanishpod — or was it called Open Language at that time?) were my salvation when I started re-learning Spanish in 2015, due to the personalities and pedagogical abilities of you and your fellow hosts. I see you had some trouble with the company or other podcasts you have worked on. But know that there were silent students out there who have appreciated your work! Wondering what podcast you are doing now, if any, and I wish you the best working on your memoir. Multilingualism and pedagogy do interest some of us out here! Best wishes from a fellow learner and writer. (PS I study both advanced Spanish and beginner’s Mandarin.)


  14. Hey, so just wanted to let you know that SpanishPod lessons were incredibly valuable to me, and are about 80% of the reason that I’m now fluent in Spanish. I listened to them all throughout high school and have since graduated college and work as a bilingual paralegal interviewing witnesses in Spanish. What you have to say is definitely interesting. I always appreciated your personality and your dedication to teaching! Thank you so much! You and Esti (and everyone else at the SpanishPod team) have helped so many people, including me!


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