Hannah comes from the United Kingdom. Hannah has studied Chinese for 4 years and lived in China for 5 years. She is now living in London and works for the Body Shop.

Interesting fact: She has a six-month-old puppy called Snoop.

If you live in China and don’t speak Chinese, you can know a bit or even a lot about China. But by speaking Chinese, you can really understand how Chinese people think, the culture, the history, and the meaning of all the interactions you have.

– Hannah Jackson

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:10] – Hannah grew up in UK and decided to study Chinese when she got to university in 2006
    • [1:29] – Chinese wasn’t a common language to study in the UK at the time
  • [1:50] – Hannah studied abroad in China for a year while in university, and then moved back to China to work for 5 years after she graduated. Now she’s been back working in the UK for the last 4 years
  • [2:43] – Why did Hannah learn Chinese?
    • [2:49] – Hannah wanted to study a language that would be interesting and useful for career/business in the future, which eventually led her to pick Chinese
    • [4:08] – After only a week of studying Chinese, Hannah realised what a big undertaking learning the language would be
  • [4:41] – What has been Hannah’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [4:45] – Hannah likes to take on challenges and prove doubters wrong
    • [5:13] – Hannah quickly realised that learning Chinese and living in China would be extremely rewarding
    • [6:10] – There are times in the beginner stage that are extremely difficult and demotivating, but you have to keep pushing through those moments
  • [7:25] – How did Hannah learn Chinese?
    • [7:34] – Learning Chinese takes serious time, commitment, and dedication. There is no way to get around that
    • [8:06] – Hannah would write new characters 100s of times and spend hours per day to get used to reading and writing
    • [8:53] – After passing the beginner stage, Hannah would go on the Chinese version of BBC and learn sentences by heart to really grasp the writing style
    • [9:40] – Speaking and listening was difficult to make progress in before having the immersion of actually living in China
      • [10:20] – Progress came by getting out to socialise, talking to taxi drivers, meeting new people, and being willing to make mistakes
    • [10:50] – After living in China for six months, Hannah began taking overnight train journeys and that really accelerated her Chinese learning because everybody wants to talk to you on those trips
  • [12:55] – What has been Hannah’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [13:04] – There are different challenges as you progress
      • [13:09] – The first month of learning was incredibly difficult, but Hannah had support from teachers and mentors who gave her a positive perspective
        • [14:14] – One teacher said, “I know how hard you’re finding it now, but just imagine how rewarding it will be to have a Chinese paper and be able to read it.”
      • [15:37] – After making it through the beginner stage, there were still frustrating times when concepts and typical speaking style just wouldn’t click together
        • [16:12] – It was helpful to watch Chinese TV shows with subtitles to learn how native speakers talk and express themselves
  • [17:08] – If Hannah were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would she do it?
    • [17:31] – Hannah would want to go straight into an immersive environment immediately when she starts learning
      • [18:06] – The smaller the city you go to, the more likely you are to have to speak Chinese
        • [18:37] – Hannah shares the interesting strategy one of her friends took to quickly improve his Chinese
        • [20:00] – While working in Shanghai, Hannah found that many foreign friends living their didn’t speak much if any Chinese and it was rarely necessary
  • [20:46] – Most rewarding moment: Bridging the gap between companies in Silicon Valley and China
    • [20:54] – Hannah had to talk about complex technology as a consultant who would translate between big companies in Silicon Valley and China
  • [21:46] – How does Hannah use her Chinese now?
    • [21:52] – Hannah works for The Body Shop in London to communicate with Chinese officials and facilitate change in markets (e.g. going away from using animals for testing cosmetic products)
      • [22:27] – The company’s products are extremely popular with Chinese consumers, so Hannah also works on engaging with those customers online
        • [23:26] – Understanding Chinese culture is extremely helpful for work, and that deep understanding only came by being able to speak the language
    • [24:14] – Hannah sometimes travels to China for work, but wishes she could use Chinese more often still
  • [24:49] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [24:55] – Life is simply richer and more rewarding now
  • [25:22] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Hannah’s own culture
    • [25:29] – Chinese people are very hospitable and friendly, more so than anywhere else Hannah has experienced
      • [26:00] Hannah shares stories about amazing experiences from overnight train journeys and interacting with Chinese clients through work
  • [27:10] – Hannah’s favourite cities in China: Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu
    • [27:17] – Shanghai is very cosmopolitan and international, while still being very Chinese
    • [27:36] – Beijing is fascinating for its history and atmosphere
    • [28:09] – Chengdu is a more natural and has a gentle pace

Hannah’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [32:02] – 龙飞凤舞 – idiom that’s used to describe flamboyance or fanciness or to praise somebody’s writing
    • 龙(lóng) – dragon
    • 飞(fēi) – fly
    • 凤(fèng) – phoenix
    • 舞(wǔ) – dance

Hannah’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [35:18] – Stay committed and be willing to put in the time necessary to reach your goal


If you want to really accelerate your Chinese learning, spend a month on sleeper trains… You’ll get way ahead of everybody else because everybody wants to talk and find out more about you.

– Hannah Jackson

Connect with Hannah

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