Matt grew up on a farm in the US. He spent some time learning Chinese in China and he is now living in Chicago in the US. Matt is now 28 years old, working for a Chinese airline.
One interesting fact about Matt in his own words: The coolest thing I did in China was taking a bike trip through the countryside. When I was sitting by a lake eating my lunch, dozens of fish started to jump out of the water. I never knew China had such beautiful nature.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:36] – Matt currently lives in America, but speaks Chinese daily with his wife and coworkers who are Chinese; (Matt works for a Chinese airline)
  • [2:03] – Matt started learning Chinese when he was in college in 2008 after he became friends with some Chinese students
  • [2:23] – Why did Matt learn Chinese?
    • [2:36] – There isn’t much opportunity to learn about China in America
      • [2:51] – Making friends with Chinese people inspired Matt to learn the language and culture
  • [3:21] – What’s is Matt’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [3:32] – There are so many online communication tools (QQ, WeChat) to meet Chinese people, which Matt used to stay motivated
  • [4:47] – How did Matt learn Chinese?
    • [4:56] – Matt took copious notes whenever he learned something new or had a conversation, which helped him remember it
    • [5:40] – Matt regrets not learning to read and write Chinese characters for the first year of his studies, as it made online communication more difficult
    • [6:30] – For the first few years of learning, Matt never learned Chinese with a teacher or in a classroom setting, because that is boring compared to having conversations
    • [7:12] – It’s important to learn pronunciation from somebody with clear and standard Mandarin, as many people will have accents and you won’t learn properly from mimicking them
    • [8:00] – Matt started practising Chinese with friends during his last two years of university and then moved to China to teach English after graduating, where he began studying more formally
  • [9:08] – Matt taught English in northeastern China Liaoning Dalian 辽宁大连
    • [9:24] – The Chinese dialect in the northern provinces is a little easier to understand than the south
    • [9:58] – Matt knew that the dialect wasn’t standard so he avoided learning the wrong pronunciations when speaking with people who spoke the dialect
  • [10:20] – Once at an intermediate level, Matt started studying Chinese at university
    • [10:27] – With a teacher, Matt could learn a lot more about Chinese culture and history
  • [10:48] – What had been Matt’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [11:02] – For English speakers, accents/tones are very challenging
      • [11:08] – Matt noticed that he and others tried to speak too quickly, which inhibited their ability to pronounce things clearly. You can speed up your speaking pace as you progress, but focus on clarity to start off
  • [11:54] – Embarrassing moment: Misreading characters
    • [11:59] – While living in Dalian, Matt went to visit a friend at another university. He misread a character and told the taxi driver to go to door number 4. After a long time searching for the door that didn’t exist, he showed the taxi driver the address on his phone and learned that he had mistaken the character for ‘4’ with the character for ‘west’
  • [13:13] – Most rewarding moment: Mistaken for a native Chinese speaker
    • [13:25] – Matt hailed a cab on a dark and rainy night, and made small talk with the cab driver. About 5 minutes into the ride, the cab driver looked over and was surprised to see that Matt was a foreigner.
  • [14:27] – Matt met his wife while they were both teaching at an English school in Dalian
  • [14:54] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [15:00] – Matt didn’t have a lot of social confidence growing up, but after moving to China and learning Chinese, he became a lot more confident and skilled at communicating with people
    • [15:57] – Matt can’t wait to go back to China because it is so lively and energetic, as well as very safe
    • [16:34] – Matt is able to stay connected to China culturally and linguistically through his work at a Chinese airline
    • [17:12] – Matt used to find a job in America where he could use the Chinese language
  • [17:50] – Matt spent a total of 6 years in China, from 2011 through 2016
    • [18:12] – Matt feels that America is outdated relative to China
  • [18:42] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Matt’s own culture
    • [18:49] – Being a good student in China is much more respected than in America, where studying hard is considered nerdy
  • [19:35] – Matt’s favourite city in China: small villages
    • [19:44] – Matt likes older cities with more traditional lifestyles
      • [19:54] – Matt shares a really cool story about an ingenious old farming method from his wife’s home village
    • [20:56] – Chinese village life can still be very tough; for example, some villages still don’t have running water
    • [21:48] – Matt shares some of the stark differences between American rural/farm life and the equivalent in China

Matt’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [24:42] – 天上不会掉馅饼 – Something good won’t just come out of nowhere; (More literally: Meat pies won’t fall from the sky)
    • 天上(tiān shàng) – heavenly / celestial
    • 不会(bú huì) – won’t
    • 掉(diào) – to drop / to lose
    • 馅饼(xiàn’er bǐng) – meat pie

Matt’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [25:58] – Just start talking to Chinese people in Chinese, and don’t worry about being judged. Chinese people will be encouraging and help you to learn

Connect with Matt

  • WeChat: matt7271988
  • Facebook: Matthew Ekhoff

Resources Mentioned:

  • 23:30 –
  • 23:40 – (iOS, Android)
    • [23:47] – These are both good for learning new words with context
  • [24:13] – Get a book that makes you learn to communicate with the characters right away, so you won’t be stuck using Pinyin

Did you enjoy the show? Leave us a review!

  1. Click here
  2. View in iTunes
  3. Leave us a review

How to Subscribe to the Podcast (free!)

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Journey to Chinese Fluency”  This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on your iDevice.

For Android listeners – Download the Stitcher Radio app (free) and search for “Journey to Chinese Fluency”.  Or, if you have already downloaded a podcasting client, follow the directions in the next sentence.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.  You can see all episodes by clicking this link.