Tristan was born in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia and he lived in Melbourne for the last 5 years. Tristan speaks English natively and Mandarin Chinese. He started learning Chinese since 2013 and now at the age of 24, he is studying Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
One interesting fact about Tristan: He won the second place in Oceania in the 2016 Chinese Bridge Competition.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:18] – Tristan was born and raised in Tasmania, Australia
  • [1:25] – During high school, Tristan became interested in aviation (flying), which he combined with an interest in engineering by studying aerospace engineering in Melbourne, Australia
  • [1:51] – Why did Tristan learn Chinese?
    • [2:13] – Tristan went on a school trip to Russia in 2011 and found that he enjoyed picking up some of the language
    • [2:54] – A lot of people spoke Mandarin and Cantonese at Tristan’s university in Melbourne, which first gave him the idea to study Mandarin
    • [3:13] – Tristan chose Mandarin because he saw that it could be very useful with all the Chinese people in Australia
    • [4:01] – Tristan studied 3 units of engineering and 1 unit of Mandarin for 2.5 years until he completed his diploma
  • [4:18] – What’s is Tristan’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [4:23] – Tristan enjoyed the challenge of Mandarin and was interested by it
    • [5:04] – The further Tristan progressed, the more rewarding it was to be able to speak Chinese with people
  • [5:45] – How did Tristan learn Chinese?
    • [5:58] – At first, Tristan focused on one character at a time by writing each out about 30 times until the stroke order and the character were memorable
    • [6:33] – Tristan also focused hard on tones in the start
      • [7:04] – Tristan shares a helpful technique to learn how to pronounce the tones in Mandarin that he learned from a friend
    • [8:16] – More recently, Tristan is working to improve his reading comprehension and speed by using flashcards
      • [8:42] – Tristan downloaded the 5000 most common characters and began studying them in order from most common to least
      • [9:10] – Tristan wants to recognise the character as soon as he sees it, otherwise he marks it as incorrect
      • [9:16] – Tristan uses Pleco software to create flashcards
        • [9:39] – This gives multiple options for grading yourself, not just correct or incorrect but based on how quickly and easily you know the answer
    • [10:39] – After the first 6 – 8 months of Mandarin, Tristan could start conversations but didn’t have much listening comprehension
      • [11:04] – Tristan applied for the Huayu (华语 Mandarin) Enrichment Scholarship (HES) from the Taiwan Ministry of Education
      • [11:33] – After completing 1 year of Mandarin studies, Tristan moved to Taiwan and found that his listening quickly improved by several orders of magnitude
      • [13:16] – It’s possible to get this scholarship even as a complete beginner, and Tristan highly recommends applying
    • [13:41] – Tristan’s class the first year in Australia had 4 hours of class per week which Tristan supplemented with 4 – 6 hours studying at home
    • [14:13] – Tristan moved to Taiwan from December – March and chose to take the earliest class so that he could explore Taipei during the day.
    • [14:48] – Tristan studied at the 国语教学中心 (Mandarin Training Centre) at 国立台湾师范大学 National Taiwan Normal University
  • [16:11] – In 2015, Tristan’s professor approached him about participating in the Chinese Bridge Competition but he chose not to when he saw that the participants usually performed songs, danced, or gave speeches
    • [17:10] – The next year Tristan’s professor gave him the idea of presenting a poem so he joined, placed second in Australia, and went on to compete in China
  • [18:13] – What has been Tristan’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [18:19] – Listening comprehension was the most difficult thing at first
    • [18:33] – Don’t get discouraged, it took Tristan 1 year of studying and 3 months of living in Taiwan to really develop his listening skills
    • [18:48] – Tristan thinks it will be really difficult to develop your language skills without immersion in a Chinese speaking environment
  • [19:51] – Tristan shares a funny story about being so immersed in Chinese that he actually struggled a bit more to speak English
  • [20:58] – How did Tristan deal with accents and dialects?
    • [21:10] – Tristan found the Taiwanese accent clear and easy to understand
    • [21:20] – Tristan found the accent and dialect in Sichuan province to be much more difficult to understand
    • [22:10] – Tristan also thinks that the Beijing accent is difficult to understand
    • [22:49] – Victor shares an example of the difference between the accents with stir fry tomato and eggs: 番茄炒蛋(Taiwan) vs. 西红柿炒鸡蛋(Beijing)
    • [24:36] – Tristan shares some other differences between Mainland China and Taiwan
  • [26:17] – Embarrassing moment: Mistaking a prayer tool for a kid’s toy
    • [26:23] – Tristan visited an ancient Chinese village and picked up a cool item that he started spinning and playing with. He asked the shopkeeper what it was and misheard the reply which was念经(chant scripture), not 年轻(young)
  • [28:02] – Most rewarding moment: Competing and doing well in the Chinese Bridge Competition
    • [28:11] – Tristan talks about the amazing experience of competing in the Bridge Competition as a result of having learned Mandarin
  • [30:17] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [30:24] – Learning Chinese has opened doors to new life opportunities and hopefully to new professional opportunities as an engineer
    • [30:56] – Tristan is also married to a Chinese woman and being able to converse in both English and Chinese helps them avoid misunderstandings
    • [31:24] – Tristan met his now-wife just after he returned from Taiwan, and their relationship did motivate Tristan to continue studying
  • [31:49] – Tristan’s favourite cities in China: 成都 Chengdu, 昆明 Kunming, 台北 Taipei
    • [31:54] – Tristan gives the various reasons he liked all three of these cities
  • [32:34] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Tristan’s own culture
    • [32:42] – People take superstitions much more seriously in China than in Western cultures
    • [33:51] – Tristan shares an example with the 台北转运站 (Taipei Transfer Station), which means both change your transport and change your luck in Chinese
    • [35:02] – Another example is how, before the 2014 New Year, people in Taiwan talked about how 1314 sounds like 一生一世, which means “one whole lifetime”
    • [35:54] – Tristan explains how people don’t use Pinyin in Taiwan which makes it impossible to ask Taiwanese people how to spell Mandarin words with the English alphabet

Tristan’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [42:12] – 笨鸟先飞 stupid/silly bird fly first
    • 笨(bèn)- stupid/silly
    • 鸟(niǎo) – bird
    • 先(xiān) – first
    • 飞 (fēi) – fly
  • [43:02] – Victor’s school teacher used to say this phrase to some of classmates when he was going to school in China
  • [43:25] – Tristan shares some encouragement related to this phrase
  • [43:40] – Chinese people will also use this to be humble when they are complimented

Connect with Tristan

  • Email address: tristan (DOT) mccarthy78 (AT) gmail (DOT) com
  • Instagram: aeroplanter

Resources Mentioned:

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