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I am an attorney practicing law in Kern County, California. We do criminal and family law. I have nine children.

My hobbies include practicing musical instruments (currently the drums), playing video games (currently Team Fortress Two), and working out (currently a Crossfit style regimen). I also enjoy traveling and have been to Hong Kong, Mexico, the Ukraine and Turkey recently.

  1. Ahmet Emre permalink

    Good day Mr. Benjamin,
    I am as of now on a quest to provide students of Turkish language with an easy to follow set of booklets that have a methodical approach. I see you have had a little bit of an experience with teaching yourself some Turkish. Would you be willing to review my booklets?

    Will you be able to see my email adress now? If not, my first name is ahmet, second name is emre and surname is cepoglu. My webmail provider is mail dot com. Add them all up and you can contact me through that.

    Thank you.

    • I actually think I would be a bad candidate to do that. My efforts at studying Turkish were too brief to serve as much assistance. I am sure someone else would be of more use. Good luck with that.

  2. Hi Benjamin… Just came across your blog – good to read through your writings on your experience with learning Mandarin with Pimsleur… I am now on lesson 10 of the 1st set. So far I really like it. I started learning Mandarin in April 11, first 2 months just listening to music… and hooked up with a Chinese church, which has turned out to be one of the best things for me and my Mandarin… then in June studied with a tutor from Shanghai… 4 hours/day for 1 month – to get down the sounds and pinyin… Started a DVD/books course from Beijing called “communicate in chinese”… great course, but, think it would be best to get through pimsleur 1 before returning to it… so far so good – best thing, still really motivated!
    Any more info on pimsleur or just learning Mandarin in general?


    • Wow! I am really impressed with your commitment. I have been just focusing on the Pimsleur course and getting the most I can out of that. I used to study the characters as well, and I was starting to get a little frustrated. Once you get to a certain point (I had about a thousand memorized) it gets a lot tougher. I just hit a wall where several would start looking alike and it got very confusing. So I am going to concentrate on being an illiterate Chinese speaker until (and unless) I really master that.

      I have a couple of questions for you: “For what purpose are you studying Chinese?” and “How have your experiences been in the Chinese church?” I really want to visit Chinese church services, but I was afraid that they would see me as some kind of weirdo because I am not Chinese. I also was concerned that I wouldn’t understand a thing. But I would like to check it out. Can you offer any advice on that?

      I am just finishing up the Pimsleur course this weekend. It was very useful. I do need to repeat it over and over again in order for it to really sink in. I plan on studying it for the rest of the year. Hopefully, by that time I will have internalized the grammar and I will be able to speak Chinese correctly. Of course, there will be lots of stuff I will be unable to comprehend or say, but it’s a start. After that, I will move on to ChinesePod and work with those lessons.

      Good luck with your studies, and please keep me informed. Chinese is endlessly challenging and fascinating.

      • I’m learning Mandarin for work, and just think that it’s a really good language to learn!
        I speak all the romance languages so usually my work is in Europe… And lived in Japan 2 years, but unfortunately didn’t take the opportunity to study while their… Ithought I would pick it up by osmosis… like portuguese… and even though I was the only “foreigner” in my village, what I picked up, I picked up really well, but can only carry on a general conversation…
        Attend a Chinese Church… that’s a definite! What an opportunity! I looked on the internet and found this Chinese Baptist Church 15 minutes from my house… I didn’t really know what to expect my first Sunday, but I thought they would be friendly…
        I arrived, was greeted at the door and was shown where to sit… After a few minutes, a guy came up to me and asked if I spoke Mandarin and asked if I would like someone to translate… I accepted the offer and heng, this guy from Hong Kong, who speaks awesome Mandarin translated for me… After the service we talked and he invited me to the English Fellowship they have ever Friday night that he attends… Also, since it was the last Sunday of the month, they had lunch. Everyone was really friendly and outgoing!
        I started going to the Friday night fellowship, which is mostly Chinese who grew up in the US, some native Chinese, one Vietnamese girl and one White boy (guess who)… I found out the Chinese really love playing games, and a group of us guys usually get together every Sunday night for cards, and a lot of times we’ll do something Saturday night…
        I’ve been involved for a year now, and it’s been great… I went there to learn Mandarin and ended up with a great new family and friends!
        Before the beginning of each month, they give me a schedule for all the songs, scripture, etc. for each Sunday. Before Sunday, I find all the songs, etc. and I cut and paste them into google translate and it changes them into pinyin, so I can sing/follow along!
        I’ve found Chinese people to be really warm and outgoing, and really want to help with every need… They also really love matchmaking! I’m single and I think a few of them have self appointed that responsibility to themselves.
        One time I got a phone call from a married lady friend in the church who said she was discussing me with another lady in the church who has a friend who lives about 2 hours away from us and was wondering if I would be interested in meeting her… I’m not really up to blind dates, and I know the lady on the phone well enough to speak honestly… The next Sunday a young couple invited me and another friend over for Saturday lunch at their home… Guess who showed up… The girl who lives 2 hours away! We all had a good time… but it wasn’t anything more than that…
        At church I always try to focus on Mandarin, but one of my good friends, who is actually Cantonese, lived most of his life in South America and we only speak Spanish… One time a group of us were going to this resturant after church and my friend and I walked in and we were speaking Spanish… At the front counter there was a Mexican lady cleaning… She kept looking at us as if she had seen a ghost… Here’s this white boy and this Chinese boy rattling off in Spanish… I think for her, it was like a paradigm shift – she couldn’t process it… We walked up to the counter, she pointing to a bowl of salad, but looking at us the whole time said in Spanish… “This salad is hot!”… I said, “Do you like it?” she said “yes”, and the aliens left her work space… It was funny!
        Anyway, all this to say, don’t worry about going to a Chinese Church… You’re gonna love it!
        Also, whenever I’m learning a new language, I only listen to music in that language… Whether in my car, at the gym, anytime, anywhere.
        I always listen to Christian music, and they have really good Chinese Christian music! If you’re interested, it would also help you in church, because they probably sing the songs in the church you will visit…

        Here is a link to some great music:
        Also anything from “Streams of Praise”.

        Christian Chinese TV:

      • Oh wow. Now I will definitely go. Sounds like they really welcomed you with open arms. That’s very impressive. I haven’t been treated like that in any church. And talk about great motivation to learn Mandarin!
        Thank you for the websites. I will definitely check them out.

  3. Hello Benjamin ,ive just been reading your blog about studying Mandarin,it was very interesting and amusing too ,you sound like quite a character! Im actually up to lesson 22 of pimsleur Mandarin 1.After the first 10 minutes of the first lesson I thought id never get it down but I stuck to it! Im also very stubborn and hate giving up. Im English but I currently live in Brazil with my brazilian wife, I speak portuguese very well and im currently learning Spanish with Pimsleur too. I find the Spanish very easy although the accent is tough ,im already on lesson 52 and i started Mandarin first. I read some negative things about learning chinese,whether its worth the effort etc but Ialso find it enjoyable and a great challenge,I cant watch Brazilian novelas every night! I keep telling myself im going to learn the chinese characters,I have a book that puts a story to each character so you can remember it. Im hoping to teach english in china once i save the money for the plane tickets,being in Brazil that will take ages! If I was in england id earn the cash quickly but cant leave the wife behind. I hope you dont give up, I thought id never learn to play guitar but I can now play voodoo chile! ha ha oh yeah some led zeppelin and stevie ray vaughan too

  4. Sue Zheng permalink

    Hi there! I’m Sue, and I’m from SlimKicker, a fitness/diet app and website. I saw your blog yesterday and it captured my interest!

    I was wondering if we can do a giveaway for your blog readers?

    Our website basically turns people’s fitness/diet goals into a level up game with challenges such as quitting soda for a week. We’re looking for new challenge ideas, so was thinking of holding a contest where your readers leave a comment on a health challenge idea + sign up on our site

    We’ll pick our favorite challenge idea, use it on our site, and give the winner either a free digital health scale, slow cooker, or digital heart monitor. We’ve done many giveaways for bloggers in the past – you can google ‘SlimKicker giveaway’ to see. I also encourage you to sign up for our site to see what we’re about too 🙂

    Let me know if you’re interested! You can email me back at sue.zheng (at) slimkicker (dot) com.


  5. You have a rather impressive background; and I’m sure there’s never a dull moment in your home. :+)

  6. Hello! I really like your blog and the beautiful pictures you post. By the way, I love the Lego Gravater you are using. That’s one of my five-year-old daughter’s favourite toys: the Lego ‘nonno’! Good luck 🙂

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