Diogo is from Portugal. Currently studying International Relations at University of Lisbon. Diogo has studied Chinese for almost 3 years and will be representing Portugal in the Chinese Bridge worldwide competition for college students. Besides Portuguese which is his native language, he can also speak English, Chinese and a conversational level of Spanish.

Two interesting facts about Diogo:
1. His Chinese name is 李白lǐ bái which is identical to THE most famous Chinese poet of all time.

2. Diogo has an identical twin brother who doesn’t speak Chinese and whenever Diogo’s Chinese friends met his brother, they all spoke Chinese with him and they found it weird that Diogo didn’t understand anything they said.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:47] – Diogo’s Chinese name is 李白 lǐ bái (the name of the most famous Chinese poet of all time)
    • [2:59] – Diogo was an exchange student in Taiwan 2 years ago; his first host family had the surname Li and they gave him the name Bai (which means “white”) because he was the Westerner of the family
    • [4:00] – Diogo didn’t know that Li Bai was the name of a famous person at the time
  • [5:28] – Diogo has an identical twin brother who doesn’t speak Chinese
    • [5:47] – Diogo’s friends sometimes speak Chinese to his brother thinking that he is Diogo, so his brother has learned how to say, “I’m sorry I don’t speak Chinese, I am Li Bai’s twin brother”, in Chinese
    • [6:38] – Diogo and his Chinese teachers decided to give his brother a Chinese name, 杜甫 dù fǔ (the second most famous Chinese poet)
  • [7:38] – Diogo was born and raised in Portugal and lived there until he was 14 years old when his family moved to Brazil
    • [8:07] – Diogo started meeting a lot of other foreigners and making friends all over the world
  • [8:38] – After 2 years in Brazil, Diogo participated in an international exchange program and spent a year in Taiwan where he went to high school
    • [9:14] – He took daily Chinese classes for the first 6 months in Taiwan
  • [9:21] – Why did Diogo start learning Chinese?
    • [9:35] – Diogo only spoke a few basic phrases of Chinese before going to Taiwan
    • [9:47] – Diogo wanted to be able to connect with his Chinese and Taiwanese friends in Brazil by speaking Chinese with them
  • [10:44] – Communication between Diogo and his host family was very difficult at first because they didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Chinese, but this was a blessing because it forced Diogo to learn the language
  • [12:08] – Diogo lived for 5 months with his first host family, and then about 3 months with each of the other two host families
  • [12:22] – The 2nd and 3rd host families spoke English, but Diogo grew accustomed to speaking Chinese with the 1st family so he actually preferred speaking Chinese by that time
  • [13:28] – Diogo learned a lot by pointing at things and asking 中文怎么说 zhōng wén zěn me shuō, which means “How do you say [this] in Chinese?”
  • [13:51] – Diogo always carried a notebook and pen so that he could write down everything he learned, even before he learned pinyin
  • [14:26] – Diogo’s experience in Taiwan has allowed him to connect with Chinese people in a life-changing way
  • [14:59] – What’s is Diogo’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [15:08] – Diogo went to Taiwan with the goal of learning all about the Chinese culture and language so that he could connect with Chinese people
    • [16:08] – Diogo met many foreigners who gave up on learning Chinese because they thought it was too difficult
    • [16:25] – Whenever Diogo felt discouraged, he looked back on all the progress he had already made so far
    • [17:01] – Diogo would go out and meet local people which kept him motivated because Chinese people are very encouraging
    • [17:30] – Diogo also went through YouTube frequently to watch motivational videos
  • [18:22] – How did Diogo learn Chinese?
    • [18:47] – While in Taiwan, Diogo had three hours of Chinese class every day for the first 6 months
    • [19:05] – Diogo’s classmates who study Chinese in Portugal often don’t realise that it still required a lot of effort to learn Chinese even while immersed
      • [19:21] – On top of the 3 hours of class, Diogo spent another 3-4 hours each day studying on his own for the first 6 or 7 months
    • [20:04] – Learning Chinese was Diogo’s ‘full-time job’ during his year in Taiwan and he’s grateful that he put in so much time and effort
    • [20:20] – Diogo’s main strategy was to make Chinese the only language he used
      • [21:23] – Diogo even avoided Western media and news in order to spend that time immersed in Chinese media instead
    • [22:30] – After returning to Brazil, Diogo was still able to practice speaking with all of his Chinese friends there
    • [22:50] – In his first 6 months in Portugal, Diogo wasn’t able to use Chinese much at all
    • [23:05] – Now that he has returned to Portugal for university, Diogo has begun taking Chinese classes at the Confucius Institute and speaking with new Chinese friends he’s met there so that his language skills keep improving
    • [24:20] – Diogo recommends taking formal classes if you can’t study in China because the teachers can give you more input and help along the way
    • [24:46] – Diogo also recommends trying to make friends with Chinese exchange students in your country to have a language exchange
  • [25:54] – What has been Diogo’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [26:03] – Diogo had to put the most effort into learning all the Chinese characters
    • [26:36] – Diogo found it helpful in learning characters to read articles and blog posts
      • [27:07] – Diogo read a blog post (see Resources Mentioned) that explained a method specifically for Westerners to learn characters — give every character a story
      • [27:31] – Diogo personally created a story for every Chinese radical which has helped him remember them very well
      • [28:25] – In the first month with a new character, Diogo would think about its story every day until it became an automatic reflex
  • [29:27] – How did Diogo deal with accents and dialects?
    • [29:59] – Most of the population of Taiwan speaks Taiwanese natively and Mandarin as a secondary language, so Diogo did pick up a few key phrases of Taiwanese while living there
    • [30:47] – Diogo shares a great quote from Nelson Mandela and expands on how you can connect with people more strongly by speaking their native language
    • [31:39] – It’s pretty easy to tell Taiwanese and Mandarin apart
    • [32:16] – Taiwan also uses traditional Chinese characters instead of simplified characters
    • [32:58] – Diogo found learning simplified characters to be easy after already knowing the traditional characters
  • [33:51] – Embarrassing moment: Mixing up 睡觉 shuì jiào (sleep) vs 水饺 shuǐ jiǎo (dumplings)
    • [34:08] – During his first week in Taiwan, Diogo tried to say that he wanted to sleep, but pronounced it wrong and said dumplings instead. So one of his host family members actually went to the store and bought dumplings to eat late at night. It was funny when everybody realised the misunderstanding
  • [35:21] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [35:29] – Diogo is happy that his Chinese skills have enabled him to have so many Chinese friends and to study international relations at Portugal’s top university
    • [35:49] – Learning Chinese has opened the door to so many opportunities, including representing Portugal in the worldwide Chinese competition next year
    • [36:54] – Best of all, Diogo can now connect with over 1 billion Chinese people
  • [37:34] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Diogo’s own culture
    • [37:41] – One thing in common between Chinese and Portuguese culture is that both are extremely hospitable and like to share their history and culture with foreigners
    • [38:19] – A difference that Diogo noticed is that Chinese people think and plan ahead much more than Portuguese people, especially with the older members of the family planning for the future of their children and grandchildren
  • [40:43] – Diogo’s favourite city in China: Taipei
    • [40:48] – Diogo was too young to travel by himself when he was an exchange student, so he hasn’t been to mainland China yet, but he will be going there next summer

Diogo’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [46:22] – 读万卷书不如行万里路 – It’s better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books
    • 读(dú) – to read
    • 万(wàn) – ten thousand
    • 卷(juàn) – book
    • 书(shū) – book
    • 不如(bù rú) – not equal to / not as good as
    • 行(xíng) – to travel
    • 万里(wàn lǐ) – ten thousand miles
    • 路(lù) – road
  • [46:42] – You learn so much from travelling and meeting people with different backgrounds

Diogo’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [47:53] – Don’t give up, it’s hard to learn Chinese but it’s so worth it
  • [48:07] – Try to connect more with people than to study; languages are meant to be used to communicate, not just to study, so you will get more from the experience if you connect with people

Connect with Diogo

  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/diogoilheu
  • Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/diogoilheu

Resources Mentioned:

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