Richard is from Dublin, Ireland born in 1976. His native language is English (with a bit of Irish). Richard lived in China from 1998 to 2013. Since then have been back several times a year for work as an educational consultant.
One interesting fact about Richard: He went to China as a bet and ended up living in China for 16 years.
“When I was learning Chinese I never saw it as a task or a chore. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed trying to challenge myself to remember as much as I could.”
– Richard Doran

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:18] – Richard is from Dublin, Ireland and lived in China for 16 years
  • [1:57] – Richard shares the backstory of how he moved to China on a bet he made while traveling in Australia
  • [3:39] – Why did Richard learn Chinese?
    • [3:50] – Being able to speak the local language just makes life easier
    • [4:30] – Richard has noticed that if you are competent and make an effort to speak Chinese then people are very accommodating and helpful
  • [4:59] – Richard talks about his first year in China
  • [5:54] – During Richard’s second stint living in China he moved to Beijing and began taking classes
  • [6:13] – After spending a year in Ireland, Richard went back to China a third time and enrolled full-time as a student at Beijing Language & Cultural University
  • [6:47] – Richard and Victor discuss how mingling with local Chinese people instead of looking for English speakers in China is very important
  • [7:50] – How did Richard learn Chinese?
    • [7:58] – Richard’s most effective strategy in the beginning was going through the book 汉语800句 (800 Mandarin Sentences), which had dialogue for various different contexts
    • [8:34] – Richard learned how to say new words and phrases by thinking ahead about the vocabulary he would need in the situations he was planning to be in later on that day
    • [9:19] – Richard also kept a notebook with him to write down any new words or phrases he heard that would be useful in the future; At the end of the week he would review what was in his notebook
      • [10:24] – In the very beginning, a colleague helped Richard to learn basic phrases
    • [10:51] – When Richard first started learning with textbooks he only learned pinyin, which slowed down his studies later on
    • [11:34] – Richard recommends not overthinking when you begin learning characters, they will start to make more sense with time
    • [12:37] – Richard’s predominant method to learn new vocabulary was just writing down everything he learned and then reviewing his notes
    • [13:24] – Richard never viewed learning Chinese as a task or chore. He really enjoyed learning and challenging himself
    • [14:16] – Because Richard enjoyed the process and wanted to learn, it came much more easily to him; A positive attitude is crucial to language learning
    • [15:39] – Richard would have Chinese music or TV on as background noise and found that it helped him adjust to language
    • [16:40] – Richard forced himself to make conversation as much as possible to improve his speaking skills
    • [17:06] – It’s important to not be worried about making mistakes, it’s not a big deal and helps you learn where you make mistakes
    • [18:27] – If you’re learning outside of China, try to create the immersion environment by playing Chinese podcasts or videos as much as possible
  • [19:13] – What has been Richard’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [19:21] – The longer you learn, the more difficult Chinese becomes
      • [19:26] – Richard changed a famous Chinese saying, 活到老学到老(live till you are old, learn till you are old), to instead be: 活到老学不了 (live till you are old, still can’t get it)
    • [20:00] – Try not to compare yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself — meaning that you should recognize your own progress and then set yourself manageable goals from there
  • [21:00] – How did Richard deal with accents and dialects?
    • [21:05] – Richard’s first experience was with the northern dialects, and then when he traveled to southern China it sounded almost like an entirely different language
    • [21:48] – Eventually, Richard realized that it was best to not worry about dialects too much and just speak as good of Mandarin as possible
  • [22:42] – If Richard were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would he do it?
    • [23:11] – Richard would try to speak even more than he did before and set realistic goals
    • [23:40] – Richard would avoid bigger cities because it would be easier to learn in smaller cities where there are fewer opportunities to speak English
  • [25:20] – Embarrassing moment: forgetting his line on live TV
    • [25:29] – Richard’s first time on TV, he was supposed to say, “I will be your tube valve” (气门芯儿), but he forgot the line on live TV. Luckily, he got more opportunities to go on TV
    • [28:25] – Have a thick skin when you make mistakes and you’ll be able to remember the mistake and remember it for the next time
  • [28:53] – Most rewarding moment: Speaking Chinese on stage in Ireland
    • [29:01] – Richard is able to host the spring festival show at the university in Dublin and introduce Chinese guests in Chinese
    • [30:04] – The experience of learning Chinese has also helped Richard become a better English teacher
  • [30:25] – How does Richard use his Chinese now?
    • [30:28] – Richard works remotely from Dublin with several Chinese companies and travels to China a couple times per year for work
  • [31:07] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [31:14] – Chinese has been instrumental in Richard’s career and has also given him a greater appreciation for things like working from home, traveling, and clear air
  • [32:16] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Richard’s own culture
    • [32:26] – The biggest difference is the sheer amount of people in China relative to Ireland
    • [32:47] – Chinese people don’t have the same idea of personal space as people in Ireland
    • [33:26] – Chinese people also are more direct than people in Ireland as far as asking personal questions about things like relationship status, income, etc.
  • [34:29] – Richard’s favourite cities in China: Beijing, Chengdu
    • [34:39] – Beijing is where Richard has spent the most of his time, but he also liked Chengdu and appreciated that it is a bit smaller and slower than other major Chinese cities
  • [36:32] – Richard suggest intermediate/advanced learners read and listen to a variety of different subjects so that you learn how to speak in any context

Richard’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [43:42] – 囊中羞涩 : To have nothing but embarrassment and shame in your pockets
    • 囊(náng) – bag, purse
    • 中(zhōng) – inside, central, middle
    • 羞(xiū) – shame
    • 涩(sè) – harsh

Richard’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [46:08] – Enjoy the process of learning the language; Don’t be disheartened when things get tough, and give yourself a pat on the back when you make progress
  • [46:48] – Always ask for help and never be afraid of saying you don’t understand

Connect with Richard

  • Facebook: Richard Doran
  • WeChat: fastson2012
  • Weibo: 爱尔兰的董默涵

Resources Mentioned:

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