Laurence is from the United Kingdom. His parents currently live in Edinburgh. Laurence has spent 3 years learning Chinese. Apart from English and Chinese, he also speaks Dutch at beginner’s level. At the age of 22, Laurence goes to university in London and live there during term time. However, he is now studying abroad in Beijing.
Two interesting facts about Laurence:
Laurence was born on New Year’s Day.
Laurence likes running half marathons. He has run three half marathons, and is going to Singapore this December to run another one.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:44] – Laurence goes to a university in London specialising on the study of African and Asian languages
  • [3:05] – Laurence is currently doing a year abroad studying at 北师大 Beijing Normal University
  • [3:13] – Why did Laurence learn Chinese?
    • [3:26] – Laurence’s biggest love growing up was music, so he always wanted to go to music college and become a professional musician
    • [3:48] – After about 1.5 years, Laurence found that he wasn’t enjoying it and that his friends who were graduating weren’t finding good jobs
    • [4:13] – Laurence started thinking about other options like singing or dancing or another language
      • [4:33] – Laurence started learning some Dutch and found that he enjoyed it
      • [5:26] – Laurence chose a language to study between Chinese, Japanese, and German and he went with Chinese because he saw it giving him the best job prospects
  • [5:54] – What’s is Laurence’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [5:58] – Laurence didn’t really have any good reasons to learn Chinese when he started besides getting a job
    • [6:25] – After he started, Laurence found the language really interesting and has made a lot of friends including his now girlfriend who is a Chinese
    • [7:13] – Laurence shares the interesting story of meeting his girlfriend while she was studying in London
      • [8:22] – Having a Chinese girlfriend has been very helpful with the language
  • [8:42] – How did Laurence learn Chinese?
    • [9:18] – Laurence set his language learning goals so that he could chat with people and maybe read some books
    • [9:25] – Laurence discusses learning pinyin and then starting to learn the characters right away
      • [10:07] – Laurence started off with the most basic characters and wrote them out repetitively.
      • [10:17] – After a while you get the hang of characters and it becomes easier
      • [10:47] – Being able to recognise (read) characters is important because people don’t communicate in pinyin through texting or in books, it’s just a method of typing
      • [11:41] – Victor shares how he’s forgotten how to handwrite some characters; Writing is difficult even for Chinese, but reading and recognising characters is the important part
    • 13:00 – When he started learning Chinese, Laurence bought some books with audio CDs called Chinese breeze 汉语风 and read them and listened to the audio until he understood them
    • [14:04] – It was very difficult to understand at first, but eventually it does become clearer
    • [14:15] – Laurence might spend 5 days per chapter until he got the hang of it
    • [14:42] – After you get to a certain level you can have basic conversations with people and start learning and expanding vocabulary that way
    • 15:32 – At the beginning, Laurence used a website called to find conversation partners
    • [16:19] – Reading books without any pinyin was good to get used to them right away
    • [16:33] – There’s a big difference between spoken Chinese and written Chinese
    • [17:01] – Laurence has found that texting friends on WeChat is a better way to learn how Chinese people actually speak rather than textbooks
    • [18:09] – You can start texting before your vocabulary is really advanced and you’ll learn quickly by picking up on how they speak and using a dictionary to look up things you don’t understand
    • [18:41] – Once Laurence was reading at an intermediate level, he started reading Japanese Manga translated into Chinese. Laurence found this to be great for many reasons that he shares
    • [21:39] – Laurence has referenced other foreigners who have done well learning Chinese, including people on Youtube such as Steve Kaufmann and Vladimir Skultety who share their methods
  • [22:51] – What has been Laurence’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [22:56] – The biggest challenge in learning Chinese is the beginning
      • [23:07] – Compared to learning other foreign languages, it’s hard to get off the ground with Chinese because there are so many new things (tones, characters) that can be intimidating
      • [23:24] – If you just gradually make progress and take it one step at a time you’ll eventually get there
      • [23:43] – When Laurence is struggling on something he’ll focus for a couple weeks on correcting some of those specific mistakes rather than being intimidated by trying to fix everything at once
  • [24:45] – How did Laurence deal with accents and dialects?
    • [24:51] – Just last week, Laurence went to a phone shop to get a SIM card and the employee pronounced the word passport as fù zhào instead of hù zhào.
    • [25:46] – A good way to deal with this is to learn the typical pronunciation differences for each reason so that you can guess what people mean when they say a word that isn’t exactly the way you’ve learned it in standard Mandarin
    • [26:44] – Laurence has also naturally gravitated towards friends who speak very clearly because they are easier to communicate with
    • [27:48] – Laurence explains how people around Shanghai often forget the 后鼻音hòu bí yīn — the nasally sound at the end of words
  • [29:07] – If Laurence were to start over learning Chinese from scratch, how would he do it?
    • [29:15] – Laurence wouldn’t change much about his learning methods besides perhaps reading comics (manga translated into Chinese) earlier on
  • [30:15] – Most rewarding moment: Participating in the Chinese Bridge Competition
    • [30:22] – Laurence placed second in the British Bridge Competition which gave him the opportunity to go to China and participate in the international competition
    • [31:00] – Laurence also made some wonderful friends in the competition
  • [31:20] – After finishing his degree back in London, Laurence will look for a job where he can use Chinese
  • [32:51] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [32:57] – Learning Chinese has opened Laurence’s eyes to the world (开阔了我的眼界kāi kuò le wǒ de yǎn jiè) and made his life more diverse, which has made him happy
  • [33:40] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Laurence’s own culture
    • [33:48] – Laurence has observed that Westerners tend to view Chinese people as mysterious and almost majestic (崇高 chóng gāo), and Chinese think Westerners are weird, but really the differences aren’t all that big
    • [34:45] – One difference is that Chinese people all share dishes while Westerners order and eat their own dishes
  • [36:37] – Laurence’s favourite cities in China: Shanghai
    • [36:41] – Laurence describes Shanghai as “Asia for beginners” because it still has a lot of Western aspects about it
    • [37:14] – Laurence shares some thoughts on Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taipei

Laurence’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [40:00] – 海内存知己,天涯若比邻: Even though we may be in different places, our hearts are still together
    • 海(hǎi) – sea
    • 内(nèi) – inside
    • 海内 – antonym of overseas (海外)
    • 存(cún) – live
    • 知(zhī) – know
    • 己(jǐ) – self
    • 知己 – soul mate
    • 天(tiān) – sky
    • 涯(yá) – shore
    • 天涯 – the other end of the world
    • 若(ruò) – supposing
    • 比(bǐ) – to compare
    • 若比 – is like
    • 邻(lín) – neighbour
  • [40:22] – 长风破浪会有时,直挂云帆济沧海: You may encounter a lot of setbacks and obstacles on your path, but eventually you’ll make it to the other side
    • 长风破浪(cháng fēng pò làng) – to ride the waves / be ambitious
    • 会(huì)有(yǒu) – will have
    • 时(shí) – time
    • 直(zhí) – straight
    • 挂(guà) – to hang
    • 云(yún)帆(fān) – the sail cloth in the clouds
    • 济(jì) – to cross
    • 沧(cāng)海(hǎi) – sea
    • [41:07] – It’s a quote comes from行路难xíng lù nán written by 李白lǐ bái,

Laurence’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [41:21] – You can always speak simply, but you can’t control what people say to you so it’s important to work hard on listening comprehension and vocabulary

Connect with Laurence

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