Iain is from the city of Cardiff which is the capital city of Wales in the United Kingdom. Iain has always enjoyed learning foreign languages. Apart from English and Chinese, he started to learn the ancient Celtic language of Welsh when he was in primary school. He has learned French for seven or eight years and his university course was interpreting and translating Russian and German into English. He also has some conversational Japanese since he lived in Hokkaido Japan for two years. And he speaks some basic Czech and Dutch. That’s 9 languages! Iain has been living in China for 13 years. He is now 39 years old, living in the beautiful tropical city of Sanya in the province of Hainan. Iain is a freelance actor, presenter, and singer.
One interesting fact about Iain: He enjoys singing Chinese ‘red songs’, which are patriotic songs that praise China and the Chinese communist party. It has helped him massively with his Chinese learning. Iain appeared on China’s Got Talent and became very famous for singing the Chinese red songs!

“The linguistic and cultural influence of China stretches far beyond its borders. There are Chinese basically everywhere in the world.”

– Iain Inglis

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:22] – Iain has always had a passion for language learning ever since he began learning French at age 6
  • [2:36] – Iain went back to the UK at age 8 and began learning Welsh
  • [2:50] – Iain found that language learning was his strongest area academically and earned a degree in interpreting and translating
  • [3:07] – Iain spent a number of years looking for a job in the UK but had no luck, until he found a job in Japan teaching English
    • [3:33] – Iain met his wife who is Chinese while he was working in Japan and she was studying there, which led to his eventual move to China
  • [3:52] – Iain first lived in Suzhou, China which is very close to Shanghai and has the nickname the “Venice of the East” because of its many canals
  • [4:21] – After 1 year, Iain moved to Shanghai where he spent the next 1.5 years
  • [4:29] – Finally, Iain came to tropical Hainan almost 11 years ago and has been living there ever since
  • [4:38] – Iain had an interest in China and the Chinese language before he even met his wife, particularly because there are so many Chinese communities all over the world
  • [5:48] – Why did Iain learn Chinese?
    • [5:52] – Many Chinese friends think that Iain speaks such good Chinese because of his wife, but that isn’t necessarily true
      • [6:26] – Iain and his wife mostly speak English with each other
    • [6:36] – Iain’s biggest motivation to learn Chinese is to be able to survive and communicate well with people while living in China
  • [6:52] – When Iain moved to China initially he hadn’t decided to live there long-term yet, but he saw that it was developing and improving quickly and is happy he chose to live there since 2004
  • [7:43] – How did Iain learn Chinese?
    • [7:50] – Iain is asked this question frequently and never knows exactly what to say, other than that you have to go and immerse yourself in the language
    • [8:42] – For everybody listening, Iain believes that if you want to speak Chinese well you simply have to come to China
    • [9:13] – Iain learned the other languages he speaks a little differently than he learned Chinese
    • [9:42] – With Chinese, Iain used a textbook to learn the very basics but after he had that foundation he built on it with daily conversation
    • [11:17] – When Iain first landed in China he spoke only some very basic phrases
    • [12:20] – In Suzhou, some of Iain’s colleagues and friends spoke English and were patient in helping him with his Chinese which was poor at the time
    • [13:27] – Being immersed with TV, radio, advertisements, etc. can also help you pick things up without even thinking about it much
    • [14:08] – Iain will sometimes watch CCTV (Chinese Central Television) but still prefers to practice his Chinese with conversation and watch British TV at home
    • [15:32] – Iain has found that learning songs in your target language is a very good way to improve vocabulary and can be enjoyable
    • [16:57] – Iain has a fascination with old “red songs” about communism because he was taught that these cultures were bad as a young student and that generated more interest in the history for him
  • [18:34] – What has been Iain’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [18:54] – Listening comprehension: there are so many words in Chinese that are only differentiated by tone or context that it’s hard to always understand. Additionally, there are some accents and dialects that are so different from what Iain is used to that he can barely understand them, even now
      • [20:42] – This is an ongoing challenge because China has so many different dialects and accents
    • [20:58] – Iain has good fluency with everyday Chinese language, but he has found it difficult to go beyond that with idioms or proverbs
  • [23:38] – If Iain were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would he do it?
    • [23:47] – Iain would learn more systematically because he thinks that his Chinese is somewhat messy now
      • [24:29] – For example, Iain knows some highly specialised words and yet doesn’t know a lot of more basic words
  • [26:11] – Embarrassing moment: 皮包 (leathered bag) vs 包皮 (foreskin)
    • [26:18] – Iain wanted to say to his wife, “don’t forget your bag” but he mixed up the words and said, “don’t forget your foreskin” instead
  • [26:48] – Most rewarding moment: Being invited to appear on CCTV
    • [27:07] – Iain has been invited to appear multiple times on CCTV to talk about his life in China using the Chinese language for a Chinese audience
  • [27:40] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [27:45] – Life in China after learning Chinese has improved massively, as Iain used to rely on his wife and friends to help him with a lot of everyday stuff but now he is able to be independent
  • [28:47] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Iain’s own culture
    • [28:53] – The drinking culture in China, as opposed to Western cultures, is very different
      • [29:11] – In China, it is the job of the host to make sure that all of his/her guests will go home drunk
      • [29:44] – In the UK, for example, whether you want to drink or not is up to you
      • [29:58] – Iain shares a story of being pressured to drink so much that he couldn’t even walk by the time he arrived back at his home
  • [33:32] – Iain’s favourite city in China: Hainan
    • [33:34] – Iain likes Hainan’s tropical climate, intermediate size, and clean air

Iain’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [38:45] – 入乡随俗 Idiom that’s similar to the English saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”
    • 入(rù) – enter
    • 乡(xiāng) – village
    • 随 (suí) – follow
    • 俗(sú) – social customs

Iain’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [40:18] – Just listen to lots of Chinese however possible

Connect with Iain

Resources Mentioned:

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