What do you do for a living?
Je suis un clown, yo soy un payaso, 我是小丑。 I am a clown.
What languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish, Chinese, just started learning French and I speak fair dinkum Australian aka bad English.
I started learning Chinese because my unicycle coach was Chinese and he didn't speak any English. So I quickly learnt some bare basics of counting to 20, if something I did was good, bad or average "马马虎虎“ in pinyin.... ma ma hu hu. If you say this to a Chinese person and follow up with the English of "horse horse tiger tiger" which is what the characters mean. They will laugh and tell you your Chinese is very good.
I graduated from the National Institute of Circus Art (NICA) in 2012 in Prahran, which is a 3 year bachelor degree in circus. I was cast as one of the main characters in ABC kids TV show Hoopla Doopla. Which was a co-production with ABC and China Central Television (CCTV). It was filmed in Beijing for 7 months and there were only ever 4 other native English speakers on set who were all older than me, so I would end up hanging out with the Chinese film crew, who would teach me the important things in any language, how to swear, how to order beer, how to order food, more swearing. By the end of the 7 months I had what I call "survival Chinese" I could order a bus ticket, I could order food but not being exactly sure what kind of chicken and noodle dish I had ordered, I could ask where the nearest toilet was and I knew when people were talking about me when they said "老外" Lao Wai (outsider). Then I would respond to them with a cheerful ni hao and tell them I was Australian which would lead into a conversation and usually some tea or beer.
Then in 2020 when the first lockdown started and all my touring work evaporated in about a week. I decided to use the time to learn Chinese characters and begin studying Spanish. I asked a friend whose Chinese was really good and they recommended VLLC and I was hooked. I would use the slides to copy by writing out the characters with the pinyin under them so slowly I learnt to recognise the Chinese characters. I would hijack the Chinese class from my teacher Xiu Fang by elaborating about a topic we were discussing and keep running the conversation until I had ran out of vocabulary. Fast forward to 2022 I now have my intermediate certificate and can read and write text messages and maybe write by hand 50-70 characters. I am dying to go back to China to test out my new skills and vocabulary now.
Na'vi, Klingon and Dothraki. Someone should talk to Jo about why we don't have these as options at VLLC.
What tools did you use to practice your language?
I am not afraid to make mistakes or to travel outside of the tourist hotspots, as soon as I can say half a muddled sentence I go for it. Despite my pronunciation. I also love just talking to people, market/shop owners are excellent targets because they cannot escape you and you can practice the same conversation multiple times just by walking from one shop to the next. I carry a notebook wherever I go and scrawl or get a native speaker to scrawl words and sentences for me. Plus, I like to listen to language podcasts when I am driving somewhere.
Where did you hear about VLLC and how did VLLC help you achieve your goal?
I heard about VLLC through a circus friend of mine who had studied at the Beijing Acrobatics school and has amazing Mandarin, she recommended it to me because of the excellent course structure. I thought the slides were weird at first but found that they worked really well for me if I wrote out every slide.
How effective was VLLC in helping you learn your new language?
The best thing for me was VLLC made sure I didn't take shortcuts in my language learning. Now I don't have huge gaping holes in my Chinese and now my sentence structures are more Chinese and less English. My teacher Xiu Fang was very kind but also strict with me to fix my bad habits. Plus now I can recognise a lot of characters which I would be interested in returning to China to test it out on some menus.