Lizzie is an Australian but grew up in New Zealand and Australia. Lizzie studied Chinese formally for 1.5 years at the university level but studied informally by living in Beijing for 13 years. Lizzie now lives in Melbourne Australia, working as a primary school teacher, as a specialist EAL teacher (English as an Additional Language).

Interesting fact: Lizzie was born in a small town in Germany called Blankenstien

On why practicing Chinese with locals who don’t know English was helpful, “Whenever I took a taxi I always enjoyed the opportunity because I could have a chat with the taxi driver and know that we’d have to negotiate the conversation in Chinese no matter how difficult it became.”

– Lizzie Tai


Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:23] – Lizzie moved to Beijing 15 years ago to start teaching at an international school
    • [1:32] – Lizzie didn’t know any Chinese to start off, but realised that life would be easier if she learned Chinese
  • [1:50] – Lizzie was working as a primary school teacher before moving to China
  • [2:00] – Lizzie had previously been to China to visit her family when her father was working there and decided from that experience that she’d like to find her way back to China
  • [2:34] – Lizzie started learning Chinese really soon after arriving in Beijing
  • [3:36] – Lizzie lived in Beijing for 13 years, but would still travel back to Australia or New Zealand about once a year
  • [3:55] – Beijing became home for Lizzie – she got married to a Chinese man and had two children while living there
  • [4:39] – How did Lizzie learn Chinese?
    • [4:44] – Lizzie began with learning survival language like taxi directions and how to buy groceries
    • [4:58] – The school were Lizzie worked had Chinese classes for the foreign teachers to learn the basics
      • [5:27] – After getting the basics down, Lizzie knew that it would take a bigger time and effort commitment to keep progressing
    • [6:12] – If Lizzie were to start learning Chinese from scratch, she would have taken a year off from work to really focus on studying the language
    • [7:22] – Now that she’s back in Australia, Lizzie is finding it much harder to continue learning Chinese
    • [8:11] – Lizzie became proficient in speaking and listening by focusing her studies on learning pinyin and pronunciation and not worrying about reading and writing as much
    • [9:53] – Lizzie would learn sentences and use them in everyday conversations with locals
    • [10:42]Lizzie benefited most from practising Chinese with locals who didn’t know any English. Without the option to switch to English, Lizzie was more likely to learn new words and get conversation practice
  • [12:41] – What has been Lizzie’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [12:49] – The biggest challenge in the learning process was always finding the time to study after full days of teaching
    • [13:49] – The most difficult facet of the language for Lizzie to learn has been writing, though knowing pinyin helps because she can still text
    • [16:09] – Working at an international school kept Lizzie in an English bubble as it wasn’t necessary to know Chinese
      • [17:09] – All subjects at the international school were taught in English
      • [17:26] – Lizzie taught kindergarten children, so that provided her with good exposure to some basic Chinese language
  • [18:01] – If Lizzie were to start learning Chinese again from scratch, how would she do it?
    • [18:08] – Immersion is a big key
    • [18:13] – Lizzie found that dedicating some time to focus specifically on learning Chinese during a summer break from teaching helped her make the most progress
    • [19:18]Lizzie is happy she focused on spoken Chinese before reading and writing, and she’s found that learning characters later on is easier because she can interpret the meaning of characters she doesn’t know from the context in the same way that children learn to read new words
  • [20:47] – Most embarrassing/funny moment: Mix up with the taxi driver
    • [20:53] – Lizzie gave a taxi driver her destination but had a miscommunication with the tones and ended up going in the complete opposite direction for a while
  • [23:04] – Most rewarding moment: 
    • [23:11] – Now that she’s back in Australia, it’s rewarding for Lizzie to be able to help young Chinese kids who don’t know much English to be able to express themselves and find a source of familiarity
    • [24:17] – Chinese people always get surprised to find a Westerner who can speak Chinese in Australia
  • [25:10] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [25:17] – Learning another language opens the door to learning about the culture and customs, which is an enriching experience
  • [27:48] – Lizzie’s favourite cities in China: Beijing and Sanya
    • [27:51] – Beijing became home for Lizzie, but she would sometimes spend summer vacations in Sanya and that was her favourite getaway
  • [28:46] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Lizzie’s own culture
    • [28:52] – It’s customary for Chinese people to share food together and to make meals a priority, whereas in Western culture most meals aren’t treated as special or significant in any way

Lizzie’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [32:02] – 再说一遍 – translation is “please say it again”
    • 再说(zàishuō) – to say again / moreover
    • 一遍(yībiàn)  – one time

Lizzie’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [32:57] – Spend some time studying and practising every day – even if it’s only a few minutes, it will pay off in the long term to frequently expose yourself to the language
    • [33:48] – There’s a Chinese phrase to describe this advice: 细水长流, which means a little stream that flows for a long time
      • 细(xì) – tiny
      • 水(shuǐ) – water / stream
      • 长(cháng) – long
      • 流(liú) – flow

Connect with Lizzie

  • Facebook: Lizzie Tai

Resources Mentioned:

  • [30:40]Pleco – Chinese dictionary app
  • [30:56] – Textbook: New Practical Chinese Reader
    • [31:08] – You can search ‘New Practical Chinese Reader’ on Quizlet or YouTube and find supplementary materials like flashcards and memory games or watch the dialogues acted out

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