Chinese is a puzzle with clear game rules
‘Nǐ hǎo.’ With these words, Leo van Wuijckhuijse kicks off the interview during his Chinese language course at Regina Coeli. He already comprehends the language admirably on the fourth day of his intensive language course. What helps is that he has heard a lot of Chinese over the past nineteen years. He works as the Asia-Pacific Export Area Manager at Royal Talens, the company behind brands such as Bruynzeel, Talens and Van Gogh. These brands are known by artists and hobbyists worldwide.
‘At dinners in China, I was spending 90% of my time listening to Chinese, while I only knew about 50 words myself. The idea behind this language course was that I wanted to be able to have informal conversations in Chinese,’ says Leo.
‘I decided a long time ago that if Regina Coeli ever offered Chinese, I would definitely learn the language there. In the autumn it came to mind again, and I discovered that I could go to Vught for an intensive training course in Chinese. My employer immediately agreed to it, so I booked a course right away.’
Previous positive experience with Regina Coeli
His determination to one day return to Regina Coeli dates back twenty years, to when Leo really needed to learn to speak Spanish because he was spending a great deal of time in Latin America for his work. ‘I was a true beginner, but after ten days of lessons, I was speaking Spanish well. It helped that I already spoke French fluently and worked incredibly hard during the training. After that, I continued to listen to Spanish audio cassettes in the car every day. The result was that I was able to communicate in Spanish with everyone in Latin America.’
Chinese sounds familiar
Learning Chinese is a bigger challenge. Spanish and French resemble one another, but with Chinese there are few clues to help you understand the words. And yet Wuijckhuijijse seems to be managing quite well in Mandarin. ‘My advantage is that I've heard the sounds of Chinese for years. The teachers have told me that my pronunciation’s good.’
Mandarin is extremely consistent
He has noticed another challenge in the language, and he is able to put it into perspective immediately. ‘The sentence structure is very different to Western languages, but the Chinese are highly consistent. There are few exceptions. I therefore see Chinese as a puzzle with very clear game rules.’
The Chinese are programmed differently
Leo is clearly in his element when he gets to speak with the trainers about China, but especially about Taiwan, the country where he most enjoys spending his time. ‘I’m now getting answers to questions I’ve had for a long time. Why, for example, do Chinese people frequently make mistakes with “he” and “she” in English? The Chinese numeration system is also now clear to me. The Chinese are really programmed differently. I’m especially aware of what I don't yet know!’
Underestimating cultural differences
Students generally receive valuable tips for how to deal with cultural differences from their language trainers, although with his wealth of experience, Wuijckhuijse can just about teach others himself. ‘The most important tip I can give anyone who wants to undertake something in China is that you’ll always underestimate the cultural differences with the Chinese, even when taking them into account. You can’t fathom how big the differences are when it comes to some little things. The risk is even greater when you’re with Chinese people who speak English. They seem to think in a Western way, but are still Chinese on the inside.’
Unbelievable what I already know
After a five-day course in Chinese, Wuijckhuijse feels he will be able to continue learning on his own. ‘A lot was offered to me during the training, including an enormous mountain of words. It’s unbelievable what I already know. I do notice that I’m still cautious. I want to say things correctly and need to practice a lot more, but I have a number of friends in China and also some business partners I've known for a long time. With them I dare to speak Chinese!’
Interested in following language training at Regina Coeli?
The Regina Coeli method ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. Our highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation so you can immediately start communicating in the language.
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