Andrei comes from Moscow Russia. He started learning Chinese 6 years ago. Apart from speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese, he speaks Russian, French and English all at native level. He is now 22 years old. Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in mathematics at McGill University. His field of research is probability theory.

One interesting fact about Andrei: At the age of 11, he won an international mathematics competition and almost exactly 10 years from that day at age 21, he won the Chinese Bridge Competition, which is a Chinese proficiency competition for foreign college students.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:36] – Andrei was born in Moscow, Russia but immigrated to Montreal, Canada with his family at a young age 
  • [1:55] – Why did Andrei learn Chinese?
    • [2:01] – Andrei started learning Chinese when he was 16 because he was a little bored with school and wanted a challenge and because Mandarin was growing in popularity as a global language
    • [2:40] – Andrei signed up for a class at the Confucius institute; Students had to be at least 16, and by happy coincidence Andrei turned 16 on the day of the first class
      • [3:43] – The Confucius class was at night, so most of the students were on the older side and had a lot of free time on their hands
  • [4:23] – What’s is Andrei’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [4:27] – Andrei viewed his progress in learning Chinese similarly to going to the gym and seeing gains in strength and muscle growth — noticing his progress kept him motivated to make more
      • [4:54] – Andrei liked to track his progress by listening to songs every once in a while, and seeing how much more of the songs he could understand than the previous time
    • [5:25] – Andrei only felt like giving up when he hit plateaus and didn’t know how to push through them and keep learning new things
    • [6:28] – Andrei would see foreigners speaking excellent Chinese who had studied it for less time than him and this was somewhat discouraging, but he’d always eventually have a breakthrough
  • [7:12] – How did Andrei learn Chinese?
    • [7:30] – Andrei just liked to pursue his curiosities and take an interest in whatever Chinese content he happened to come across, such as music, online videos, TV, etc.
    • [9:55] – If Andrei were to start learning Chinese from scratch, he would use a method of constant repetition of simple words and phrases until they get so ingrained that they become second nature
  • [11:02] – Andre took a Chinese class with a student who had participated in the Bridge Competition and thought that Andre could do really well if he participated
  • [11:34] – Andre is competitive, so he told himself that if he was going to do the Bridge Competition he would really work hard to do well
    • [11:56] – Andre set himself a rigorous schedule to learn Chinese every day, focusing on speaking because it was his weakest facet of Chinese
    • [12:35] – Andrei felt that every improvement was worthwhile as long as he kept making progress every day
    • [13:15] – Andrei hired a private tutor who worked with him for 3 hours every day, and then he would spend the rest of the day reviewing the lessons
  • [14:25] – Andrei enjoyed Chinese, so he used it as a procrastination tool for not doing his other homework in a way that was still production
  • [15:38] – When Andrei officially decided to do the competition, he felt that he could pass HSK-6 without too much difficulty, however, he knew that he would need to practice speaking a lot because his studying hadn’t included much face-to-face conversation to that point
  • [18:12] – Andrei has spent less than 2 months total in China, including the 1-month for the competition; he never really studied in China
  • [18:56] – How did Andrei deal with pronunciation and tones?
  • [19:04] – Pronouncing the sounds of Chinese wasn’t too difficult for Andrei because of his experience with other languages
  • [19:18] – Andrei practised the tones a lot by using repetitive imitation, and he developed the feel of a native Chinese speaker
  • [20:02] – Andrei recorded himself speaking to compare to native speakers which helped make the minor tweaks with pronunciation that he needed to sound closer to true Mandarin
  • [21:08] – What had been Andrei’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [21:14] – Andrei’s biggest challenge was dealing with periods of demotivation, so he had to find new ways of learning or sources of energy to push through it
  • [22:04] – Embarrassing moment: 肌肉 vs. 鸡肉
    • [22:10] – Andrei went to a Chinese restaurant with some friends and heard them order chicken, but he thought that it was muscle which is pronounced the same way. He didn’t realise the mistake until the next day
  • [23:10] – Most rewarding moment: Helping a Chinese person get directions in Canada
    • [23:26] – A man who didn’t speak English or French held up a paper and wanted directions, and when Andrei noticed Chinese on the paper he began speaking Mandarin, which was an obvious relief to the man 
  • [24:21] – Andre doesn’t plan to use Chinese professionally, but he really enjoys being able to consume Chinese media
  • [24:54] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [25:00] – Before learning Chinese, Andrei’s life mostly revolved around math
    • [25:11] – Learning Chinese permanently opened a door to another world with new friends and opportunities
  • [25:50] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Andrei’s own culture
    • [25:57] – Andrei noticed that when he speaks with Chinese people, they want to share their culture, history, and heritage more people in other cultures typically do
  • [27:04] – Andrei’s favourite city in China: 深圳Shenzhen
    • [27:22] – Andrei liked that Shenzhen had a lot of unique architecture, as opposed to a lot of other Chinese cities that have tons of very similar buildings

Andrei’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [30:39] – 众人拾柴,火焰高 – When everybody collects firewood, the flame burns high
    • 众人(zhòng rén) – many people
    • 拾(shí) – to collect
    • 柴(chái) – firewood
    • 火焰(huǒ yàn) – flame
    • 高(gāo) – tall
  • [31:01] – A metaphor for the power of a unified/collective effort

Andrei’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [31:47]If you really care about learning Chinese, don’t slack off. It needs to be a priority if you are going to make significant progress

Connect with Andrei

  • WeChat: AZ2596886516

Resources Mentioned:

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.