My History

High school was easy. Except Spanish. That was a disaster.

College was a bit harder. Especially Greek. With tons of effort, it was merely a near disaster.

Then came Hebrew. Let’s not even talk about that.

So, when I announced to the world at age 29 that I was quitting my job and enrolling in full-time language school in China, many people thought I had lost my mind.

What happened?

By that time, I had lived in China for 2 years teaching English. As impossible as I knew learning a foreign language to be, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I was in my fourth semester as an English teacher in China and I had only learned two things:

  1. How to count to 8. (Not ten. 8.)
  2. How to order Kung Pao chicken to go. 宫保鸡丁打包!

But I noticed: My students were learning English, in some cases quite successfully, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Not the least of which was living in a non-English-speaking country.

So I thought: If I am requiring them to learn English in China, why am I unwilling to do the easier thing, and learn Chinese in China?

There were two obstacles: Time and environment. So I quit my job and escaped from the all-consuming English-education environment.

I began a 1-year program at a school in northern China, but quickly found it to be mostly English and completely a joke. So I transferred over to the bachelor degree program, where it was 100% Chinese and 100% not funny. At least not for the first year, anyway.

Since I had no idea what was going on in class, for the first few months I had to daily grab an English-speaking classmate to ask if any homework had been assigned. I eventually did catch up, and graduated in 2011. I returned to the U.S. a year later.

Since I now work full-time in an English-speaking country, as well as being a dad of two small children, there’s little time for continuing with Chinese study. But I’m going to cram bits and pieces here and there, and continue hacking away at the HSK.