Anthony is from Connecticut, USA. Anthony is in his late 30s. He speaks fluent English and Mandarin Chinese. Apart from that, he can also speak Thai at basic conversation level and bits and pieces in Cantonese and Teochew 潮州话 which are another 2 dialects of Chinese. Anthony is married. Now teaching martial arts and just started doing some English-Mandarin interpreting.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:10] – Why did Anthony learn Chinese?
    • [1:14] – Around 1999, Anthony started learning the Chinese martial art of Wushu
    • [1:23] – At first, he was intimidated by the tones and didn’t intend to learn Chinese, but after a couple years he decided to give it a shot
  • [1:38] – What’s is Anthony’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [1:49] – Anthony was dating a Chinese girl (his wife now) and had the opportunity to practice every day, which helped him pick up the language fairly quickly
    • [2:33] – While learning Wushu, Anthony was surrounded by Chinese people with varying amounts of English language abilities
    • [2:53] – He was motivated to be able to communicate with all of these people and it provided frequent opportunities to practice his Chinese
  • [3:37] – How did Anthony learn Chinese?
    • [3:48] – When Anthony was first learning, it was before the modern internet so he didn’t have access to apps or online programs
      • [3:59] – He used his 30-minute commute studying with Pimsleur, which was slow but really helped him learn pronunciation
    • [4:43] – Now Anthony continues to improve his Chinese skills by trying to learn new bits of grammar and vocabulary, and listening/reading some news
    • [5:08] – While first learning, Anthony would hear new words in conversation and then use them himself to commit them to memory
      • [5:35] – Now when Anthony studies with spaced repetition software (SRS), he puts full sentences on his flashcards to learn new words with context
  • [6:08] – What had been Anthony’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [6:13] – The writing system has been the most difficult part of Chinese for Anthony, and he still doesn’t feel that he has overcome the challenge fully
    • [6:33] – Anthony can learn new characters quickly now (10/day), but there are just so many that he is still a way away from complete literacy
    • [7:21] – Be patient — progress in Chinese will be slower than in a romance language, but with persistence it will come
    • [8:03] – Anthony’s active vocabulary is smaller than the vocabulary that he can understand while listening or reading
    • [8:23] – Anthony uses SRS to refresh his memory of vocabulary systematically
    • [8:47] – Anthony has found that knowing 1,500 characters is about enough to begin interpreting the meaning of new characters based on their components
    • [9:37] – Anthony and Victor explain the concept of spaced repetition
  • [10:57] – How did Anthony deal with the tones and dialects?
    • [11:07] – Anthony’s wife is from Guangdong, so there are some pronunciations she does differently
    • [11:28] – The first time Anthony got a taxi in Beijing, he struggled to understand the taxi driver who was speaking standard Mandarin because he wasn’t accustomed to the Beijing accent
    • [11:49] – It gets easier to understand different accents and dialects with time and practice
  • [12:12] – Embarrassing moment: Too many to count
    • [12:25] – The other day, while speaking with his sister-in-law he wanted to say that somebody had tried to contact him after he had fallen asleep, but accidentally said that he had died (睡去了shuì qù le) instead of fallen asleep (睡着了shuì zháo le).
  • [13:21] – Most rewarding moment: A lot of those too
    • [13:29] – In 2010 while travelling in China, Anthony needed a power converter for the outlets, and the hotel employee didn’t expect him to speak Chinese so he was struggling to speak English. Anthony told him he could speak Chinese and watched the look of relief on his face, which was a priceless feeling
  • [14:30] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [14:39] – This is hard to even determine for Anthony because he has been speaking Chinese for almost half his life now
    • [15:02] – After becoming literate, Anthony gained a broader world view
    • [15:20] – Speaking Chinese has created many job opportunities as well
      • [15:25] – Anthony does medical interpretation, which can be tricky
  • [16:11] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Anthony’s own culture
    • [16:25] – Chinese culture has a strong sense of identity and historical pride about their long history
    • [17:07] – They place such a strong emphasis on family, and respect for elders (Western Individualism vs. Chinese collectivism)
    • [17:45] – Chinese people are more willing to make difficult sacrifices for their family
    • [18:36] – Anthony has been with his wife for 15 or 16 years and doesn’t find the cultural differences to be particularly big between them
      • [19:07] – He enjoys Chinese food and culture, and his wife has also learned about and adapted to western culture
  • [19:24] – Anthony’s favourite place in China: Wudang Mountain
    • [19:47] – Victor explains that Wudang Shan is significant for its history of Kungfu

Anthony’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [24:09] – 轻重缓急- To have a sense of the importance of things
    • 轻(qīng) – light; easy
    • 重(zhòng) – heavy
    • 缓(huǎn) – slow
    • 急(jí) – quick
  • [25:02] – When you are trying to accomplish something in life, have a sense of priorities

Anthony’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [25:39] – Make sure you learn the tones correctly in the beginning
    • [26:02] – Whether it takes several months or longer, persistence will pay off
    • [27:09] – The third tone isn’t used fully all that often, it’s more common when speaking fast to use the half third tone
  • [29:10] – For language learners who know the language well but still struggle with tones and pronunciation, slow down your learning to focus on pronunciation for a while
    • [29:21] – If people can’t easily understand you, all the effort to learn the language is partially wasted
  • [30:00] – Anthony thinks that learning to speak is easier and more important in the early stages than literacy, so learners shouldn’t spend too much time on reading and writing
  • [31:41] – Anthony points out a particular example of some common learning material that simply isn’t realistic with how Chinese people actually speak
  • [34:58] – Don’t do too much and get burnt out, prioritise your communication skills at the beginning of your language learning process
  • [35:43] – Anthony spends 1 to 1.5 hours per day learning Chinese and listening/reading Chinese content
  • [37:21] – Anthony thinks new learners should start realistically
    • [37:42] – Don’t spend 5 minutes per day, because you won’t make enough progress to feel it’s worthwhile
    • [37:52] – Anthony recommends 15-30 minutes to start off with, and build up from there
  • [38:01] – Learning becomes more rewarding as you become proficient using the language
  • [39:03] – Experiment, find what learning methods work best for you, and don’t get discouraged when you’re struggling

Connect with Anthony

Resources Mentioned:

  • [20:26]Memrise (iOS, Android)
  • [20:39]Anki
    • Both of these are SRS which is good for learning new characters and vocabulary in context
  • [21:25] – Book: Conversational Chinese 301 (Book 1) (汉语会话301句)
    • [21:42] – The idea is this book introduces you to Chinese through sentence patterns
    • [21:48] – It teaches you the grammar almost sneakily in this way, instead of trying to learn grammar through a description without natural application
    • [22:04] – This is also an effective way to learn new vocab in context and develop natural speaking tendencies from the beginning
    • [22:39] – Also has an audio edition with Beijing speakers who have clear accents

Did you enjoy the show? Leave us a review!

  1. Click here
  2. View in iTunes
  3. Leave us a review

How to Subscribe to the Podcast (free!)

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Journey to Chinese Fluency”  This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on your iDevice.

For Android listeners – Download the Stitcher Radio app (free) and search for “Journey to Chinese Fluency”.  Or, if you have already downloaded a podcasting client, follow the directions in the next sentence.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.  You can see all episodes by clicking this link.