I begin …

2 years later, different job, and many Chinese (and other Asian) movies and TV shows later I felt a growing compulsion to know more.   I printed out a list of the 150 most common Chinese characters and,on my lunch break, started to write them out and try to remember some.  Ironically, Right Beside Me were 4 Chinese ladies having their lunch together but there was no way that I had enough nerve to ask any questions.   Insecure?   you betcha!    but I was on my way …


the catalysts ….

Firstly, I have to say “yay for the internet !!”  – it brings so much good information to my doorstep  (It also brings plenty of stupid, useless stuff but I filter THAT out pretty quickly).     Since the world came to Bejing in 2008 for the Olympics I think that China and entrepreneurs around the world used the internet to develop online language services.

Into this rich linguistic field came … me!

About 3 years ago I was chatting in the company lunchroom about tea with Wendy (Wei), a Chinese co-worker she showed me her package of loose tea.  She pointed out that some of the Chinese writing indicated where it came from.  I noticed the character “山” and asked if it referred to a mountain. When she said “yes”I was really impressed!  In subsequent conversations she pointed out a few more letters and gave me the correct pronunciation which I proceeded to screw up completely.  I’m sure she thought to herself “oy vai, I’ve created a monster“.

In other non-linguistic conversations she showed me her considerable artistic skills drawing characters from a popular Chinese drama called “Three Kingdoms” – whatever THAT was!   I looked around the internet and found some episodes of this show and was immediately hooked, by both the high quality of the show and  the story itself – I love Chinese history!    I hunted down all 95 episodes and enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly.

While reading the subtitles I noticed, eventually, an inconsistancy.  The name of the central character, Cao Cao, was not pronounced “Sao Sao” but more like “Tsao Tsao” – huh?!?   The led me to search more and I stumbled on XiaoQian’s Pinyin course on youtube.  aaahhhh, that cleared up so much.  I watched  Three Kingdoms again.  The subtitles made more sense to me now.


back in the day …

I have been interested in China’s history and culture for my whole adult life.  In college I specialized in Chinese and Russian history.  But life, wife and children intervened and I gave priority to practical matters.

3 years ago I rekindled my interest by being introduced to Chinese TV and cinema by a coworker

My actual journey began about 8 months ago when I began to study Chinese characters and use language learning tools – all self-paced.   One problem encountered was that my very limited time was mostly used up in searching for resources.   What little time remained was used for learning.

About 4 months ago some terrific Chinese ladies at work took pity on this pathetic character trying to figure out a Chinese children’s book.  They gave me encouragement and helped me focus on some things and leave less productive things alone.


This is a little place where I can post my experiences and thoughts on learning Mandarin.   I live near Ottawa, Ontario Canada and started out in the fall of 2013  with no particular direction or plan.  I just decided that it was time for me to explore this language.

I have an avid interest in Chinese history and culture dating back to my youth.   Life somehow got in the way of my interest – spouse and kids tend to do that. I gave priority to them and it was the right thing to do.  But now the kids are out of the house and I have a bit more flexibility in time to pursue this interest.  So bring it on!

If you have an interest in China’s language or culture I hope you’ll find some benefit in my experiences or observations.