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The ONLY thing that REALLY matters when learning another language

When I tell people I am learning Chinese a common reaction I get is “wow, I could never do that.” While I appreciate the (misplaced) admiration, it’s simply not true. There’s only one thing you need to learn Chinese (or pretty much anything else) and that is the MOTIVATION. Let’s assume it’s not absolutely essential … Continue reading The ONLY thing that REALLY matters when learning another language

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I quit my job!

When – at 15 – I decided I would be a journalist, the outlook was always one of low pay, limited job opportunities and no job security. Universities were (and still are) busily churning out journalism graduates who would never be journalists. Rather than focusing on this, I decided to do whatever it took to … Continue reading I quit my job!

The view can be pretty spectacular on the way up (on a completely unrelated note I am having snow withdrawels hence this snowy pic from Nozawa onsen to illustrate the beauty of mountains even when you're not on top of them yet)

Mistakes I’m happy to make in Chinese

Like any other foreign language learner I make LOADS of mistakes when I try to talk in my very broken Chinese. Some mistakes are just bad – getting a tone wrong or messing up the pronunciation of a word – but there are others that I think are actually great mistakes to make. Let me … Continue reading Mistakes I’m happy to make in Chinese

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Why I don’t have many friends

I have never held a dinner party with 10 of my closest friends. I don’t have 10 people to invite. I don’t have friends I see every weekend, I don’t even have friends I see every month. A lot of people are surprised by this. I’m a person who makes money with words – first … Continue reading Why I don’t have many friends

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Top 3 things about Taiwan

I expected to love Taiwan. Everyone I spoke to told me about the friendly locals, the excellent public transport and THE FOOD. Yet somehow Taiwan managed to surpass my heightened expectations – here’s how: 1: The people   ‘The locals are so friendly’. People say this about a lot of places. So I expected people … Continue reading Top 3 things about Taiwan

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The strangest place I’ve eaten

In Taiwan I ate. A lot. Pretty much every few hundred metres. I could spend all day talking about the food – but I will spare you and just do a photo post of all the things I couldn’t resist later – in this post I want to share the strangest PLACE I ate. As … Continue reading The strangest place I’ve eaten

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I like skiing not chemistry!

I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had in Chinese that have gone something like this: Random person: what do you like to do for fun? Me: I like skiing (huá xuě 滑雪) Random person: You like chemistry (huà xué 化学)??? Me: no, I like skiing (moving my head in a … Continue reading I like skiing not chemistry!

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First haircut in Chinese

The conversation (in Chinese) at one of the ‘take a ticket from the vending machine, wait in line and hope’ style hairdressers here in Taipei went like this: Me: hi, happy new year (since the Lunar New Year has just started I find that wishing people a happy new year immediately gets them onside and … Continue reading First haircut in Chinese

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I’m going to Taiwan!

I leave tomorrow (eek!!) I’m going there to study for five weeks (with the aim of getting my Chinese above the level of a barely speaking toddler). This will be the first time I have travelled overseas on my own (I haven’t even been on an international flight by myself – let alone navigated a … Continue reading I’m going to Taiwan!

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Funny/awkward things about travelling as an AMWF couple

It started at the airport. My Chinese fiance Peter was waved through security with the elderly Asian couple in front of us with me running along behind bleating something like “excuse me, that is my fiance and they are not his parents!” This type of thing happens to us a lot (once, Peter had just … Continue reading Funny/awkward things about travelling as an AMWF couple

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100 characters in 2 weeks (on a ski holiday!)

What do you do in your downtime on a ski holiday? You could hang out in bars, get drunk, socialise with other ski bums or you could learn 100 Chinese characters (really, I am super fun at parties!) My Chinese is elementary (a three-year-old Chinese kid could easily out talk me) and I have done … Continue reading 100 characters in 2 weeks (on a ski holiday!)

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Sounding like a robot in Chinese

When I bring out my very basic Chinese and manage to be understood – ie I order 3 vegetable buns and 3 vegetable buns are what I end up with – I feel a real sense of satisfaction. Being understood is hugely motivating. However, recently after a particularly good moment – I think I had … Continue reading Sounding like a robot in Chinese

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Chinese comfort food

Potatoes have always been my go-to comfort food. Fried, mashed, baked they are, without a doubt, a food I could get fat on. When my Chinese fiance Peter first introduced me to congee (米粥  mǐzhōu – a rice porridge) I wasn’t that taken by it. The same went for thousand year old eggs/century eggs (皮蛋  pídàn) … Continue reading Chinese comfort food

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VIDEO: speaking Chinese (very badly)

One of the hardest things for me about learning Chinese is getting over the fear/embarrassment of sounding like an idiot. I find that when I try to use my (very rudimentary) Chinese with native speakers they tend to react one of three ways: Laugh. I don’t think this is meant to be as discouraging as … Continue reading VIDEO: speaking Chinese (very badly)

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Why this ad makes me happy (and a little sad)

The reason this ad makes me happy is pretty obvious. It’s an Asian male/white female (AMWF) couple. My fiance Peter is Asian. I’m white. The reason it makes me sad is a little more complicated. When Peter and I first got together I didn’t realise AMWF relationships were “a thing”. I paid very little attention … Continue reading Why this ad makes me happy (and a little sad)

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Buying a fat straw (in Chinese!) #boba

So, I decided to make my own boba tea. It’s not the first time I have tried to do this – I once tried to make it with taro (note: taro requires a certain level of expertise, I ended up with a sticky, gluggy mess) – this time, however, I used coconut milk which only … Continue reading Buying a fat straw (in Chinese!) #boba

Why a tutor in China is WAY better than university (in my opinion!)

I have tried four different ways of learning Chinese in the two or so years I have been learning (part time while working full time). ***Disclaimer*** I’m not getting paid to write this and this post is NOT about bashing universities – different ways of learning work for different people, I get that, this is … Continue reading Why a tutor in China is WAY better than university (in my opinion!)

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Plumbing problems (unsupervised time with the inlaws!)

Standing in the kitchen in our apartment with a 70+ year old Chinese man literally inside the cupboard fixing a leaking pipe while his wife fires questions at him in Shanghainese (side note: at this stage I can understand about 10% of the words when someone is speaking Mandarin in a normal conversation but with … Continue reading Plumbing problems (unsupervised time with the inlaws!)

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Unnatural immersion

Since I am not in China I am doing all I possibly can to create an “immersion environment” with some interesting (somewhat unexpected) results… I have never been so pleased when someone tries to sell me something I have moved to a part of the city where a large number of Chinese immigrants live. Usually, … Continue reading Unnatural immersion

The “sleeping dictionary” dream

Random people on the street have helped me more with my language learning endeavour than my “sleeping dictionary”. To be fair, I didn’t get with my Chinese fiance Peter for his “sleeping dictionary” capabilities. I paid very little attention to the fact that he was Chinese at all. He speaks perfect English (along with Spanish … Continue reading The “sleeping dictionary” dream