Lawrence is from Texas, United States. Currently living in Los Angeles. Lawrence has studied Chinese for almost 7 years. Having just returned to the US and moved to LA, he is now doing acting, modelling, hosting, and writing jobs. Lawrence did some stand-ups in China and plans on doing it in the US as well.

One interesting fact about Lawrence in his own words: Despite being 6 foot 3 (192cm) and busting my ass for a model’s frame, it’s completely hollow. I am at best mediocre at all sports; can’t jump high, can’t run fast, reaction time is garbage. Unfortunately, as a basketball enthusiast, every time I played ball in China with a new crew, we always had to get through the inevitable awkward moment of them realizing the tall muscular American sucks.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:05] – Lawrence grew up all over the US – Texas, Massachusetts, California, Georgia, and South Carolina
  • [2:16] – Lawrence first travelled to China when he was 17
    • [2:24] – One week was an urban homestay, the second week was spent with the 苗 miáo minority in 桂林guì lín
  • [2:37] – Lawrence double-majored in Economics and Chinese at Emory University
    • [2:41] – After graduating, Lawrence was given the Confucius scholarship to continue studying Chinese at Nanjing University
    • [2:47] – While in Nanjing, Lawrence passed the HSK-5, making him eligible to apply for a master’s program at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing
      • [3:02] – Lawrence was awarded a scholarship and studied TV hosting and acting for almost 2 years
  • [3:16] – Now Lawrence lives in LA and does hosting, acting, writing, and modelling
  • [3:37] – Lawrence talks about how difficult it is to get accepted at the Central Academy of Drama
    • [3:56] – The interviews for this school and a couple others in China make national news with people wondering who will be the next 小鲜肉 xiǎo xiān ròu (little fresh meat), or young male actors
  • [4:39] – The academy is government sponsored so they have good funding, and are currently building a beautiful new campus in the north of Beijing
    • [5:09] – The old campus is in 南锣鼓巷 nán luó gǔ xiàng, the old 胡同 hú tòng area of Beijing
  • [5:23] – Why did Lawrence learn Chinese?
    • [5:34] – Initially, Lawrence started studying Chinese to meet his language requirement in college
    • [5:54] – Lawrence kept up his studies because he fell in love with the language
  • [6:35] – China has government-sponsored language education scholarships that are great
  • [6:53] – Lawrence’s Chinese major in college included a lot of learning about Chinese culture and society, but from a language perspective he didn’t feel he spoke Chinese well until after a year studying in Nanjing
  • [7:43] – What’s is Lawrence’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [8:11] – What really attracts Lawrence to Chinese is that it’s such a deep language that he can continue learning it for the rest of his life, even after attaining fluency
  • [9:31] – How did Lawrence learn Chinese?
    • [9:42] – The most effective technique for Lawrence by far is parroting, or listening and then mimicking, the language
    • [10:06] – When Lawrence started at the academy, his teachers told him that his tones weren’t very good and he had to teach his ears to hear tones
      • [10:33] – Lawrence uses ChinesePod every morning; He listens and mimics every word, and re-listens multiple times until he is comfortable with talking and writing about the subject matter and has the pronunciations mastered
      • [11:39] – Lawrence didn’t start the parroting method until he was already at an advanced level, but highly recommends beginning with parroting as early as possible
      • [12:01] – When studying, you’ll typically learn 4 Chinese tones, but in reality, there are 16 tones because they are different when you combine them in a sentence
    • [13:09] – Lawrence uses the third tone as an example of how spoken Chinese changes with context
    • [13:39] – You get a feeling for speaking with a natural rhythm and adjusting the tones correctly when you parrot all the time
    • [15:07] – Lawrence talks about an interview he saw with a famous Canadian Chinese speaker, who talks about how his ear is trained enough with the tones that when he makes a mistake he recognises it and corrects himself
    • [16:13] – Memorizing characters was inefficient until Lawrence learned how they are broken down into radicals, which helps remember and pronounce them
    • [16:55] – Lawrence also uses flashcards all the time
    • [17:16] – Lawrence’s work is in Chinese and the majority of his friends are Chinese, so he is fully immersed in it now
    • [18:15] – When Lawrence was in college, he just studied enough to pass exams, but once he got to the academy in Beijing he spent most of every day studying or using Chinese
  • [19:26] – For students just beginning Chinese, Lawrence recommends building a solid foundation by learning the radicals, as well as the tones and how they interact in context
  • [19:57] – What had been Lawrence’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [20:02] – Lawrence’s biggest challenge was the tones
      • [20:12] – Because Lawrence’s job requires that he can speak Chinese on camera, he had to really focus on perfecting his pronunciation
  • [21:48] – How did Lawrence deal with accents and dialect
    • [22:16] – Lawrence just dealt with accents along the way
      • [22:25] – Nanjing has pretty standardised Mandarin
      • [22:35] – Beijing is the best place to study because Beijing dialect influences standardised Mandarin and because spoken Chinese in Beijing is some of the clearest to understand
      • [23:39] – Lawrence’s current home, LA, has Chinese people from all over the country, but he has travelled extensively through China and actually likes all the different accents and dialects
    • [24:38] – Lawrence looks forward to studying a dialect in the future, likely the one spoken by his Chinese wife’s family if he marries a Chinese woman
  • [25:53] – Embarrassing moment: Taxi ride in Shanghai
    • [26:07] – Lawrence’s cab driver told him he didn’t need a seatbelt, and Lawrence tried to respond that his teacher had told him to always use a seatbelt in China, but he made a mistake and said 安全套 (condom) instead of安全带 (seat belt)
  • [29:18] – Most rewarding moment: Shocking a grocery store worker with his Chinese
    • [29:41] – During his second semester in Beijing, Lawrence overheard a conversation between a couple employees at a grocery store. When one of them left, he made a comment to the other, who nodded along – not realising that he was a foreigner. When she looked up and saw Lawrence, she was completely shocked
    • [31:49] – As you progress through Chinese and eventually get really good, it becomes really fun to surprise Chinese people with how well you speak
  • [32:33] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [32:51] – Chinese is so different from European languages that once you get really good at speaking it, it actually changes how you perceive things and your worldview
  • [33:35] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Lawrence’s own culture
    • [33:43] – Chinese parents are so focused on education, and they really enforce its importance with their kids growing up, which Lawrence admires
  • [34:42] – Lawrence’s favourite city in China: 成都 Chengdu in Sichuan Province
    • [35:04] – Lawrence sees Chengdu as like the ‘Seattle of China’
      • [35:22] – There is a slower pace to life there; there are tea houses all over that you can go to and meet people from different backgrounds
      • [35:48] – Chengdu has also preserved their dialect

Lawrence’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [41:00] – 我门儿清 – I understand everything; Useful when Chinese people don’t know how well you understand the culture or language
    • 我(wǒ) – I
    • 门儿(mén’r) – Door
    • 清(qīng) – Clear

Lawrence’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [42:29] – Get a girlfriend/boyfriend/very close friend who doesn’t speak English so that you can practice with them

Connect with Lawrence

  • Email address: lelelandstudios (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Resources Mentioned:

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