Nick is from the United States and currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His native language is English. Apart from that, he speaks fluent Mandarin and basic Cantonese. Nick has studied Chinese for almost 10 years now. At 32 years old he now has a website and a book that help people find a job and create a life in China. He also does Chinese translation and interpretation.
Here’s one interesting fact about Nick in his own words: I’m addicted to Seinfeld. Seinfeld is an American comedy TV series from the 90s. I’ve probably seen all 180 episodes 30 times each or more. I’ve been a fan since I was 10 and used to talk about episodes with my friends at the lunch table in 4th grade. There are some good references to China and Chinese in several episodes.

Time Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:29] – Nick is from the USA
  • [3:33] – Nick first moved to China in 2007 to teach English after graduating college and he stayed for six years
  • [3:45] – Nick didn’t know any Chinese when he moved there, and just planned to learn a little bit of Chinese and to travel around
  • [4:01] – Nick taught in Zhongshan near Hong Kong, which is where he started learning Chinese
  • [4:41] – During his time teaching in China, Nick travelled all over Asia and China
  • [4:55] – Why did Nick learn Chinese?
    • [5:03] – Nick was originally just interested in teaching in an Asian country, so he learned Chinese because he happened to be living in China
    • [5:52] – After a while, Nick saw that learning Chinese could also provide career opportunities
  • [6:17] – What’s is Nick’s biggest motivation in learning Chinese?
    • [6:27] – The joy of talking to people in Chinese and connecting with them wherever he goes is the biggest motivation
    • [6:51] – Nick also enjoys the challenge of learning Chinese characters
    • [7:15] – When Nick didn’t feel motivated, he would talk to friends on WeChat, and watch and listen to Chinese media
  • [7:51] – How did Nick learn Chinese?
    • [7:59] – When Nick first started, the most helpful thing was listening to and repeating Pimsleur audio which exposed him to basic sentences through repetition
    • [8:20] – Nick also got a Chinese teacher who helped him when he wanted to learn how to say different things in daily life
    • [8:42] – Nick’s speaking improved by talking to people in day to day life
    • [8:57] – Nick learned to read through children’s books, shop signs, and restaurant menus
    • [9:18] – Nick learned Chinese before there were phone apps, so he used an actual dictionary
      • [9:27] – This forced him to learn the Chinese radicals, and sorting characters by number of strokes
      • [9:47] – He further learned to write by texting friends
    • [10:36] – In the beginning, Nick retained vocabulary just from high-frequency use
    • [10:50] – Later on, Nick learned new vocabulary through ChinesePod and flashcards
    • [11:20] – Nick always found that he forgot what he studied if he didn’t use it in actual conversation
    • [12:19] – Reading children’s books was a fun and unintimidating way to learn to read Chinese characters
    • [13:11] – After passing the beginning stage, Nick began using conjunctions and speaking in longer sentences
    • [13:33] – After 3 years in China, Nick was very comfortable in basic communication, but didn’t expand his knowledge of the Chinese language until he began using it for work as a language interpreter/translator for a Chinese company
  • [15:13] – What had been Nick’s biggest challenge in learning Chinese?
    • [15:22] – The more Chinese you learn, the more you run into plateaus where progress feels slower
      • [15:52] – Nick gets past these plateaus through repetition and volume of content at his current learning level
      • [17:10] – Once you reach a certain level, it is no longer a necessity to learn more because you can already communicate well. It’s hard to continue at this point
        • [18:27] – 20% of the time to get to 80% fluency, and after that, there are diminishing returns
  • [18:54] – It really helps to be immersed in an environment where using English isn’t an option
  • [19:33] – How did Nick deal with the tones and dialects?
    • [19:36] – Nick still has a tough time with tones and dialects, and finds dialects can often sound almost like different languages
    • [20:06] – Nick has learned a little bit of Cantonese and Shanghainese by reading online forums and speaking to people and from those regions who don’t speak Mandarin fully fluently
  • [22:06] – Funny moment: Talking with masseuses
    • [22:29] – While out getting a foot massage with some friends, Nick tried talking to the masseuses with his basic Chinese. He was able to make fun of his friend saying that he didn’t speak any Chinese, he only knew how to ask for a beer.
  • [23:59] – Most rewarding moment: Getting a job offer in China
    • [24:08] – Nick enjoyed being an English teacher, but didn’t want to do that as a career. It was a really great moment when he was able to get an interpreter job because of his ability to speak Chinese.
    • [25:15] – This job offer came after Nick had been living in China for 4 years
  • [25:38] – Now Nick is working as a medical interpreter in the US, communicating between Chinese-speaking patients and English-speaking doctors
  • [26:17] – Nick also has a website and a book focused on helping people who want to find work and travel around in China
  • [26:54] – Victor used a medical interpreter when he first arrived in Australia, and they are usually Chinese people who speak English. It’s much less common to have the reverse situation
  • [28:06] – Nick’s website,, consists of blog posts and videos focused on helping people who are interested in moving to China and making the most out of their time there
  • [28:55] – Nick’s book, Ultimate China Guide: How to Teach English, Travel, Learn Chinese, & Find Work in China, covers similar topics to the website and is available on Amazon
  • [29:31] – Life before learning Chinese vs. life after learning Chinese
    • [29:38] – Nick’s life is more interesting because he can talk to the billion plus Chinese people in China as well as Chinese people all over the world
      • [30:09] – Nick even met a woman who was from his home city in China, Zhongshan, while in his actual home city in the USA, which is a small Midwestern city
  • [31:02] – A difference between the Chinese culture and Nick’s own culture
    • [31:16] – When you meet a Chinese person, they sometimes ask 吃了吗 (chī le ma)?Which means: Have you eaten yet? This is a unique Chinese way of asking how are you doing
  • [32:08] – Nick’s favourite place in China: Zhongshan
    • [32:20] – Zhongshan is a clean city with a warm, sub-tropical climate. It’s not too crowded or polluted; it’s ‘good for living’
    • [33:10] – There are also a lot of foreigner-friendly bars, restaurants, and events
    • [33:36] – Nick originally choose Zhongshan because it was the closest option he had to Hong Kong, where his aunt and uncle were living at the time

Nick’s Favourite Chinese Quote

  • [35:50] – 不要迷恋哥,哥只是个传说 – This amazing guy you’re thinking about, he’s just in your imagination. (This is jokingly saying to take it easy)
    • 不要(bú yào) – don’t
    • 迷恋(mí liàn) – to be infatuated with
    • 哥(gē) – older brother / friendly term for older male acquaintances
    • 哥(gē) – older brother / friendly term for older male acquaintances
    • 只是(zhǐ shì) – merely / simply / only
    • 个(ge) – individual / classifier for people or objects
    • 传说(chuán shuō) – legend / folklore
  • [36:07] – You have to be a male to say this because you are talking about yourself in the third person
  • [36:18] – This can be used to tease/flirt with a girl

Nick’s Advice for Chinese Learners

  • [38:18] – Go to China and talk to people. The immersion and interest in the culture are paramount to success learning a language

Connect with Nick

Resources Mentioned:

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