Philippe’s Interview and Review
A Frenchmen with a Chinese girlfriend, Philippe lives part of the time in France and part of the time in China. Extremely detail-oriented, Philippe is an avid debugger and feedbacker and loves to have everything make sense in Chinese. He’s very good at asking questions until it does!
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hello! My name is Philippe and I’m a 37 years old man. I was born in France, but I also lived 13 years in Ireland and soon I’ll be living in China for a while. I’m a software engineer by trade, also a computer technician.
How did Chinese come into your life? How long ago was that? What happened since?
When I was living in Annecy, I hosted quite a few people (I am a Couchsurfer), many Chinese amongst them. That’s how I met my girlfriend, three years ago. She speaks fluent French, but I like learning languages, plus we have to move to China by the end of the year with our kid, so there you are: I’ve been teaching myself ever since I met her.
What do you love most about Chinese?
I don’t think I’ve got enough experience in Chinese to give a very informed opinion about that one. But I guess I do love chengyus (成语)! I think idioms are fundamental to mastering a language, and sure enough, learning chengyus is always a great way to learn about Chinese culture and history.
What are the hardest things for you in learning Chinese?
As a programmer, I tend to look for patterns and to find comfort in clearly defined rules and systems. In school, I started languages with German, then Latin, then English. So when you tell me a language has no conjugation, no gender, no plural, no inflexion, no obvious etymology, etc. I tend to break into a nervous sweat. The worst being the writing system. Of course, it turns out it’s not that bad and as I get further into it, I find patterns to hang onto. But it sure is destabilizing!
What is your Chinese learning routine like?
Alas I don’t have much of a routine! That’s probably my greatest problem at the moment. I started a new job two months ago so that put a damper on things as I find myself learning lots of things for the job and having limited amounts of time and energy left. Also having a one year old is pretty exhausting, haha!
So my routine is doing about half an hour of hanzi reviewing at lunch time or a lesson here and there when I empty my review queue.
Having a Chinese girlfriend is useful as she’s constantly watching hanzi subtitles shows and I’m definitely recognizing more and more characters and words in the dialogues. I don’t have the level to make conversation with her yet, but any excuse to use what I have is good!
Do you only use Ninchanese or do you use other tools as well? How does Ninchanese help you reach your goals in Chinese?
I originally started with Rosetta Stone, which really really works well for me and oral practice, but it’s pretty much useless for learning a non-Latin writing system. Still it worked for oral so I used it for about a year until I discovered Ninchanese. I find Ninchanese more well-rounded, and I’ve definitely improved character recognition thanks to the method. Also I enjoy grammar lessons (if you don’t know Rosetta, there are no lessons, only immersive practice) as, well, it’s the way my brain works.
What’s your favorite thing about Ninchanese?
I like the friendly design and enthusiastic atmosphere, which makes learning a lot more pleasant, but my favorite thing so far must be the feedback! I know it’s still the beta phase, but it’s really great to be able to interact with the developers and get answers about this or that point of grammar :)
Any last thoughts?
Nothing particular comes to mind. But then again, I tend to make extensive use of the feedback button, so that’s probably why. Being a software developer, I can only wish you good luck in your endeavor… or should I say, 加油! And also, I hope I can access the website from behind the Great Firewall! ;)