China Simplified: Language Empowerment

China Simplified
Language Empowerment

By Stewart Lee Beck & Katie Lu

An entertaining journey to the heart of the Chinese language to deepen your understanding of China and its people. A must-read for anyone who wants to improve their Mandarin or cultivate better relationships with Chinese worldwide.

(This book replaces an earlier digital book titled Language Gymnastics. New cover, new title, and improved content – thanks for your feedback!)





Praise for China Simplified: Language Empowerment

"I suddenly feel as if the scales have been lifted from my eyes."
"It’s not a textbook; it’s just stuff you should know."
"Reveals insights that many teachers and textbooks overlook."
"I wish a book like this existed when I moved to China."


1 – The Sound of Somebody Falling Down
Why Mandarin is the easiest (and hardest) language in the world.

2 – A Picture’s Worth Ten Thousand Words
The mystical origin of characters and East/West perspectives.

3 – Embracing the Ambiguity
Exploring the hazy space between what is said and meant.

4 – Sorry, There Is No Chapter Four
Chinese superstitions at play in our daily lives.

5 – A Lifetime in Four Characters
Using idioms to capture an idea’s essence in an instant.

6 – Fish, Pearl, Coral, and Ocean Go Swimming
Stirring up trouble with dialects, topolects, and slips of the tongue.

7 – Never use the F-word
How to become more fluent than you ever imagined.

8 – We Let the Boss Die First
Stirring up trouble with dialects, topolects and slips of the tongue.

9 – The Lingua Franca of the 22nd Century
Will we all be speaking Chinese in the near future?


China Simplified: Stewart Lee Beck

Stewart Lee Beck


Stew has conducted business in China since the early 1990s and finds its people and culture endlessly fascinating. He cofounded Grassroots Productions in 2008, specializing in documentary and corporate video production. Stew refers to his Malaysian Chinese wife as “the crazy woman who keeps me sane.”

China Simplified: Katie Lu

Katie Lu


Katie is a native Chinese who dreams in English. She runs two businesses: PITT Services (translation and training) and EnglishPlus (children’s English learning). Katie and her team have taught hundreds of struggling and genius language students alike.

  • Every Chinese language teacher knows that language and culture are inextricably intertwined, but most Chinese language textbooks tend to dwell more heavily on the mechanics of the language. Chinese linguistics writings tend to altogether ignore practical applications. With humor and clarity, Language Empowerment weaves together rich cultural and linguistic background information of the Chinese language with practical implications for daily communication. This book is entertaining and informative for both beginning and advanced Chinese language students.

    Michael Volz

    Chinese Program Coordinator, University of Missouri – Columbia
  • China Simplified is by NO means a dumbing-down of China, it is a delightfully insightful speeding up of a topic everyone should know something about! I spent my entire adult life living what Stew and Katie were able to convey in a remarkably few pages. Absolutely brilliant... leaves you wanting more! 

    Andrew Ballen

    CEO/Founder at AVD Digital Media
  • I wish a book like this existed when I moved to China. China Simplified does an excellent job demystifying what can often feel like an impenetrable place.

    Dan Washburn

    Chief Content Officer, Asia Society, and author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
  • China Simplified: Language Empowerment does a great job of covering the basic practical aspects of the language in an entertaining, readable way. It’s not a textbook; it’s just stuff you should know. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a useful but lighthearted take on the enigma that is modern China; this is a book they’ll actually be able to get through.

    John Pasden

    Founder and CEO, AllSet Learning
  • China Simplified's new Language Empowerment book is one of the best Chinese language books out there. It breaks down all the barriers that hold people back from getting into studying Chinese with great flair and humour. Each chapter taught me something cool and interesting about why the Chinese language (and people) are the way they are- things I never knew after 20 years of studying the language and calling myself "fluent".

    Kevin O'Connell

    General Manager, China Operations at Standard Products Inc.
  • China Simplified: Language Empowerment is a highly readable and accessible introduction to the Chinese language through the eyes of a foreigner, whose great affection for the language, respect for its beauty, and enthusiasm for its study is both evident and infectious. The light-hearted style and humorous examples illustrate perfectly the complexity of the language, and the satisfaction that can be enjoyed in attempting to master it.

    Louise Goss-Custard

    former Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates China
  • I love China Simplified. What I would have given for this no nonsense, elegantly simple advice on China when I was there.

    Louise Ardagh

    General Manager Business Development Retail, Bankwest
  • Stewart Lee Beck’s terrific book Language Empowerment is a funny, highly useful, and thoughtful exploration of the intersection between China’s language and culture. Learning to navigate Mandarin or any of China’s dialects will give you an unparalleled access to the culture and daily lives that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I highly enjoyed the book, laughing out loud frequently, and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone planning on spending time in China!

    Adam Lewis

    Strategic Advisor at Postvid Ltd
  • China Simplified takes seemingly intimidating and incomprehensible pieces of Chinese culture and makes them easy and fun. For someone with a thirst for learning about things Chinese, this series is a great entry point. Enjoy!

    Joe Tatelbaum

    former Vice President at Li & Fung, China resident since 1982
  • When I first started studying Chinese, nothing prepared me for how I should structure my study. So I wasted years trying a bunch of methods and generally experimenting. Katie & Stewart have done a great job of pulling together all the best ideas that are shared by China lifers and putting them in a book. It’s fun, but you’ll also be far better prepared for the challenge ahead.

    Owen Caterer

    Partner, Caterer Goodman Partners
  • After living in China almost 10 years, there is nothing that scares me more then another China book written by a laowai who thinks he/she knows the secret to this land. Language Empowerment is anything but this. It is ridiculously funny, uncomfortably accurate and totally memorable!

    Grant Horsfield

    Founder, naked Group
  • This book should be required reading for every foreigner before getting on the plane to China.

    Miao Jun

    former HR Director, Asia-Pacific, Milliken, Inc.
  • Fun and creative way to learn the essentials of Chinese culture and its language! A must read for anyone going to China and/or Asia for the first time. They teach you useful lessons you won’t find in traditional language books.

    Viki Ng

    Market Strategist, NYC
  • I suddenly feel as if the scales have been lifted from my eyes. You truly demonstrate how understanding the language can unveil so much about the culture. And in China, one’s need to understand both is so critical and will be even more so as Chinese culture begins to affect the world.

    Carol Potter

    Executive Vice Chairman at Edelman
  • China Simplified is funny, informative and provides insights on a diverse range of topics on the Chinese language, history, culture and much more! It’s a refreshing and authentic approach to skilling up people who are interested in doing business or living in China.

    Ashley Ng

    Manager, Asia strategy, Brisbane Marketing
  • After more than a decade of studying, China Simplified reminds me of what I love about the language, and has brought me new insights on the beauty of Chinese. All while giving me some good laughs.

    Elizabeth de Gramont

    Managing Partner at C Space Jigsaw
  • Language Empowerment delivers an insightful account of Chinese language learning and immersion in a delightfully witty and honest way. It is approachable to anyone from any cultural background, and will resonate with different intentions of understanding the Chinese language.

    Li Wen

    Consumer Insights Manager China
  • Language Empowerment is a great primer to understand the Chinese through their language. You get the fascinating things, while sideswiping the rote tedium. An ideal entry point for the student or foreigner coming to terms with China and the Chinese.

    William Hund

    Co-Founder, Tradesparq
  • When you learn Mandarin, you realise there is a lot more going on than memorising words and grammar. You are also learning to understand a culture and get exposed to new way of thinking and expressing yourself. Stewart Lee Beck and Katie Lu help you understand why this is, and why it's so much fun.

    Fiona Cameron

    Market Researcher, 15 years Asia Experience
  • Finally, a book I can recommend to my clients thanks to the amazing CS team. The cultural insights and creative examples are so memorable that I laughed today when I found myself in a similar situation.They've cracked the code -- China Simplified demystified Mandarin for me and now, many of my clients. Thank you!

    Mary Rezek

    Founder & Principal Consultant, Saatori, Ltd.
  • Language Empowerment is a well-written and entertaining guide to Chinese language and culture, revealing insights that many teachers and textbooks overlook. It should be recommended reading not only for language students, but also for anyone else who wants to understand how Chinese people think, act and talk.

    Olle Linge

    Mandarin Language Educator, Founder Hacking Chinese
  • Highly entertaining and useful to navigate the challenges of China! If you ever have spent any time in the middle kingdom you have to read this book!

    Peter Chiang

    General Manager, IMER Shanghai
  • I haven't read their book yet, but I'm sure it's great.

    Bryan Marsh

    Managing Director, CPS Ltd.
  • A lively and original approach to navigating the bottomless mysteries of Chinese language and culture. Stewart Lee Beck is a knowledgeable guide on how to understand China better, and how to have fun along the way.

    David Brooks

    Chairman Coca-Cola Greater China & Korea
  • I am encouraging my local Chinese friends to read it to understand how to more effectively relate to non-Chinese speakers. The personalisation and empathy of the writing really helps deliver some heavy learnings without the reader feeling laborious. The combination of perspectives from Katie, a local linguist in a cross-cultural marriage, and Stewart, an American who has immersed himself in the Chinese culture for over two decades, is what sets this book apart from others. Totally authentic.

    Christine Ng

    Managing Director, BBH China
  • I've interacted with the Chinese all my life albeit the Malaysian ones. This book captures the subtle nuances and complexity of the Chinese language and culture- but the examples and humor help trancend any barrier or fear one might have of experiencing China. A definite must-read!

    Sita Subramony

    Co-Founder, Switch Up Sdn Bhd
  • Language Empowerment is a lot of fun to read, and flows really well with the mix of information and humour. Your tone makes it feel like we are all world speakers who can mix languages, something I wish I felt back when I was learning Japanese in the olden days. Can't wait to reread and read more!

    Douglas Shanefield

    Vice President at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, Ltd.
  • Implementation is still one of the more difficult things in China, ask any of the multinationals who spend millions on marketing plans. You have done it, awesome! Your book shows how language does indeed offer a key to the gates of China. It will make people feel like an Old China Hand in a flash!

    Rudi Messner

    CEO, Cedar Essentials
  • A great preliminary read for non-Chinese speakers to break into the culture and language! I can comfortably carry this around China in lieu of a phrasebook. The authors’ wit and banter certainly carried me through until the very last page of the book.

    Amanda Tedjamulja

    Chinese Language Student
  • Having lived in China for nearly 20 years, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the book. The authors grasp very well that their audience varies from expert Mandarin speakers to total newbies - well done!

    Mark Secchia

    Founder, Sherpa's Food Delivery Company
  • Insightful, comprehensive & witty. This work explains the mysteries and nuances of the Chinese language and culture. Written in an easy to understand conversational tone, it should be required reading for any Westerner planning a visit or a move to China.

    Michael Colozzi

    17-year China veteran
  • An entertaining and simple insight into Chinese culture and language! A great introduction for anyone interested in deepening their understanding in a fun and amusing way.

    Patrick Donnelly

    Chinese Language Student
  • An entertaining and easy read with a twist of humor. I've learned quite an interesting and enlightening cache of information about the country, its people and its language from a non-native speaker. Good job!

    Paul Chin

    Managing Director, Bacardi China
  • A book filled with wit, insight, and joy regarding the Chinese language. Stewart’s deep appreciation for the Chinese culture, history, and people shines brilliantly forth from each page as he affectionately and with great self-deprecation takes us on a stirring journey into the mysteries, wonders, and intricacies of the Chinese language and the people it reflects.

    Richard C. Lin

    Korn/Ferry International
    Managing Director, Taiwan
    Senior Client Partner, Shanghai