EC Students' Sharing

Francois Colombani

Francois started his Mandarin studies when he lived in Beijing, before he moved to Hong Kong two years ago. Learning Mandarin evolved to a hobby for him from an academic goal as he took advantage of the opportunities to speak Mandarin outside of his classes. “I also found that learning Mandarin was very rewarding as it allowed me to access new dimensions of Chinese daily life and culture. It's also helped me to understand a few Chinese jokes, but I still have a long way to go in that respect!”

When Francois came to Hong Kong, his goal was first and foremost to learn to read Chinese characters. “In this respect, my studies at EC have allowed me to evolve from an quasi-illiterate Mandarin speaker into a student that can read several hundred characters and counting, all the while expanding my vocabulary and learning a few fancy sentence structures. So I'm quite happy!” Based on his success in Mandarin learning, Francois also started studying Cantonese with EC. All EC staff agree he is really gifted in language learning.

Francois left us his top language learning tips:
1) Don't focus too much on tones at the beginning, but rather on making fluid albeit simple sentences;
2) Use disyllabic words at the beginning, easier to remember and less prone to confusion, especially when speaking with a native: example: "qiguai" instead of "qi" or "guai", which both mean strange;
3) Systematically engage conversation with taxi drivers, especially in Northern China, they are very talkative and will brief you on anything from world politics to traffic to the best karaoke. Even if you don't understand everything, it'll lead to a big jump in vocabulary and listening skills.
4) Favor "immersion" trips in remote places of China: you'll improve faster and discover new Chinese provinces at the same time.

Tom Jenkins

Tom has been studying Mandarin on and off since 1998 - about 7 years. He first started learning Mandarin for practical and living reasons, but now he learns Mandarin because he enjoys it, “I discovered through how rewarding being able to speak a bit Mandarin could be and so decided to continue learning, even after I moved away from the mainland.”

Tom is highly satisfied with the class flexibility and teaching quality of EC, he thinks his Mandarin has definitely improved a lot since he started studying with us, “I have an excellent teacher who has helped me a lot - particularly on the tones which, like many other Laowai learning Mandarin, are not my strongest point!”

When talking about Chinese culture, Tom said, “As well as learning the language, learning about Chinese culture is equally important for someone who wants to live and work in China. My studies in EC have helped me to do this as my teacher often picks cultural topics for us to discuss.”

Here are the 3 steps learning tips from Tom:
1) To persevere, especially through the first few months which can be the toughest period of learning a new language; 
2) Then, after you have been learning for a few months go up to Shenzhen and practice your Mandarin in real life situations - that way you will soon build up your confidence;
3) Finally, after you've been learning for six months or so take a trip to somewhere like Beijing and you'll be amazed at how much more fun you'll have compared to someone who can't speak the language.

Georg Nussdorfer

Georg is motivated to learn Mandarin so he is better able to express himself to his Chinese business partners - who have become friends of his through their experiences working together. Georg notes that “knowing etiquette and social patterns helps a lot in creating a favorable atmosphere to establish relationships with Chinese business partners.”

Around EC, Georg is highly regarded by the teaching staff as a quick learner who is committed to his learning. Georg's top learning tips: “you have to enjoy it... and of course the best practice is of course in a taxi in Beijing or in a restaurant in Guangzhou!”

When asked what he most values about his learning at EC, Georg replied: “I like that the program is focused on practical communication so I always feel that I am learning real language that I can use when on my next China trip. I have been positively surprised by the intimate spirit and culture I experience at the EC. At the same time, EC is always dedicated to achieving the goal - making people like me understand and speak a foreign language!

Peter Osborn

Peter has been learning in EC since May 2005. His passion for learning Mandarin impresses our teachers and staff. Peter has 3 big motivators “I'm motivated by wanting to be able to communicate more fluently with my stepdaughter who only speaks Mandarin, also for my work dealing with Chinese companies and people, and finally to enjoy the depth of understanding that comes from the language.”

To learn a language successfully, you have to find a right approach. As Peter said, “Over the years I have tried a number of approaches to learning Chinese and I find the EC approach really suits my needs.  I have an excellent teacher who teaches me in a focused way based around my specific needs for vocabulary and speaking practice on topics directly relevant to my day-to-day work and personal needs.  It's great and I think I'm making progress - man man lai! ”

Peter also recognizes the importance of Chinese business culture knowledge, “I've spent the last 15 years working in Taiwan, China and HK and there is no doubt that an understanding of language gives you a significantly greater depth and understanding of Chinese business culture that brings you direct benefits to your work, and just as importantly to your personal life and ability to function at a high level, and enjoy living and working in a Chinese environment.”

Any learning tips from Peter? “My advice is to always give it a go, Chinese people are very forgiving with their language and respect that you're taking the time and effort to try to speak Chinese.  Patience, persistence and perseverance also come in handy!”

Tjun Tang

Tjun’s motivation to learn Mandarin is the extensive business he conducts in Beijing and Shanghai.

“Improving my Mandarin has enabled to me to really deepen my personal relationships with Chinese clients and colleagues. It also has given me the opportunity to connect more closely with people I meet day-to-day.  It helps a lot with understanding sensitivities and perspectives.” Tjun said.

EC staff and his tutor all agree, Tjun is an amazing student who has very high expectations on himself and always achieves his objectives on time. “EC is able to help me set a target program of speaking fairly fluently by mid-year and achieve it.  I've been quite surprised how efficient the course has been.  My teachers at EC have been very flexible and encouraging to help fit into my busy schedule.”

Tjun’s advise can be summarized in 4 points:
1) Practice, practice, practice -- I try to speak with colleagues and clients as much as I can... it started out with small talk and has now moved to business discussions;
2) It's worth trying to do a lesson a day, even if only for an hour, as speaking Mandarin every day really helps to maintain fluency;
3) Downtime on flights is a really great way to revise vocabulary;
4) At the end of the day, have fun!  It's the fastest way to learn.

T.A. Varghese

VARGHESE studies Mandarin because the language helps him build long term relationships with valuable clients in Hong Kong & China.

Varghese is an Intermediate level student at EC. His teacher says he is a very quick learner & a hard working student who always pushes himself to learn more. In less than a year, Varghese can communicate with his teacher in Mandarin and understand what his China business partners say.

Varghese recognizes the importance of understanding Chinese culture: “A deep knowledge of Chinese culture takes time to learn for an expatriate like me, but the effort taken to learn -  is well regarded by my clients and colleagues.” As for his top learning tips: “practice the language for about 15 minutes a day -- especially on the MTR! Also work on the practice conversations - they get better as your vocabulary improves!”

Corbett Rowell

CORBETT ROWELL has a Chinese name called ‘Jiang Ping.’ Jiang has been studying Mandarin for five years (the last two with EC), Corbett can now read and write more than 2000 traditional Chinese characters!!!

We asked Jiang what his advice was to other students: “I recommend setting goals, like being able to read a newspaper, understand Chinese news programs, etc.”

When asked about Chinese culture, Jiang Ping believes learning more about the culture is also key to learning the language: “The language is the culture. One cannot successfully learn a language without understanding the culture.”