Hello, it’s another Everyday Language Podcast episode. This episode is another chat with Jessica, a language enthusiast and person of British Chinese descent. In this episode, we talk about language learning, learning two languages at the same time, difficult parts of learning Japanese and Chinese and whether or not we had tiger parents.
instinctively – without thought; naturally
to stick in my mind – to remember
to flip through a book – to quickly read and turn the pages of a book.
I prefer flipping through my vocab book.
stuff like that – things of that kind.
use your time wisely – an often used expression meaning don’t waste your time.
to share the struggle – to share your difficulties with others.
a big head start – to have an advantage when starting something.
to scratch the surface – to see only the obvious features of something.
kinda –kind of (informal)
pushy parent – Parents who are always pushing the child to do more, to achieve more and are not easily satisfied.
tiger mum – a strict competitive mother especially from East Asia/China.
to take something – to endure something.
I don’t know how they take it.
Mark: Er, what languages, what languages do you speak?
Jessica: Erm, well I yeah, English obviously, umm, Mandarin, yeah? I guess my level is alright, yeah, but of course, yeah, erm, you know, I look, obviously, I look, obviously Chinese but once I open my mouth everyone knows I’m a foreigner, yeah so…
Jessica: I’m instinctively still a foreigner but that’s fine,
Jessica: Erm, yeah so Mandarin and I can get by in Cantonese, and er…I’m learning Russian, now, yep, so that’s my current language goal is Russian, yeah so I really like learning languages so…yeah.
Mark: Mmm, what’s your view on learning two languages? Or more than one language at the same time?
Jessica: Erm, I think you can definitely do it, but I think, if you’re, if you’re a beginner learning two languages at the same, that’s probably not very advisable if, if one language especially if the two languages are related to each other, say for example like Spanish or Portu-Portuguese or even Mandarin and Cantonese, yeah learning those two languages together wouldn’t, wouldn’t be…
Jessica: …it would be better to focus on one until you get to a decent stage and then, and then go back to the other, personally, anyway and I, I think that if, if you’re at like an intermediate or higher stage and you start another language then that’s fine.
Mark: Yeah, okay and er, how, how’s your Russian going?
Jessica: Oh it’s really slow, super slow,
Jessica: I’m studying Russian because my, my boyfriend he’s he’s a native Russian speaker so that’s why I study Russian but yeah I find it really hard, really hard, hehehe, super hard…
Mark: Mmm, right.
Jessica: Yeah erm,
Mark: Is it anything in particular? Or just all of it?
Jessica Erm, I think the hardest part is probably, erm the, the words, they don’t stick in my, they don’t stick in my mind at all, the, the, the, like the words are too long, that’s the first thing and then the pronunciation, and then there are loads of words that sound similar as well, so I just can’t remember, them at all, and I guess the grammar, probably the grammar is the hardest part as well, and if you compare it to Chinese then it’s like Chinese is so easy compared to Russian in terms of grammar. Yeah.
Mark: Right, er, for your study, do you use any like language apps or tools? Or? Like, how do you study?
Jessica: Erm-let me think, I don’t use, I’ve tried using, erm, what is it? Like Anki, do you use Anki?
Mark: Yeah, I was using it a lot, um, to begin with and then I’ve swapped now to Memrise.
Jessica: Ah yeah, see I tried using these sort of apps but I think for me, um, I prefer handwritten notes.
Mark: Yeah, a lot of people do.
Jessica: I think I’m more of a kind of visual learner, I kind a, I kind a like, I don’t know I prefer flipping through my vocab book rather than going, doing ten minutes on Anki, I don’t know it just doesn’t stick with me, and I’ve tried Anki, I’ve used HelloTalk, I guess you don’t, have you heard of HelloTalk at all? Have you used it before?
Mark: Yeah I was using it like about a month ago for a couple of weeks, and then I’ve stopped cos…
Jessica: Oh yeah, how did you find it?
Mark: It’s okay but, er, yeah for actual real life chatting or like for text messaging to people, um, kind of that’s ok, but I’m not, I don’t know, yeah, I’m not a person that’s that social on social media…
Mark: …so it feels like a bit, like, you know a bit like that, erm, so yeah, I mean it could be useful, I think, but I haven’t got into it as much, as I could have.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah I think I had a similar experience, I don’t know it just, erm, I felt like I could have used my time more wisely, yeah haha, I don’t know, perhaps, perhaps, it’s just me I’m not very good at using these sort of apps so, yeah, erm, also I like using Instagram, yeah.
Mark: Oh right, ok.
Jessica: As in like you can follow, you can connect with other language learners and follow teaching, erm, like yeah, accounts, yeah teaching accounts, erm, and I guess because I’m studying Russian by myself it’s nice to, to share the struggles of Russian with other people around the world sort of thing, hehe.
Mark: Oh yeah, so it’s like, communities and stuff like that on there?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yes, so I think if you’re into language learning then yeah, like, there’s a sort of little Instagram community, perhaps and yeah, yeah, yeah but there are lots of like yeah sorry…yeah, hehehe.
Mark: It’s alright.
Jessica: So have you…like when you studied Chinese and when you studied [Japanese] er, do you think your like having a background in Chinese helps you with your Japanese?
Mark: Yeah, definitely because, yeah for like Hanzi or Kanji, you know, [for] compound words you can clearly, kind of, make the connections, so you know, if you don’t know, if you’ve only got one language from that background, or if you’re only studying Japanese or Chinese and you don’t know the other and you’re looking at just at the English definitions it doesn’t tell you that…that information does it?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly.
Mark: So, yeah, you’ve got a big head start I think, erm, but yeah the grammar is so different, so it’s a bit of a nightmare with, you know, Japanese grammar,
Jessica: Hehe, yeah, yeah Japanese grammar is a bit crazy, ah that’s cool, that’s cool.
Mark: Yeah, that’s okay and there’s some, you know, there’s like Japanese readings, and Chinese readings, of words in Japanese?
Jessica: Really? Oh, hehehe, wow.
Mark: So yeah every word can have like yeah at least see two…well, probably multiple readings and then it’s about the context which reading you are supposed to use it in, and yeah, I think so you know, you’ve got to read lots of sentences and see it in, and hear it a lot, and…to know which reading you’re supposed to use.
Jessica: Oh wow, I didn’t realise that.
Jessica: You know, I think I only scratched the surface of Japanese, I, you know, started a couple of beginner classes but I never, got round to er actually, yeah, oh wow, that’s cool, cool. Yeah, I would I would, yeah, I would think that, because if you know… I would get confused, I would see some characters in Chine-… in Japanese and I’ll end up reading it in Chinese or something, I don’t know, I don’t know, but I don’t know yeah.
Mark: Yeah, I mean some sounds are kinda related, which is good and bad, like I er, guess you knew about Katakana, right?
Jessica: Um, um.
Mark: Yeah, yeah like even though they’re supposed to be the foreign words, you know, I think they seem like really hard to pronounce because they’re like similar to words you know but they’re not pronounced exactly the same.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get you it’s like, erm, I have a really hard time remembering erm, names of places and countries in Chinese because they sound kind of like English, but not really at all, so I can’t remember.
Mark: Oh yeah,
Mark: What was that thing McDonald’s? 麥當勞 Màidāngláo?
Jessica: Oh yeah, yeah Màidāngláo? Yeah exactly.
Mark: Pizza what’s Pizza in Chinese?
Jessica: Pizza, I think is just Piza 披萨pīsà
Mark: It’s similar to Japanese ピザー.
Jessica: Hahaha, oh that’s cool. Yeah.
Mark: Well, maybe last one, so were your parents very strict? Strict Chinese parents kind of thing?
Jessica: No, not really my parents weren’t that strict, you, you always hear stories about, you know, oh, you bring home your report card, and you’ve got an A, but you should’ve got an A star, and your parents go crazy about it but my parents were never like that. They were just… they were happy, you know, that I did well at school and that was about it really. Erm, what about you? What about your parents?
Mark: Nah, they were…er, it depends on what mood my mum was in,
Mark: Most of the time she was alright, basically, I think. Okay, so no kind of like tiger mum thing? Where your mum was very pushy parent kind of stuff?
Jessica: Ah yeah, nah, my mum wasn’t, like that.
Mark: I guess, er, you know I was asking that because, er like, I’m a parent now, I mean my kids, [we’ve] got two kids, but they’re really young, and then, erm, what I was gonna ask, did you have to do after-school, school? Like, I’m guessing not you living in Skipton, but?
Mark: No…yeah it’s quite common in China isn’t it? Well in Taiwan it was really common people, people doing [that].
Jessica: Yeah yeah, over here yes, it’s way…it’s really normal yes, they finish school and then they go to another school, haha I don’t know how the kids take it, I don’t know.
Intro music Happy by Setuniman, see his work on Pond5.com Royalty free licence
Outro music: Accordion Improvisation song by Tristan Lohengrin (CC attribution licence)
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash