Chinese people love watching foreigners learning Chinese, but one particular foreigner has shot to fame in Shenzhen because of his unique learning methods. He has even been lauded by Chinese netizens as nothing short of “genius”.
Robert, who originally hails from the UK, has been trying to learn Putonghua for five to six years without much luck. He decided to take another crack at it recently by changing tactics, which is what has drawn so much attention.
Instead of using words to write definitions for each Chinese character, Robert draws a picture to better relate to each word, a technique inspired by English memory coach Tony Buzan.
Michelle, Robert’s wife, was inspired to post some of Robert’s personal study notes online, which have gone on to draw acclaim for their creativity and humor. See for yourself below:
历史 ([lìshǐ) means "history" in Chinese. In the above visual explanation, Robert draws a successive line of people that progressively get smaller until the end of the line is symbolized by what looks to be an amoeba.
For the word 麻烦 (máfan), meaning "an irritation brought on by trouble or worry", Robert drew two small children, saying "If your family has two children then you'll know, they are very troublesome!" For the word AA制 (A A zhì) meaning "each person pays their own way", Robert drew a windmill because "people in Holland are really stingy".
Here's some reaction to Robert's famous drawings:
Hahaha, so easy to understand!
Isn’t it enough to add a few English notes afterwards?
So what’s good about this Englishman? Is he handsome? Rich?
Robert obviously isn’t the first to devise unique ways to learn a new language. Chinese themselves have employed a number of witty tricks to help with learning English.
As many an English teachers will know, sometimes a student in China will use pinyin to substitute for English words. When you say “Hi” to them, they are actually saying 嗨 with the pinyin hāi, while saying “Yeah!” in English is emulated in Chinese with 耶 with the pinyin yē.
With that in mind, some ingenious Chinese phrases have been created as pinyin “cheat words” that have related meanings. For example:
- English word: ambulance
Chinese pinyin cheat word: ǎnbùnéngsǐ
Chinese characters of cheat word: 俺不能死
Cheat word meaning: ”I can’t die”
- English word: ambition
Chinese pinyin cheat word: ǎnbìshèng
Chinese characters of cheat word: 俺必胜
Cheat word meaning: “I must win”
- English word: pregnant
Chinese pinyin cheat word: pūgěnánde
Chinese characters of cheat word: 扑个男的
Cheat word meaning: “Devote yourself to a man”
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