Andreas is from Germany and he speaks German natively. Apart from speaking fluent English and Chinese, he also speaks rusty fluent French, intermediate Thai and some basic Japanese and Korean. That’s 7 languages. Andreas has studied Chinese for 8 years and he now lives in Guangzhou China. He is now 27 years old, working as a project manager at the German Chamber of Commerce.

Interesting fact: He once travelled from Singapore to Germany via land.


“When you speak Chinese as a foreigner, you can become a part of Chinese communities everywhere and the world becomes more a home.”

– Andreas Goller

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:42] – Andreas is from Germany, and became inspired to study Chinese for his undergrad after taking a 1-month trip to China in 2009
  • [2:21] – Guangzhou – where he now lives – was Andreas’ first stop, and he also went to Xiamen on that trip, where he would later go for his master’s degree
  • [3:04] – Andreas didn’t speak any Chinese at the time, but found Chinese people to be very helpful and hospitable
  • [3:48] – Andreas felt that more Chinese people know about the Western world than vice versa, so he set out to learn more about China, eventually studying Chinese at University
  • [5:05] – What was Andreas’ biggest motivation to learn Chinese?
    • [5:10] – Andreas’ university in Germany had a good Chinese language program with the first year being very intensive
      • [5:41] – Students had to be really committed to passing the first year, so the motivation for Andreas came from that necessity
      • [5:51] – Andreas feels fortunate to have taken such an intense program, as it was an efficient way to learn
  • [7:27] – Andreas experienced a couple different levels of progress with his Chinese, beginning with being able to have a basic conversation
    • [7:43] – Once you reach this level, people are really receptive and supportive, so you’ll have a lot of opportunities to improve
    • [8:02] – A lot of people get stuck/trapped at this level and have limited subjects that they converse about, so it’s important to push past that
  • [8:57] – Once you have the basics down, you can get into written Chinese to take your language skills to the next level
    • [9:26] – Written Chinese language is actually quite different from spoken Chinese
    • [10:23] – Once you can confidently read a newspaper, it’s much easier to advance naturally
  • [11:07] – Andreas went to Taiwan on exchange during his second year of university. He was around HSK-4 when he arrived in Taiwan
  • [11:23] – Andreas focused on studying traditional characters first, which makes it easier to learn the simplified characters later
    • [11:47] – Traditional characters have stories and history behind them that help them make sense and gives them some beauty, but a lot of that is lost with simplified characters
    • [12:15] – Traditional characters aren’t as difficult to learn as it may seem and is an enriching experience
  • [14:24] – How did Andreas learn Chinese?
    • [14:40] – Immersion and feeling the language
      • [14:55] – Andreas explains how being able to actually use your language skills and be passionate about the language/culture makes it easier to learn
      • [17:02] – Andreas gives an example of how not feeling/living the language held him back from improving in Korean as much as he had in Chinese during the same amount of time
    • [18:25] – Andreas learned 2000-3000 characters in his first year of studies
      • [19:13] – Andreas didn’t use repetitive writing to memorise characters, but preferred using software called WenLin that’s like a character dictionary with explanations of the radical compositions of each character and more helpful tips
      • [20:18] – Andreas found it helpful to learn explanations of how characters came about because it was interesting and worked as a good memory aid
        • [21:58] – Some characters don’t have good stories behind them, but you can still use your imagination to make them easier to remember
    • [22:24] – For pronunciation, the intensive class Andreas took spent the first week focusing just on phonetics before even getting into vocabulary and characters
    • [24:00] – At a later stage, it’s important to look for some cultural input that’s fun to listen to, such as movies or music, so that you keep getting used to hearing the language
  • [24:23] – What has been Andreas’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [24:23] – Andreas struggled most with writing. This is because writing requires active knowledge, whereas it’s much easier to read a character and recognise it (passive knowledge)
  • [25:58] – If Andreas were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would he do it?
    • [26:04] – Andres is glad that he started out with an intensive course. Chinese is not a language that you’ll pick up from taking an evening class once per week
  • [26:32] – Embarrassing moment: Failing a challenge at the Chinese Bridge Competition
    • [26:40] – While competing in the Chinese Bridge Competition, Andreas was completely stumped by a challenge and got it entirely wrong, which was filmed and broadcasted on the show
  • [28:09] – Most rewarding moment: Being mistaken for a native Chinese speaker
    • [28:19] – Andreas was taking a sleeper train and having a conversation with a Chinese person in the dark. When she asked where he was from and he said Germany, she was shocked that he was a foreigner.
  • [29:38] – How does Andreas use his Chinese now?
    • [29:41] – Andreas uses Chinese every day at work to talk with coworkers and do market research, as well as just everyday life things because he lives in China
  • [30:30] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [30:35] – Chinese is a key that opens the door to a very large part of the world, and a lot of communities outside China
      • [31:24] – Speaking Chinese as a foreigner enables you to become a part of Chinese communities and bond with people
  • [32:05] – Andreas’ favourite cities in China: Xiamen and Guangzhou
    • 32:13 – As far as 1st tier cities go, Andreas really likes Guangzhou. But his favorite city is Xiamen because of it’s moderate size, good development, culture, and local scenery
  • [33:30] – Andreas talks about the trip he took by land from Singapore all the way to Germany, with stops in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Tibet, Sichuan province, Kazakhstan, Moscow, Ukraine, and Berlin. The whole trip took about 6 weeks and had some great memories but was also exhausting
  • [36:48] – All of the countries in East Asia are very unique and different from each other

Andreas’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • 40:17 – 过犹不及:too much or too little isn’t good, stay close to the middle; too far is as bad as not enough
    • 过(guò– pass through
    • 犹(yóu– like; similar
    • 不(– not
    • 及(– extend

Andreas’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [41:17] – Commit all the way – either you’re all in or your out
  • [41:50] – Try to find the parts of Chinese culture that you really enjoy and dive into it
  • [42:17] – Enjoy speaking with Chinese friends

Connect with Andreas

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