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SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon for Mandarin. It’s What Marco Polo Wishes He’d Had

Thank you for your interest in the SilverSpoon program. SilverSpoon 1.0 has been discontinued and will no longer be offered in any form. It is replaced by SilverSpoon 7.0: Neutrino, the new SilverSpoon. For more information on Neutrino, please visit the Neutrino main page.

You deserve better.

I don’t really think that. But it totally sounded like the kind of thing that would stroke your ego. So I said it.

I’ll tell you what I do really think, though.

Classes suck. It’s a fact. I know it. You know it. We all know it.

But they have their strengths. They do. That’s also a fact.

In class, all you have to do is show up. Someone else makes the tough choices. Someone else makes all the important decisions. They decide both strategy and tactics. They even handle scheduling for you. They have the big and small picture in their heads, and they give it to you piece by piece. You just kick back and do your part.

So what’s the problem?

Well, at least three things.

  • They suck.
  • They have crappy taste in, like, everything.
  • They bore you to effing death.
  • They don’t take responsibility for the results.
  • They inculcate you with fear and low expectations: they literally destroy your self-efficacy
  • You could do every little boring thing they say to do in a class and still not know any real Mandarin. And what happens? “Well, Mandarin is Asian and hard”, they say. The old “bait and switch”.

Bollocks. That’s bollocks.

You deserve better.
I mean it this time.

Let’s play a game of “what if”.

What if you could have all the benefits of a Mandarin class with none of the drawbacks?

What if learning a language could be a series of short, fun, refreshing sprints, rather than some long, drawn-out endless marathon?

What if learning a language for real — to fluency, to high-level proficiency — could have a clear, meaningful, reachable, specific endpoint?

What if someone could tell you, down to the day, when you would be fluent, and then lead you every step of the way the way there, and make sure you actually got there, just like a physical roadtrip?

It took me 18 months to get to the point in Japanese where I could function like an adult — read documents, talk about technical stuff, do job interviews, all in Japanese. Now, Mandarin isn’t Japanese, but being as it is that Japanese inherited its writing system and almost half its words from Chinese, I think you’ll agree that it’s close enough 😛 . The principle is the same.

We Know You’re The Prince of Japanese Tennis, But What Qualifies You To Handle Mandarin Balls?

I’ve achieved good results in Mandarin as well. Because my real time playing Mandarin has been less than for Japanese, I don’t go around getting confused for a native speaker that often. But I do all kinds of grown-up stuff; I call the Taiwanese Embassy 1 and Amazon China Customer Service and conduct business over the phone in Mandarin. I speak to immigration at the airport in Mandarin; I flirt with male hotel staff…which is particularly awkward because…inevitably neither of us swing that way and, like, how many extra bath towels do you really need, right? My accent is described as neutral (standard) during the day, Taiwanese in the evening and…Hong Kongish at night.

I am not better than you. I am not smarter than you. Anyone could do it.

So why doesn’t everyone do it?

Two words.

Tortoise Math

Tortoise math.

Smart, perfectionistic people cannot do tortoise math.

Tortoise math isn’t normal math. Tortoise math is the math of tortoises — you know, the kind that race hares.

The ability to do tortoise math and the ability to do regular math are completely unrelated.
Tortoise math requires a level of faith and emotional silence that you don’t have time for right now.

Smart people can’t do tortoise math.

You can’t do tortoise math. You’re too smart. You’re too clever. You’re too quick on your feet. You’re too emotionally unstable. Too perfectionistic.

Emotions. You feel lost. You feel overwhelmed. You don’t know if what you’re doing is right or even effective. And because the more you know the more you know you don’t know, you start to feel like you’ll never get there. You lose hope. You give up.

Emotions lead to a loss of momentum. And when you don’t have momentum, you have nothing. Loss of momentum kills the entire process of becoming awesome at Mandarin.

Let me repeat myself.

You haven’t had trouble becoming awesome at Mandarin because you’re not smart enough. You’ve had trouble learning Mandarin because you’re too smart. You use your intelligence to defeat yourself. I’m not just trying to flatter you here (I am kinda; this is sales copy; I’m trying to suck up to you to in order to sell you something; that’s just fact).

You’re too smart for your own good. You’re too smart to see and appreciate the blindingly small and obvious, because the small and the obvious are too small and too obvious to be intellectually interesting to you. You’re too smart to focus your energy; you’re too smart to do tortoise math.

You’re like Cyclops from X-Men. You have laser eyes. And your laser eyes (=mental power) are shooting death beams of powerful, misdirected energy all over the room and your life.

That’s why I’ve made you a visor. I want you to have this visor. I want you to have this thing that will focus your figurative laser eyes — your energy — onto the one teeny, tiny thing you need to right now.

I’m not smart like you are. I’m simple. I’m slow on the uptake. I do tortoise math. I do the obvious. And now I’m going to do tortoise math for you, so you don’t have to.

Learning Mandarin is a matter of engineered inevitability. It is the inevitable result of heading in a certain direction. Like an idiot.

The problem is, you don’t have the time and faith to engineer inevitability for yourself. And you’re too smart to stay focussed. You’re not stupid 2 enough.

So I’ve gone and done the focussing and engineering for you. Because I am stupid enough.

  • Are you afraid of Chinese?
  • Are you intrigued but intimidated by the Chinese writing system?
  • Have you been brainwashed to think that you could never be literate in Chinese?
  • Are you inspired by all the information on AJATT but unsure how to start and what to actually do?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by all the things going on in your life?
  • Are all these effing questions starting sound like a Xanax commercial?
  • Do you wish that someone could be there for you every step of the way, like a parent or big brother or Mr. Miyagi?
  • Do you wish someone else would do all the worrying and big-picture thinking and planning and strategizing for you?
  • Do you want the security of knowing you’re doing stuff that actually works, that you’re on the right track? Every day? Until you’re fluent? No leaving you alone?
  • Do you wish you could abdicate responsibility of handling the structure and scheduling of your learning, while enjoying the freedom of choosing the content?
  • Are you overloaded with good ideas but underloaded with action?
  • Do you just want clear, simple, straightfoward, easy directions and validation?
  • Do you want someone who won’t bait and switch on you, who’ll take responsibility for your fluency, for getting you there?

If that sounds like you, then maybe you need to be spoonfed. Maybe you need SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin.

Hold on a sec, though. Before I even tell you what SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin is, first, let’s get something out of the way.

Who Shouldn’t Sign Up For SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin

People who:

  • Brew their own beer as a matter of principle
  • Write their own operating systems for religious reasons
  • Sew their own clothes because buying clothes is decadent
  • Just generally like doing stuff without any help from anyone
  • Hate everything
  • Aren’t willing to let go and let Khatz (WTF?) 😛

Again, I’m only sucking up to you so hard right now because this is a product, okay? So if the idea of buying stuff offends you, please, stop reading this right now. It only gets worse from here.

Besides, not everyone is cut out for being spoonfed. And that’s fine. That’s mmm kay. Here. Here’s a hyperlink that takes you somewhere else.

OK. So I see you’re still here. Maybe you’re interested in finding out what this is. But, again, just to be sure let’s make sure you’re a good fit for this.

Who Should Sign Up For SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin

People who are:

  • Scared
  • Intimidated
  • Overwhelmed
  • Busy
  • Smart
  • Dilligent
  • Serious
  • Perfectionistic
  • Obsessive
  • Erratic
  • Disorganized
  • Inconsistent
  • Undisciplined
  • Don’t even know where or how to begin
  • Have had several failed attempts at learning Mandarin — keep starting and stopping, binging and purging (“bulimic learning”)three-day monk syndrome
  • Get overwhelmed easily
  • Use Mac or Windows
    • Use Linux as a tool rather than a religion
  • Have fast, reliable Internet access (duh 😛 )
  • Have $150~$250 a month available for purchasing:
    • Mandarin media (books, music, movies, TV shows) and
    • tools (electronic dictionary, extra mp3 player, etc.)

If you’re not most of those things, then SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin probably isn’t for you. It isn’t. I wish it were, but it’s not. Don’t waste your time reading the rest of this. Go do the other stuff you had planned for today.

OK, so it looks like you’re still here. It looks like you might really, really be SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin type. Let’s tell you what it is then.

So What is SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin Anyway?

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin is a thing that spoonfeeds you. I don’t know how much more simple I can make it than that 😀

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin doesn’t just tell you what to do and then leave you hanging. SilverSpoon sticks with you. Like…a smothering, overprotective suburban mother. Wait, no…bad. Anyway…

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin is designed to take you to Mandarin fluency painlessly, straightfowardly and with ruthless, engineered inevitability. It takes all the ideas you’ve read and heard about here on AJATT and breaks them down into tiny, simple, straightforward, delicious, daily chunks. Every day, it feeds you just one day-sized bag of chunks.

You don’t have to worry about the big picture any more. SilverSpoon does the worrying for you, chunking and scheduling everything from when and which hanzi to learn, to learning how to use an SRS, and even down to your media and equipment purchases.

SilverSpoon is AJATT sliced, systematized, streamlined, bagged and delivered to you on a platter. And then spoonfed to you. It combines the best electronic tools available with original proprietary software, specialized content and diabolically effective techniques from behavioral psychology. It is as close to putting everything in one proverbial box as the world has ever come. It is the AJATT you always wanted.

That’s right.
SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin will make you fluent in Mandarin in 695 days. 695 days. That’s just 99 weeks.

“But what does ‘fluent’ even mean?”, some people say. Come on. Come now. We all know what “fluent” means. It means “awesome”. It means functioning like an adult. Reading, talking, watching, listening and writing to people who matter to you, on subjects that matter to you. It means you can read a random newspaper article aloud and understand a random TV show and talk to a random person on the phone.

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin will make you fluent in Mandarin in 695 days. It will take you there. All you have to do is sign up, empty your mind, and do ridiculously easy things. Thinking, planning and worrying? That’s SilverSpoon’s job.

In a way, it’s kinda sorta almost like a course, except not gay (that’s Swahili for “Black Jewess”, by the way).

It would be easy to throw you a book or a website (like this one!) or a video and be like “read this”, “watch that”.

But we all know that that’s not going to work, don’t we? You’re busy. We all know that you’ll probably forget to come back to them. Or you’ll stop halfway through. Or you’ll read them, but then gradually forget about their contents.

SilverSpoon won’t let you go. It won’t let you forget. It’ll make everything too small, too easy, too much fun, too straightforward to be too busy for.

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin: What You?Don’t Get

  • Content/media — actual Mandarin books, movies
  • Supplementary materials — extra books (e.g. for hanzi stroke order), stationery
  • Equipment — mp3 players, DVD player, video game consoles

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin: What You Do Get

Every day, SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin spoonfeeds you clear, detailed, chunked down, chewed up, simplified, minified instructions on:

  • What to do
  • How to do it
  • Where to do it
  • What to use
  • How to use it
  • What to read
  • What to watch
  • What to learn
  • How to learn it
  • When and where to learn it
  • How long to learn it for
  • What to buy
  • Where to buy it
  • When to buy it

In short, SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin manages and spoonfeeds all major areas for you, including:

  • Scheduling: easing you painlessly into awesomeness, with easy steps and funny, gentle reminder to keep you on track. Stop looking at me like that, they are funny!
  • Immersion: Low-effort, high-result immersion management
  • Procurement and Purchase Scheduling: What, where, when and how to get the media and equipment you need
  • Hanzi: target hanzi lists — exactly which hanzi to learn when; you don’t have to think, you only have to focus on what SilverSpoon spoonfeeds you
  • Vocabulary: Frequency-based target vocabulary lists — detailed instructions on specific words and word types to learn in the context of SRSing MCDs (a new SRS technique that’s even better than sentences)

SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin focuses you on learning the things that real native speakers in real life know and use. None of that “les vacances au bord de la mer” crap they feed you at school.

Traditional or Simplified?

Both. The core of SilverSpoon Mandarin will use traditional characters. There’ll be a free 90-day simplified character step-down crash course at the end of the road. Why?

  1. Because traditional characters are easier to learn (more logical)
  2. Because traditional characters are at the core of Chinese culture
  3. Because all Chinese college students are required to learn them
  4. Because traditional characters will give you a leg up in your future endeavors across other Sinoxenic languages
  5. Because it’s a heckuva lot easier to step down to simplified characters than to step up to traditional characters

But enough talk.

Welcome aboard 😀 .

Fo’ Shizzle Fluency Guarantee

Guaranteed fluency: if you’re not fluent in Mandarin at the end of 695 days of faithfully executing the simple, easy, quick, straightforward sprint missions fed to you daily by SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon Mandarin, you can have a full refund. No questions asked.

In fact, if you just decide partway through that you just don’t like it, you can have your money back. That’s how sure I am this works. That’s how freakin’ cool I am. Just an empty email to < refund at ajatt dot com > , with the following subject: “I want a refund, but I still love you. I care about you. I promise I’ll be back again.” will suffice.

Succeed or get your money back. Fluency or your money back. The days of messing around are over. The people who take your money to help you learn should take responsibility for the results. I mean, I’m almost perfect. But even I’m not all the way there. Things happen. If and when they do, you don’t have to pay for that imperfection.

However. While a freakin’ cool person, I am also a practicing jerk, so there is one condition: the hypothetical refund will only be processed after Day 695 of the process, regardless of the cancellation/request date. There are three major reasons for this:

  1. To give me time to skip the country with your money and head to my secret villa in Panama with my concubine 3, Esmeralda. What, I never told you about her? Two words: h ot.
  2. To discourage casual visitors and passers-by from joining without being sure about whether or not they wanted to stay and then clogging the system with their…casualness and endless billing processing requests. We’re not here to fool around; we’re here to fool around with Mandarin.
  3. To encourage people to be mentally prepared to play this game right through to the fourth quarter. In it to win it, remember? Just like that famous Chinese general, we’re breaking the pots and sinking the ships 4; we’re taking the option of quitting off the table until the end of the game. You can quit when you’re fluent. No more three-day-monking. Or, if we are three-day-monking, we’re doing it 230 times straight ;).

Working definition of fluency:

  • Reading: Can read a randomly selected general interest (e.g. newspaper) article aloud.
  • Listening/Speaking: Can listen to a randomly selected 60~90-second audio clip from prime-time television and repeat the dialogue.
    • Can express ideas directly or via circumlocution (can explain over, around and through any words you momentarily forget or didn’t yet know)
  • Writing: Can accurately transcribe a randomly selected audio 60~90-second spoken exchange from prime-time television or radio.
To this working definition, we can also add some items based on Japanese Level Up‘s definition (65/80), because I think it’s a really good one:
  • Can understand Mandarin TV (95%), Mandarin News (95+%), Contemporary Novels (95%)
  • Can read and understand Mandarin only grammar/usage explanations and dictionary definitions — you use Mandarin to learn itself: your Mandarin is “self-hosting”
  • Don’t yet have a full background of Chinese culture, history, geography and social life in general
  • Can read, write and understand whatever an average Chinese high schooler can
  • Can read, write and understand whatever an average person in your field of expertise (e.g. college major/profession) can
  • On the phone and text chat, people occasionally (though not always) think you’re Chinese
  • Some Chinese people think you were raised in Greater China, or have lived here for 10+ years, or are of Chinese descent


  1. Well, Chamber of Commerce 😛
  2. 愚直
  3. I don’t even know what this word actually means, but it definitely sounds lewd. Plus, the 「hookers and XYZ」 line was getting old…
  4. you’ll be reading this soon, champ 😛

  27 comments for “SinoSpoon: SilverSpoon for Mandarin. It’s What Marco Polo Wishes He’d Had

  1. Victoria
    November 26, 2011 at 15:41

    This definitely sounds good. But, considering that you post very little about learning Chinese (in comparison to Japanese anyway), is there any chance we could see some demonstration of your Chinese (both writing and speaking)?

  2. Mark
    November 26, 2011 at 23:03

    I would consider this if there was a BigBoi version? If someone already knows 1500+ hanzi and has studied (on and off) for several years, would this work for them? I wouldn’t want to pay to start from square one.. I didn’t know whether you tailored it to fit the level of the subscriber

    • whyguoren
      November 28, 2011 at 00:04

      Same here. I need also a BigBoi version. cuz I’m already on an intermediate level… 

  3. ahndoruuu
    November 26, 2011 at 23:58

    I second the request for a demonstration of your Chinese abilities.  Not because I have any doubt in them. I just want to hear.  Watching your one YouTube video in Japanese from like two years ago was pretty cool.

  4. Justin
    November 27, 2011 at 11:48

    The “welcome Aboard” link isn’t working. Is there a date for when this is going to be available? 

  5. robert
    November 27, 2011 at 22:07

    What are MCDs?

  6. Phil
    November 28, 2011 at 09:24

    Hi! I’d also be interested if there was a “Big Boi” version because I already know about 2000 characters or so (and plan to learn all the one’s in Heisig’s second book when it comes out this winter). 

    Also, I have really struggled to find good media in Mandarin. I mean, so much of it is melo-dramatic (ewwww) or slapstick, and it doesn’t much appeal to me (tv based media anyway). That said, I’m sure that there is good stuff out there, I’d just love to get more direction on that. Is this something you offer with SinoSpoon? 

  7. Ralph
    November 28, 2011 at 17:03

    I wish there was an introductory price like when you first released Silverspoon :/

  8. November 28, 2011 at 20:55

    I’d consider a Cantonese version, but Mandarin bores me.

  9. Ralph
    November 29, 2011 at 09:10

    I wish there was a cheaper introductory price like when Silverspoon first came out…

  10. 郭慕白
    November 30, 2011 at 09:58


  11. hermanblue
    December 2, 2011 at 16:28

    I more or less start to realize this all *** all the time is only for nerds, including me. Ask a normal person to listen to something that he/she doesn’t ‘t understand for 10,000 hours is just plain impossible.

    • GZP
      December 3, 2011 at 15:06

      If you’re not understanding it by the end of your 10,000 hours, you’re doing it massively wrong.

      • hermanblue
        December 5, 2011 at 21:35

        I can be very much sure the 10,000 hours solution is promising. The ironic reality is not many people can even hang in there until their 1,000 hours.

  12. krisTi
    December 5, 2011 at 23:39

    Oehh, I am looking forward it!

  13. whyguoren
    December 7, 2011 at 20:59


  14. Mike
    December 21, 2011 at 00:19

    Missed it, but VERY interested in signing up. Hopefully I can get in the next time.

  15. February 13, 2012 at 12:23

    Maybe I’m being stupid, but I can’t work out HOW you sign up, or where the precise pricing is. Could it be made more clear? And could someone help me out in the meantime 😀

  16. A Guy In China
    May 1, 2012 at 00:00

    I would love to give it a try , but for those of us living here in China and making RMB its pricey. : ( How about signing up for free, and pay if you get fluent? And honor system of sorts?
    I am going to guess that isn’t how its gonna work. But I would really love to give it a try.

  17. rc
    July 1, 2012 at 22:57

    Where did it go?

    Is it still running? 

  18. Tarkonis
    September 20, 2012 at 00:59

    Did Sinospoon get canned?

  19. Susan
    September 27, 2012 at 07:55

    I started SinoSpoon a bit over a month ago; It’s well worth the price. From what I’ve seen, Khatz is using Applied Behavior Analysis techniques and using them extremely well. ABA techniques, when properly applied, are extremely effective.

  20. Ben
    December 10, 2012 at 11:55

    Well I put my name on the Silverspoon list, hoping something opens up soon – would absolutely love to do Sinospoon for Mandarin!

  21. Andrew
    October 14, 2014 at 18:48

    Also sent an e-mail but yeah if one spot opens, I will throw my money at you. From what I understand opening another spot would not be much work to do, and you’d get paid a lot of money for it!

    Just sayin’. I know Khatz loves money and hates work. 😛

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