American shares his most crucial habits to learn Chinese fluently and achieve career success.

The Impact of Chinese Language Skills on Career Trajectory


This interview was with Jamie Rufe, an American who has resided in Taiwan for 11 years. Jamie’s journey to Taiwan, albeit somewhat accidental, was influenced by his prior experience of living in China. His interest in Chinese language and culture was deeply rooted in his upbringing, inspired by his father’s business interactions with Chinese-speaking clients.

Reflecting on his language learning venture, Jamie shared his progression from high school and university studies to eventually relocating to China and Taiwan for work. He recounted the various methods he employed to enhance his fluency, including taking formal Chinese classes, utilizing flashcards, and actively engaging with native speakers to practice and refine his language skills.

Jamie also shed light on the challenges he encountered in securing job opportunities that necessitated Chinese proficiency. Immersing himself in Chinese-speaking environments proved to be a transformative experience, significantly bolstering his language capabilities and expanding his career horizons.

As the job market in China and Taiwan continues to evolve, Jamie noted the escalating demand for higher levels of Chinese proficiency. He advised aspiring individuals to immerse themselves in native content, practice listening and speaking regularly, and continuously adapt to the evolving language prerequisites in the professional realm.

The conversation underscored the value of Chinese language proficiency in career advancement and the persistent commitment required to excel in a competitive job market that increasingly values bilingualism.

Effective Methods for Language Learning and Skill Enhancement

  • Utilizing Podcasts and Native Input: Actively engaging with podcasts and other native language content, such as books and articles, can expose learners to authentic language use and aid in vocabulary expansion.
  • Consistent Practice: Regular practice through activities like conversation practice, listening exercises, and accent refinement can significantly enhance language skills over time.
  • Diversifying Content Sources: Exploring a variety of content in the target language, akin to one’s interests in the native language, can keep learning engaging and relevant.
  • Structured Learning Paths: Tailoring learning paths to individual needs, whether through structured curriculums or self-driven approaches, can provide a roadmap for progression.

Expanding on the theme of language learning methodologies, he shared insights on the importance of balancing input and output strategies. He emphasized the necessity of consuming diverse native content such as books, articles, and podcasts while actively practicing conversation skills and working on accent improvement.

Furthermore, he stressed the significance of creating a continuous feedback loop in the learning process and outlined his personal approach of extensive reading, active listening, and consistent speaking practice to reinforce language acquisition.

Emphasizing the need for a diverse range of content sources, he suggests aligning one’s interests in the target language with familiar topics from their native language. Additionally, he recommended adopting a systematic approach to learning, including vocabulary retention and leveraging tools for grammar explanations.

In discussing learning paths for Chinese learners, he differentiated between those benefiting from structured curriculums at language training centers and those preferring self-directed learning. He advised starting with foundational concepts and gradually progressing to higher proficiency levels, with a focus on spoken language before delving into character recognition.

Reflecting on his own language learning journey, he expressed a desire to have engaged with native content earlier to expedite his learning process. He highlighted the advantages of immersing oneself in challenging materials to advance to higher proficiency levels.

Reflecting on his expat experience in Taiwan, he underscored the instrumental role of Chinese language skills in his career growth. He highlighted the abundant opportunities that surface at advanced levels of Chinese proficiency, particularly in Taiwan’s bilingual education initiatives and corporate settings.

For networking and career prospects, he recommends active involvement in local networking events and breaking out of expat circles to forge connections with Taiwanese professionals. He recounted securing a job opportunity through LinkedIn and emphasized the efficacy of local networking in accessing the Taiwanese job market.

Lastly, he underscored the importance of leveraging local connections and word-of-mouth referrals in Taiwanese networking culture for enhanced career prospects, advocating for prioritizing relationships with Taiwanese contacts for more impactful networking outcomes.

Moreover, he stressed the importance of balancing input and output in language learning, advocating for activities that reinforce both listening and speaking skills. He suggests creating feedback loops within the learning process to ensure continual improvement.


Advanced language skills are instrumental in shaping an individual’s professional growth by opening doors to diverse career opportunities and enhancing global competitiveness.

Mastering Chinese and Youtube Fame

Lamin’s Chinese Learning Journey in Taiwan

Lamin, an expat from Gambia, shares his experience of learning Chinese in Taiwan.


Lamin, an expat from Gambia, ventured to Taiwan 11 years ago with the intention of pursuing higher education. Originally, his plan revolved around completing his studies and then returning to his homeland. However, destiny had a different course charted for him. The enchanting blend of Taiwan’s weather and lifestyle captivated Lamin, ultimately influencing his decision to make this vibrant island his new home.

Upon his arrival in Taiwan, Lamin embarked on his academic journey, aiming to broaden his knowledge and skills. Little did he know that the scenic beauty and cultural richness of Taiwan would leave an indelible mark on his heart, altering his future plans significantly.

  • 11 years back, Lamin crossed borders to Taiwan, driven by academic ambitions.
  • Initially, his roadmap included completing his education and heading back to Gambia.
  • However, the allure of Taiwan’s climate and lifestyle prompted a change of heart.

The decision to stay in Taiwan was not an easy one for him, as it meant embracing a new way of life far from his familiar roots. Nevertheless, the warmth of Taiwanese hospitality and the endless possibilities that Taiwan offered fueled his resolve to build a life there.

With each passing day, Taiwan became more than just a temporary stop in Lamin’s life; it transformed into a place he proudly called home. The blend of traditional values and modern conveniences in Taiwan provided him with a unique sense of belonging and contentment.

As he settled into his new chapter in Taiwan, he not only found academic success but also discovered a deeper connection with the local culture and communities. The decision to extend his stay in Taiwan beyond academics was a testament to the lasting impression the island had made on him.


Learning Chinese

Lamin’s journey in learning Chinese began with mandatory classes during his English program.

Like many language learners, he faced challenges, particularly in reading and writing, largely due to time constraints. Juggling academic commitments and adapting to a new environment made it difficult for him to dedicate sufficient time to mastering these aspects of the language.

However, his determination to improve his Chinese skills led him to seek different avenues for practice. One significant factor that facilitated his linguistic development was the frequent interactions he had with Taiwanese friends and his girlfriend. Through daily conversations and socializing, hi proficiency in listening and speaking Chinese steadily increased.

Recently, he decided to take his language learning a step further by delving into bopomofo, a phonetic script used in Taiwan. By incorporating bopomofo into his studies, he aims to enhance his writing abilities and further expand his language proficiency.

One of his primary objectives in learning Chinese is to gain the ability to read official documents, menus, and communicate independently in various real-life situations. He envisions a future where he can navigate through everyday tasks with ease and effectively engage in both formal and informal discussions in Mandarin.

As a content creator on YouTube, Lamin’s language skills play a crucial role in his work. His channels focus on nature and interviews, requiring him to speak Chinese fluently in his nature videos and accurately translate and respond to viewer comments. This interaction with his audience not only hones his language abilities but also deepens his connection with viewers.

Reflecting on his language learning journey, Lamin acknowledges that he could have benefitted from giving more attention to his Chinese studies earlier on. He emphasizes the value of patience and dedication in the process of mastering a new language. Lamin’s experience serves as a testament to the transformative power of consistent practice and a positive attitude towards language learning.



Scot Details his Journey of Learning Chinese in Taiwan

Background and Initial Approach

Fraser Stewart, a former patent examiner from Scotland, embarked on a new journey when he moved to Taiwan to pursue a career in teaching English. In 2008, during a visit to China with his ex-wife, Fraser delved into the realm of learning Chinese. His methodical approach centered around immersing himself in reading and writing the most common characters of the Chinese language.

  • Started learning Chinese in 2008 during a visit to China
  • Focused on reading and writing common characters
  • Did not use flashcards or spaced repetition techniques

Fraser discovered that the ability to recognize and write characters significantly enhanced his communication skills and allowed him to differentiate between words that might appear similar. Opting out of conventional methods like flashcards or spaced repetition, he dedicated his efforts to continuous reading, writing, and practical application of the language.

Transition to Traditional Characters

Transitioning to life in Taiwan, Fraser made a shift from simplified to traditional characters by immersing himself in a Chinese version of “Wind in the Willows” and diligently referencing a dictionary for unfamiliar characters. Despite facing challenges in writing compared to reading, he persisted in honing both aspects of the language. In his learning journey, Fraser received invaluable support from his ex-wife, who engaged him in rigorous pronunciation exercises focusing on tones, an area that he initially struggled with but acknowledged as crucial for mastering accurate pronunciation.

Having achieved proficiency in Chinese, Fraser now navigates his daily life in Taiwan with ease, seamlessly communicating with locals, landlords, bank representatives, and colleagues in Mandarin. His language proficiency not only facilitates his personal interactions but also enhances his professional endeavors as an English teacher, where effective communication with non-English-speaking peers is fundamental.

Reflecting on his learning experience, Fraser recognizes the significance of early tonal emphasis for pronunciation refinement. He acknowledges that a greater emphasis on this aspect in the initial stages could have expedited his language learning process. Fraser’s journey underscores the importance of language immersion and the continual pursuit of improvement through diverse language exposure, interactive conversations, and ongoing study.

In summary: Fraser Stewart’s dedication to mastering Chinese through a character-focused approach, language practice, and eventual immersion in Taiwanese daily life underscores the enduring commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

Tally Marks in Chinese

Do you know what tally marks are?

They are used when counting with a pencil and paper.

In western societies, a common way to note tally marks is like this:

You mark down a single stroke, each time you’re counting an item. After you have 4 strokes down, on your 5th stroke you cross off the first 4. That way it’s easy to count a group of 5.

In Chinese they use the same concept, but instead of vertical strokes, they try to build the character 正 as follows:

As you can see, each complete 正 character uses 5 strokes. So a series of 正 would each represent 5, just like the English ones above.

So where else can you see 正 tallies?

When you are ordering items from a menu, you can use 正 to indicate the number of dishes you want to order. Start with 一 for one, and work your way up.

So the next time you see the above strokes, you’ll know what its purpose is!

7 Signs you have a Bad Chinese Teacher

Bad Chinese Teacher

If you’re learning Chinese through one on one, or from a classroom, here are seven signs that you don’t have a very good teacher, and what you can do to fix them.

  1. Uses too much English. Obviously if you’re just starting out, then a certain amount of English will be required up front. However a good teacher should quickly start using Chinese as much as possible, especially words and phrases that you’re likely to hear over and over in each class. If you find yourself hearing the same English words over and over (eg. “Good job!”) then find out how this can be said in Chinese and encourage your teacher to do so.This might also be an issue if the teacher is using you to practice English, rather than focusing on teaching Chinese. Unless the class is meant to be a language exchange, keep the focus on speaking Chinese where possible.
  2. Doesn’t correct your pronunciation. One of the biggest obstacles that new learners to Chinese have is tones. In the beginning it can be frustrated to have your teacher correct each mistake you make, but this needs to be done. You may have to work hard repeating the same words and phrases again and again until you get it right. Some teachers may feel embarrassed to keep correcting you and may instead choose to move on.You can recognize this is happening if you find that words that your Chinese teacher understands you speaking are not understood by others. This is a sure sign you need to continue working on your pronunciation. Encourage your teacher to keep correcting you, and even thank them for doing so, to let them know it’s okay.
  3. Likes to complete your sentences. When you’re asked a question, it can sometimes take some time to formulate your answer. You know what you want to say, but just need to find the right words in Chinese. It’s important to take the time to find the right answer. If the teacher keeps interrupting you by blurting out the answer, then you are losing a valuable opportunity to remember these words and concepts on your own.If this happens, remind your teacher not to give you the answer and instead give you time to think. If you are truly stuck, then ask for a hint, instead of the actual answer.
  4. Always discusses the same topics. A good teacher should recognize when a concept is learned and move on and look for new ones. If you are always being asked how your weekend was, and your answer is always the same “same old“, then you know that either the teacher needs to ask a different question, or you need to come up with a different answer for the sake of learning.A good teacher should be able to ask further probing questions:What did you do?
    What did you like about it?
    Was there anything you didn’t like about it?Some of us are natural introverts and won’t spontaneously come out with detailed answers. A good teacher should be able to get around this by asking the right questions to elicit new answers in new subjects, that will require new vocabulary to be learned.
  5. Doesn’t test if you understand a concept. When a new vocabulary item is learned, a good teacher should test if you understand it before moving on. Ways to do so could include asking you to make one or two sentences out of it. If the teacher is especially proficient, they could ask you what the difference between this word and a similar one was, as there may be subtle differences that may need to be understood.Many words in Chinese don’t have one to one translations in English, so they could be used in some situations like their English counterparts, but not in others, so some additional examples may be required.
  6. Doesn’t provide a proper balance between listening and speaking. Ideally, you should be getting equal exposure to listening to your teacher speaking in Chinese, while also being given time to practice speaking yourself. The exception here would be if one of your skills was especially weak and you specifically wanted your teacher to focus on that.
    If you find that your teacher is spending most of the time talking, with not enough time for your replies, then this is something that will need to get fixed.
  7. Is more interested in friendship than teaching. Some teachers may have a fascination with foreign languages and culture, and may use this teaching opportunity to further their own interests. If you find yourself constantly having to change the topic back to learning Chinese, this may be an indication that you need a new teacher.

Want to find a really good one on one teacher? Try our One on One Skype program. Base it on the CLO course, or just general conversation.