Imelda is from Queensland Australia. Now living in Melbourne. She speaks English natively and she is also fluent in Chinese and Italian. Imelda has learned Chinese for more than 8 years. Now she is working in international education.


Interesting fact: She loves travelling and she enjoys learning phrases in the local language.


“After you reach a certain level, learning new words becomes easier as you recognize combinations of individual characters you already know.”

Imelda Lapthorne

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:02] – Imelda started studying Chinese when she was in primary school and continued up through university
  • [2:13] – Imelda has been able to use Chinese everywhere in the world, including while she lived in Italy
  • [2:40] – When she started learning Chinese, Imelda only had 1 30-minute lesson per week, but it was enough to get her interested in learning more
  • [3:21] – Imelda’s high school Chinese teacher was a native Australian who had lived in China and who had a lot of interesting stories
  • [4:01] – When she started university, Imelda won a scholarship to go study Chinese in Beijing
    • [4:40] – Imelda was already able to speak Chinese well by then because she had a lot of practice speaking with her Taiwanese roommate back in Australia
  • [5:32] – Imelda traveled to China for 3 weeks in between high school and university and found that her spoken Chinese improved a lot in that short time
    • [6:31] – Imelda took a Chinese class for a couple weeks where the teacher and other students didn’t speak English, so she was forced to use Chinese
  • [6:55] – What has been Imelda’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [7:02] – The desire to one day travel to China and to speak an interesting and useful language that was less common to study than the romance languages
  • [7:48] – Imelda also speaks fluent Italian because she lived and worked there for 2 years
  • [8:11] – How did Imelda learn Chinese?
    • [8:18] – There was a lot of hard work at the beginning. For one class, Imelda and the other students had to learn 60 – 70 new characters per week that they would be quizzed on
    • [8:44] – Only the students who were really motivated passed
    • [8:54] – After you reach a certain level it becomes easier because new vocabulary are often just combinations of characters that you already know
      • [9:11] – Imelda gives a cool example to explain this point
    • [9:26] – Once Imelda reached a decent level where she could start communicating with people she was motivated even more to continue
    • [10:04] – Imelda’s high school Chinese teacher would take the students to a Chinese restaurant every semester and have them order in Chinese
    • [10:53] – Imelda talks about a fun Chinese game that she played in that high school class
    • [14:06] – The more you use different radicals the easier it becomes to recognise them in new characters
      • [14:24] – Victor gives an interesting example of the historical significance of a couple different radicals
    • [15:29] – To improve speaking, Imelda was never afraid of making mistakes. She would always try talking to people, and Chinese people were helpful whenever she did make mistakes
    • [16:19] – Imelda found that learning characters along with their sounds worked best for her, rather than doing just speaking or just writing
  • [17:04] – What has been Imelda’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [17:11] – The tones are really difficult, especially at the beginning
      • [17:27] – Speaking in phrases helps with remembering tones because you can get the flow of the sentence rather than learning characters and tones in isolation
  • [17:52] – How did Imelda deal with accents and dialects?
    • [17:56] – Imelda lived in Taiwan for a year, but she found that being exposed to different accents and dialects helped her understand the language better
  • [19:19] – If Imelda were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would she do it?
    • [19:26] – She would study every day so that she doesn’t lose any progress
    • [19:47] – Imelda talks about one beneficial technique she had for improving listening comprehension
    • [20:22] – Once you reach a basic conversational level, travel to China
    • [21:16] – If you’re in a place with lots of Chinese students you can try to meet people who will do a language exchange
  • [22:18] – Embarrassing moment: Being let down by her chopstick skills
    • [22:26] – Imelda was out to eat at a restaurant in China and dropped a dumpling in a big bowl of soy sauce, splashing it everywhere
    • [23:35] – Imelda talks about how she learned to use chopsticks
  • [24:09] – Most rewarding moment: Getting a free meal for speaking Chinese
    • [24:19] – Imelda ordered food at a Chinese at a restaurant in Italy speaking Chinese, and the boss of the restaurant was so impressed that she got the meal for free
    • [24:44] – Speaking Chinese also helped Imelda get a good job opportunity
  • [25:15] – How does Imelda use her Chinese now?
    • [25:17] – Imelda works in international education, so she often looks after Chinese students in Australia and works with agents in China
  • [26:14] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [26:22] – Learning a second language helps improve your understanding of your own language, so Imelda feels more intelligent and open-minded for having learning Chinese
  • [27:47] – A difference between Chinese culture and Imelda’s own culture
    • [27:55] – When you go to a Chinese friend’s house you’ll take off your shoes and be given some slippers, and they’ll often offer you a cup of hot tea. In general Chinese people are very hospitable

Imelda Lapthorne’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [33:47] – 吃一堑长一智 – learning from making mistakes
    • 吃(chī) – eat; endure
    • 一(yí) – one
    • 堑(qiàn) – moat; pit
    • 长(zhǎng) – grow
    • 一(yí) –  one
    • 智(zhì) – wisdom; knowledge

Imelda Lapthorne’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [35:48] – Keep at it, don’t give up; Make some Chinese friends and plan a trip to China

Connect with Imelda Lapthorne

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