Cameron comes from Wales in UK. Apart from English and Chinese, he is also learning Swedish since his girlfriend is from there. Cameron first started learning Chinese 14 years ago, but he has studied it properly for 7 years. Cameron is now 22 years old, living in Lancaster and studying for a masters degree in physics at Lancaster University.

Interesting fact: He got to perform for the Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the UK a couple of years ago.

“You can’t be afraid to get things wrong because it’s going to happen… Every time somebody corrects you, it’s an experience to get better at Chinese.”
– Cameron Patterson

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:22] – Cameron was the European champion for the 2015 Chinese Bridge Competition
    • [1:39] – Through that, the Confucius Institute knew of Cameron, so they invited him to perform a poem during President Xi’s visit to the UK
  • [2:20] – When Cameron was 8, his father moved to China to teach English and Cameron moved to China along with his mother soon afterwards
  • [3:03] – Cameron was almost 9 when he first arrived in China, and he hadn’t learned any Chinese yet before he arrived
  • [3:21] – Cameron’s father was teaching at a primary school in Shanxi 山西 Datong大同, which is where Cameron went to school
    • [3:33] – After school, Cameron had private tutoring sessions to work on his Chinese
    • [3:45] – Cameron went to local schools where he was usually the only foreigner, which forced him to learn Chinese quickly
    • [4:12] – It was very difficult for Cameron living in China in the beginning because he didn’t speak the language and the culture was so foreign to him
  • [4:51] – After about a year and a half living in China, Cameron was able to start holding conversations in Chinese
  • [5:33] – Another difficulty was that cities like Datong had very few foreigners at the time, so Cameron really stood out and got a lot of attention which could feel quite scary at times
  • [6:31] – When Cameron moved back to the UK for high school at age 16, he knew that living in China had made a big impact on his personality
    • [6:48] – At that point, Cameron had spent so much time in China that Britain actually felt different and strange to him
  • [7:21] – How did Cameron stay motivated to learn Chinese when he moved to China?
    • [7:32] – Since very few people spoke English, learning Chinese was necessary for daily life so it was almost a deeper force that was pushing Cameron than just motivation
  • [8:04] – How did Cameron learn Chinese?
    • [8:18] – You can’t be afraid to get things wrong because it’s inevitably going to happen from time to time
    • [8:48] – If you say something wrong and somebody corrects you, don’t feel bad but instead take it as a chance to get better at Chinese
    • [9:08] – Try to use Chinese as frequently as you can through whatever means are available to you, especially if you’re living outside of China
    • [9:44] – There’s no replacement for real human social interaction with learning a language
  • [10:15] – What are Cameron’s strengths and weaknesses with Chinese?
    • [10:25] – Speaking is Cameron’s strong suit
    • [10:28] – Cameron’s writing used to be good, but he hasn’t maintained the same level because most writing is done digitally with pinyin now
    • [11:38] – The best way to get better at speaking and listening is with social interaction
    • [11:46] – Watching Chinese TV and movies can also help with listening, and you’ll eventually go from needing English subtitles in the beginning to being able to switch to Chinese subtitles later on
    • [12:50] – Being young made it easier for Cameron to learn good Chinese pronunciation
  • [13:43] – Cameron has two older siblings, one brother and one sister
    • [13:47] – Cameron’s sister never moved to China, but his brother did move out to China a couple years after Cameron and ended up starting a family there
  • [14:39] – The majority of Cameron’s primary school years he actually lived in 江苏Jiangsu连云港 lian yun gang, and then his junior school years were mostly in 广东Guandong
  • [14:57] – Cameron and his family moved around quite a bit to experience many different places in China
  • [15:16] – How did Cameron deal with accents and dialects?
    • [15:20] – In school you just speak Mandarin
    • [15:32] – Cameron did understand some Cantonese while living in Guangdong but never learned to speak it
  • [16:07] – Living in China makes learning Chinese significantly easier because you’ll be forced to use it all the time and that is what makes you remember and learn faster
  • [17:27] – What has been Cameron’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [17:35] – The biggest challenge was definitely the beginning – going to school with Chinese students and not being able to speak Chinese in order to socialise or understand the lessons
      • [18:06] – Cameron explains the typical day for a Chinese student and how that helped him develop a great work ethic
    • [19:37] – Cameron moved back to the UK for high school so that he could go to university in the UK, but he’s glad that he lived in China up until that point because he did develop good habits from the challenging school system
    • [20:30] – Cameron explains how the Chinese high school entrance exams work and how important it is
    • [22:05] – Cameron found that his classmates in the UK didn’t know how to deal with the pressure of exams, whereas in China exams are a constant and you learn how to handle the pressure of them
    • [23:15] – Cameron’s school had official monthly exams and the testing scores for the students were displayed for everyone to see, making it really competitive
    • [25:05] – Victor explains more about how competitive the education system is in China
  • [26:16] – If Cameron were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would he do it?
    • [26:29] – The important thing is what Cameron would do the same, which is definitely still moving to China and learning the language and culture through immersion
  • [27:06] – Embarrassing moment: Being called 老外(lao wai)
    • [27:13] – Chinese will often call foreigners “lao wai”, which translates to old foreigner. Cameron’s father would get mad when he heard people saying that about him and Cameron had to explain to him that it doesn’t have a negative connotation or literally mean that they are calling you old
  • [29:03] – Most rewarding moment: Getting 2nd at the Chinese Bridge Competition
    • [29:09] – Placing second in the world in the Chinese bridge competition was an all-around great experience
  • [31:01] – How does Cameron use his Chinese now?
    • [31:04] – Cameron just returned from Fudan University where he was studying physics in Chinese
    • [31:16] – Cameron has two years left to finish his Master’s degree, so he doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to China, but will use Chinese at the Confucius Institute in Britain
  • [31:49] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [31:55] – Learning Chinese and having so many different experiences opened Cameron’s eyes to the world and made him more open minded
    • [32:47] – Learning Chinese also gave Cameron more confidence and opened up a lot of opportunities
  • [34:29] – A difference between Chinese culture and Cameron’s own culture
    • [34:45] – While living in China, Cameron liked studying 国画 (Chinese traditional paintings).  These are interesting because unlike Western oil paintings, it’s important to leave blank spaces in these Chinese paintings
  • [36:00] – Cameron’s favourite cities in China: Shanghai and Beijing
    • [36:04] – Shanghai is so big and there is so much to do there, as well as having a good mix of old and new
    • [36:41] – Beijing is like a living museum
    • [37:32] – Cameron also really liked Huangshan黄山 (yellow mountain), which has some beautiful nature

Cameron’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [41:46] – 路顺风 – Safe travels (literal: I hope your journey is in the direction of the flow of the wind)
    • 路(lù) – journey
    • 顺风(shùnfēng) – tailwind / Bon voyage!
  • [43:01] – Don’t use this when people are going to be flying on an airplane

Cameron’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [44:18] – Never give up and don’t stop practising
  • [44:24] – Speak and use the language as much as you can

Connect with Cameron

  • Weibo: Kangke57

Resources Mentioned:

  • [38:09] – Pleco – Chinese dictionary app
  • [39:03] – Book: Cameron suggests getting a primary school textbook and trying to read through it. If you’re already at an intermediate level you can try more advanced textbooks
    • [40:15] – Victor explains how relevant this material can be to Chinese people in everyday life
    • [40:47] – Cameron reiterates how useful the material can be for conversation
  • Chinese Bridge Competition

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