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問我anything with Shelley


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Inspired by "Ask Me Anything" at Reddit and Tumblr, we are starting a series of topics called 問我anything. Each topic will feature a member of our chinese-forums community. This is a chance to get to know each other and chit-chat a bit. I'll start the topic with a few questions for the participant. Please let him or her reply to the first post before posting more questions. Questions do not have to be related to Chinese or China. The participant also reserves the right to skip questions s/he does not want to answer. If anyone is interested in participating in 問我anything, please message me!



Without further ado, some questions for Shelley:
What was the first item (book, software, audio, etc.) that you purchased for learning Chinese?
Do you like Chinese food? If so, what is your favorite dish?
Today you are given 25 hours in the day, what would you do for that extra hour?
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Shelley, if I remember correctly you're learning Chinese in a not particularly cosmopolitan part of the UK - I'd imagine there's a dearth of Chinese evening courses and opportunities to practice, etc. How much harder does that make learning Chinese, and how have you worked around it?

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Thank you for starting this yst and thanks roddy for your first question.


I don't think where I am is that uncosmopolitan :)  They are after all filming immigration street in the same city as me ( I am aware and not worried that this is a big clue as to where I am), so there must be a good cross section of nationalities.


Also the University of Southampton and Southampton university are here which have a lot of evening classes, in fact I took an evening class at the University of Southampton and achieved my only qualification so far, a Diploma in Chinese at stage 2a.


I also started my Chinese journey (see why here - http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/43982-why-chinese/page-2 ) by taking an evening class in 1985 there. There was a gap of about 20 years between the two classes but it was the same teacher :) and he remembered me and seem genuinely happy to see me.


In between I studied privately in a small group for about 10 years. We met once a week with time out for holidays etc. The teacher was a lady who was British but born in china, she was of an age (she was quite young I guess as she told us that her and her amah had to make a dash for the boat) that meant she had to leave in a big hurry when Japanese troops arrived. She had some very interesting stories about her life in china and her passion for the language was obvious.


There is also a large Chinese community , the University has a large Chinese student in take.

So every where you go around the city there are lots of Chinese faces, the campus of the University is rather a sprawling affair so they are scattered all over the city.

One of the roads near the university even has a mini china town.

A visit to the local large supermarket is full of Chinese students and snippets of mandarin and other dialects are always flying around.

At New Year the Chinese association put on the traditional dragon and lion dances and there is a Chinese market in the centre of the town as part of the celebrations.


Even with all this I have still had problems finding a speaking partner, so my speaking skills are way below what I would expect after all this time but i am making a big effort to change that. Have signed up for wechat and have made some friends to chat with, I am also starting a edx course on grammar this September as this is also a weak point and I think one reason my speaking is not as good as i expect.


I have found self study rewarding and pleasurable, because for me learning Chinese is a passion and a hobby. I enjoy classes but sometimes find life gets in the way so with studying on my own I can always fit it in.


If I was braver I would like to go and hang around the campus and try to strike up a conversation but earlier bad experiences with this have put me off this idea, but that's ok I am slowly finding people to talk to.


So all in all its not that empty of classes and opportunities for learning Chinese but not so full of conversation partners as far as I was concerned.


If this answer brings up more questions, don't hesitate to ask :)

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The first text book I bought was Getting by in Chinese by the BBC, it came with 2 cassettes. This was the textbook used in my first class.


The first bit of software I bought was either Radical Exam or Asian Suite, it was a while ago.


The first bit of dedicated hardware was an Instant-Dict EC4900H Super made by BeSTspeech, this was a great little bit of kit, you could actually hand write characters on the screen using a stylus and it would tell you the pinyin and meaning, it also had loads of other good stuff for its time.


I have always been a bit of tech lover and so now I have loads of stuff, my favorite is my tablet with Pleco, Skritter and loads of other stuff.


I do like Chinese food but it doesn't like me :) I have peanut allergy and nuts in general so I have to be very careful about what I eat so I tend to cook for myself and then I make my favorite Chinese chicken of my own recipe.


Oh an extra hour!! not sure I would notice it :) I am up at about 9ish and bed is anywhere from 10pm to 3am. An extra day would be great, it could be a Chinese only day. So maybe an extra hour could also be a Chinese only hour.

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Hi Shelley ^^ thanks for doing this AMA (or should this be called a WWA?)


- You mentioned problems finding language partners despite the large Chinese population there. What has been the issue with that? (Is it a time issue? Or perhaps just not being on the same wavelength as your language partner or...?)


- What steps are you taking/testing out to improve your speaking on your own, and what has worked or not worked for you?


- What would you personally say are your strengths and weaknesses as a student of Chinese? And how have you come to compensate for your weaknesses? And what have you done to build on your strengths?






p.s. @yst, thanks for starting this thread, and you know, there should be a request thread for forum members we'd love to see do AMA/WWAs! I already have a few in mind that I'd love to see.

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Thank you for your questions yueni.


I think it is because I haven't made the effort to go out and find a language partner. I could have gone to the university and put my name forward as an "exchange" language partner, then spend time equally speaking Chinese and English to help each other out. Lack of time and enthusiasm for this style of learning is probably to blame. Probably feel that there is not enough in common to make conversations enjoyable.


I am starting an online grammar course in Sept. I hope this will help with sentence construction and make speaking flow better. I am trying to talk more to myself ( makes me look crazy but) its ok saying things to yourself in your head but I think i really need to actually say things out loud so i am wondering around talking to my self :)


I think my strength is in remembering characters, and an understanding of the Chinese language. But I believe my biggest strength is simply my passion for China and Chinese.

I have been lucky enough to have taken part in a free summer of Skritter and this has really helped with remembering characters. It has also open my eyes to the benefits of the SRS method. I plan to keep this up by using Pleco when skritter runs out.


My weakness is speaking Chinese and my plans for improvement are the same as for question 2 :)


Hope this answers your questions :)

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Even with all this I have still had problems finding a speaking partner


Does the university have a language centre? At the university I attented, there is a language centre (not the same as the language faculty) which is aimed mainly at people wanting to self-study languages, and also take extra-curricular language courses. They have a language exchange board where you can place adverts to find language exchange partners. I managed to find a few fairly decent Chinese partners that way when I was a student.

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Yes i suppose they might have. Trouble is there is about 30 years age difference between me and most of the students at uni. I find it difficult to be engaged with the topics of conversation with youngsters.


Its hard to explain but I also find it difficult to find time to go out and about, I have to look after my health, I have a bad chest and i try really hard not to get chest infections or i can end up in hospital and that's just boring :) , so I tend to hibernate in the winter as much as possible, and in the summer most students tend to go home.


I have recently struck up friendships with some Chinese learners via wechat so its improving.

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Your jacket embroidery is really cool (it's in the link to Shelley's "Why Chinese?" post). :D  I know nothing about embroidery, so I'm really curious. Were there special techniques you needed for the characters? Have you embroidered anything else with a Chinese theme?

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Thank you yst. There wasn't any special techniques for doing the characters . It was just the same as the doing the dragon.


I have done quite a few other jackets for other people with a wide variety of subjects but mine is the only Chinese themed one.


I also do tapestries and am working on a Chinese one at the moment, it is based on Chinese lattice window designs. Its only about a quarter done but if you are interested i can scan it for you to look at.


It uses a small tapestry stitch called petite point so it very time consuming.

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Oh wow, that's so neat! It's really impressive to be able to do such intricate work. =)

I wonder if you would be able to incorporate some Chinese knotting with embroidery.


What do the people around you (such as family, friends, coworkers) think about your passion for China and Chinese? Do they share your enthusiasm?

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All my friends and family are very supportive. When I started many many years ago it was very unusual to be learning Chinese and all my friends and my parents thought it was amazing and perhaps just a little crazy :)


I think my Dad was secretly really proud I choose something different to learn. I sent him a little book called All About Chinese (forgotten the Author) it didn't teach any Chinese but explained what kind of language it was and a bit of history. He liked that.


My long term partner is really supportive and I think he is also quite proud. He helps me with techie things and he has installed a satellite system so we can get Chinese tv, cctv9, cctv4 and now cctv documentary, he can also get things he likes but to be honest it gets left on cctv documentary 24/7 as we both enjoy it.


I don't think any of them want to join me in learning but my partner enjoys learning the odd thing here and there. It pleases me that he tries at all, he has mastered hello, thank you, and goodbye. And one of our cats is called Meimei. We have a few ( well actually quite a lot :) ) Chinese objects, pictures, carvings and other things about the house so there is definitely a Chinese flavour to our lives.


So there is plenty of encouragement for my passion, I also encourage and take part in the things my partner enjoys so we are both very happy with things.

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