Ken’s Interview and Review
Ken is the first ever Nincha Learner to dethrone the Nincha Team in the all-time leaderboard, and still going strong! If you want to become #1, he’s the guy to defeat! His passion for martial arts and Chinese medicine has led him to Chinese, but he’ll explain all that way better than we can:
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a 40-something Australian dude. I have a life-long passion for learning and a strong interest in Chinese culture and Eastern philosophy. I work as an acupuncturist. My favorite pastimes include taiji, Chinese martial arts, Buddhist meditation and learning stuff.
How did Chinese come into your life? What made you decide to learn Chinese?
I guess my first exposure to Chinese was from my kungfu teacher when I was quite young. We used to learn the Cantonese names for the techniques and also recite short idioms as a method of learning martial arts philosophies. None of us had any idea what the tones were and although we were also given Chinese characters, no attempt was made to actually read them, so I didn’t learn very much about the language really.
Later in life I decided to study traditional Chinese medicine and as part of that training we did one unit on the foundations of Chinese language. Still, I didn’t gain much language proficiency from this study but at least I learned how to read and pronounce pinyin and also learned some technical terms that were relevant to my profession such as the names of acupuncture points and herbs, and a few other things.
How long ago was that? What happened since?
That was about 10 years ago now. How time flies! Since then I have been very dedicated to furthering my studies and trying to deepen my understanding of Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts. Although it is not necessary to know Chinese language in order to be a successful Chinese medicine practitioner, I think it is really important if one wishes to gain a deep understanding of this medicine and the philosophy which underpins it.
I found myself spending a lot of time studying translations of classic Chinese texts and commentaries of these texts. I found that there were vastly different interpretations of these writings and this frustrated me. Also, there were many important medical texts that weren’t even available as English translations. So eventually, one day in April last year I got to the point where I just thought, screw it! I’m gonna learn Chinese. Learning a language is a monumental task, hence why I didn’t decide to do it sooner, but I do find it really enjoyable so since I made the decision to start, I haven’t looked back.
What do you love most about Chinese?
I think what I love most about Chinese is that it is at the same time, both completely foreign and different to English language but also it is all around me everywhere. My profession and my hobbies make Chinese especially close to me in my daily life but even without that, I see Chinese characters around me everywhere – on restaurants, on food labels, on instruction manuals. In the multicultural cities of Australia we even get a lot billboards and signs with Chinese characters. I get lots of opportunities to test my literacy skills and I really enjoy trying to crack the code.
What are the hardest things for you in learning Chinese?
I think it’s all hard really! But that’s why it’s also fun. I guess the pictographic/non-phonetic nature of the writing is really difficult to get used to. So many really similar looking characters with vastly different meanings! So many similar sounding words with vastly different meanings! Difficult to say which part is the hardest.
How is Ninchanese part of your learning routine?
Ninchanese is a big part of providing direction for my learning. Although I have various other resources that I use for Chinese study, Ninchanese has a much vaster amount of vocabulary and information so there is always another level for me to complete. It saves me having to think too much about what I am going to learn next. Even if I get all the way through to the final stage, I know that I will benefit from going back and reviewing it all again.
My goal is to be reasonably fluent within 3 years of study. My shorter term goal is to have a good knowledge of the 2000 most common characters because I heard that this can be used as a definition of basic literacy and will cover 95% of stuff that I am likely to encounter. I’m not sure how close I am to this goal as yet but I aim to get there by the end of this year.
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What’s your favorite thing about Ninchanese?
There’s lots of things that I really like about Ninchanese. It is such a good, affordable resource for me. I have been able to source a lot of other good quality, affordable learning resources but none of the others have had the range that Ninchanese has for taking me from beginners level through intermediate level and into more advanced stuff. A lot of the other language tools out there are either too advanced for me or too basic. Ninchanese covers all levels.
The game format works well too. It makes it easy to study when everything is put into an easy to use and addictive, point-scoring, competitive format.
Any last thoughts?
Thank you to Sarah and the Ninchanese team. Please keep doing what you are doing and making it (relatively) easy and fun for us to learn. You’re doing a great job.