My Interview with Jim Rogers: “Prepare by learning Mandarin”

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For my first interview, I wanted to introduce the legendary Jim Rogers and ask him his thoughts on learning Mandarin Chinese and what it was like to relocate his family all the way from New York to Singapore. He was very generous to give a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions.

Jim Rogers is an American investor and financial commentator now based in Singapore. He was a co-founder, along with George Soros, of the Quantum Fund, and is also a college professor, author, world traveler, economic commentator, and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI).

One of Jim’s most redeeming qualities is his honesty in everything he speaks and I really respect him for that. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is and his realistic and practical approach has definitely helped him succeed. Lots of people probably thought Jim had lost his mind when he starting talking about China in the 1980’s and the great opportunities that it would have in the near future. Instead of backing down on the topic, he took his motorcycle to China and made several cross country trips across the country to witness the changes that were taking place. He knew the dragon would awaken soon and he started investing. Jim has been investing heavily in China since then and he believes the future is for Asia now.

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Jim believes in the future and potential for Asia so much (China particularly), that he took his family and moved them all to Singapore. He said he would have liked to move to China but the air is still too polluted and doesn’t want his children to live with that for now. Jim always refers to this new century as the “Century of China” and believes everyone, especially young people, should learn to speak Mandarin. If you want to know more about the reasons Jim believes in China’s rise, you should read Jim’s books. They’re very well written, informative, and entertaining if you’re interested in business, investing, or Asia. You can also listen to many of Jim’s interviews online.

I asked Jim a little bit about his new life in Singapore. He said his adjustment to life in Singapore has gone “fabulously well”. He also said that in order to maneuver there they do not even need to know Mandarin. This is no excuse for Jim’s daughters though. One of the main reasons he took his family there was for his two little daughters to learn Mandarin. They go to Chinese-speaking schools, and have a live-in Chinese governess who speaks only Mandarin with them.

I was curious and asked Jim about how the prospects looked for finding work in Asia during this global recession as compared to America or Europe. He said that he would recommend people to seek work opportunities in Asia as an alternative.

To conclude, I asked him what inspiration or advice he could give to those people learning Mandarin. He said, “China will be the most important country of the 21st century so prepare.” That means something coming from him, I think. And as the investor he is, he says for everyone to “buy low, sell high.”

If you want to learn more about Jim Rogers, go check out some of his books or listen to his interviews on YouTube.

Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers – 1995 (ISBN 1-55850-529-6)
Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip – 2003 (ISBN 0375509127)
Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World’s Best Market – 2004 (ISBN 140006337X)
A Bull in China: Investing Profitably in the World’s Greatest Market – December 4, 2007 (ISBN 1400066166)
A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons For Life And Investing – April 28, 2009 (ISBN 1400067545)

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What is jibtv?

There’s now a new way to watch Japanese TV shows if you’re not in Japan. I recently heard about this thing called jibtv from TokyoCooney (check out his YouTube channel) and thought it would be a good thing to share. You can tune in to the jibtv streaming internet channel to watch a variety of Japanese programs. They have a pretty wide variety of shows that are educational and entertaining to watch. It’s not a huge budget channel, but their programs are worth watching if you’re trying to learn Japanese, want to hear news from Japan, or want to know more about Japan in general. I have to be honest though. Some o of their shows are cheesy!! But I think you’ll still enjoy it.

Here’s what jib says about it’s channel:

Japan has the world’s second-largest economy, so why does it have such low visibility on the world stage? And why should people around the world need to depend on American and European media for information on Japan? It’s clear that Japan needs to make a bigger effort to tell the world about itself. And the solution is a newly established company: Japan International Broadcasting Inc. (jib).

We at jib are offering round-the-clock English-language TV programming that informs the world about Japan and gives the benefits of a unique perspective on Asia. For up-to-the-minute content, we are drawing on Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, which has news-gathering operations throughout Japan, in nearly every country in Asia, and elsewhere around the world. We are producing original content with global relevance. And we are broadcasting a uniquely appealing mix of programs in four-hour cycles that are optimally suited to time zones around the world.

With extensive cooperation from NHK and other Japanese broadcasters, Japan International Broadcasting Inc. is ready to dramatically step up the transmission of information from Japan to the rest of the world. We’re confident that our international broadcasting service will showcase Japan in an energetic new way.

It’s free, so go give it a try and let me know what you’re favorite programs are. I’m still trying to find more time to see them all.

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Don’t Try This At Home Alone

As much as you might enjoy reviewing your SRS flashcards, watching foreign movies, reading your foreign language books, or whatever you do to learn Chinese and/or Japanese (or any language for that matter), you can’t learn it all on your own. You need some friends to help you.

In theory you could learn everything on your own, I think, but you’re just making life harder for yourself that way. Remember, this is all about trying to immerse your self in a new language. If you’re always speaking and listening to English then you won’t learn Chinese. This is something obvious, but some people try to ignore this simple aspect of learning a language.

Sometimes people feel more comfortable in their normal settings and feel too intimidated or shy to try out what they’re learning. I saw this a lot when I was studying in China. People would come to China to learn Chinese but they almost never spoke with Chinese people. Those people were only crippling their speed at which they could learn the language. I don’t have some fancy statistics to present about how interacting with native speakers will help you learn more at a faster pace. It’s just obvious. So, you need to go make some friends who you can practice speaking with. There are tons of opportunities to interact with native speakers.

When I was in China, the best way I found to make Chinese friends was to just go to a public place and sit down somewhere by myself and wait for a few minutes. Somebody would almost always just walk up and start chatting with me. Even if it was just somebody trying to sell me something, I got to practice speaking. The best places I found to go were the universities though. I met some of my best Chinese friends just with simple chats that randomly happened somewhere.

You don’t even have to be in a foreign country to do this though. For example, about two years ago, back in the United States, I decided to find some new language partners. All I did was print out a simple advertisement in Chinese and Japanese describing that I wanted to have a language exchange and included my contact information. Then I just distributed it to my university’s language lab where all the foreign students take their English classes. Within a few days I got a huge response to this ad, which took about ten minutes to create. I had too many requests that I couldn’t even handle them all.

Even if there aren’t any native speakers that live close by, you should find a pen pal/online friend. Just having email and instant messaging conversations is also great for practicing the language. You should definitely try to do this too, whether you have friends near you or not.

This part is easier than most people might think. There are usually lots of people who’ll be willing to talk with you. Especially in China! Go make some new friends, but just be careful not to forget about your old friends too! :)

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5 Methods For Learning Kanji Faster

It’s said that there are about 50,000 kanji in existence. Thank god we only need to know a thousand or two of those! Does that make you feel any better? Probably not. Learning the kanji is the hardest part about Japanese. I think it’s even more difficult than learning them for Chinese since Japanese places multiple pronunciations on each character. It’s like twice or three times the work!

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Ok. If you’re still here, good. You’re ready to learn Japanese kanji. However, I’d recommend you learn the hiragana and katakana first if you don’t already know them. Let’s proceed.

We don’t all have a lifetime to sit and ponder on one kanji a day. Atleast most of us don’t, I think. Here’s my top 5 methods for learning the kanji faster. There’s no order to them. Just try to do them all at once for the best effect.

5 Methods For Learning Kanji Faster

1. “Remembering the Kanji” books by James Heisig.

These books aren’t actually a must-have, but they’ll probably make your life a whole lot easier.You’ll have all the information you need to learn the 1,945 kanji designated by The Japanese Ministry of Education for common use.

Heisig presents a method for learning how to associate the meaning and writing of 2042 kanji, including all the jōyō kanji. There is no attention given to the readings of the kanji, as Heisig believes that one should learn the writing and meaning first, before moving on to the readings in Volume II.

I’ll admit that it’s a challenge of mental endurance to get through these books, but it’s a surefire way to learn the kanji. Don’t skip the first book and start on Volume II  even if you’re not a beginner to kanji though.

2. Spaced Repetition Systems

If you haven’t already, go read my articles on SRS. Part 1 and Part 2.  You can input all the kanji you’re learning in Heisig’s books or any other kanji you find into an SRS program to help you learn and retain them. This is really important, I think.

3. Kanji Poster

Get a kanji poster. Or multiple kanji posters and put them up around you where you spend a lot of time. I have one right next to me at my desk here. I can just turn my head and see all 2042 of them and mark all over it with dry-erase markers to help me keep track of what I’m working on. This is really nice to have if you’re serious about learning the kanji. I use the one from kanjiposter.com, but there’s another one you can read about here.

4. Sticky Cards

This is a pretty simple but effective method depending on how far you go with it. Get some sticky notes and put it on an object in your home or car or whatever, and write the kanji for that object on it. The more you see it the better.

5. Read

This one is so simple we sometimes forget to even do it. Put your knowledge to work and read more. You don’t have to read a lot at once. Just try to keep some Japanese reading material near you all the time so you can atleast read in your down time. Just pack a manga or novel with you when you go to work or school. You never know when you might get a chance to read during the day.

Well, that basically sums up my methods. What are your methods for learning the kanji? I’d like to hear from you too.

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南京!南京!City of Life and Death

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“Nanjing! Nanjing!”, also known as “City of Life and Death”, is a new Chinese film by director Lu Chuan depicting the battle of Nanjing during the Second Sino-Japanese War. This battle is commonly referred to as “The Rape of Nanking” or the “Nanking Massacre”.

Synopsis
City of Life and Death takes place in 1937, during the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Imperial Japanese Army has just captured the then-capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing. What followed was known as the Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, a period of several weeks wherein tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed. The film tells the story of several figures, both historical and fictional, including a Chinese soldier, a schoolteacher, a Japanese soldier, a foreign missionary, and John Rabe, a Nazi businessman who would ultimately save thousands of Chinese civilians.


The past year, I’ve seen some really great movies coming from China with not only great cinematography but also great stories. This movie is one of them. I think  everyone should try to watch it at least once. Especially if you’re like me and are trying to understand the complexity of China-Japan relations.

The Japanese occupation of China is still a hard topic for most Chinese people to speak about and it’s the source of a lot of hatred towards Japanese. I’ll be honest and say that I’m tired of hearing all the Japan-bashing from Chinese people though. Some of my Chinese friends even hate on Japanese people for something that happened over seventy years ago. They need another lesson in basic human-nature. Genocide and mass murder has happened and can happen anywhere in the world under the right conditions. So, to my Chinese friends, please stop demonizing a whole nation of people and move on for a better future.

Nanjing, 1937: City of Life and Death

Anyway, that’s my little rant. This topic is highly controversial in China and who knows what fury might rain down on my blog for my little comments here. :)

I want to direct you to a really good review of this movie on CNReviews.com. The author, known as Kai Pan, can sum it up much more eloquently than I can. So, please go read his write up here.

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Wafangdian English Language Super School

Look into Gordons eyes and see his confidence glare! Wafangdian English Language Super School might be silly but we have to start somewhere. That’s kind of how I feel about my blog. I’m not an authority on learning Chinese or Japanese, but I am confident that I can still help people a lot. And for everyone who is learning, remember to stay confident. That will help you with anything you do in life, I think.




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Learn Japanese and Chinese with FREE Dramas, Anime, and Movies

Everyone learning Japanese and Chinese should watch more cartoons and TV dramas! Normally I would never suggest that to anybody, since the first thing that comes to mind are pea-brain couch potatoes watching soaps, but we’re trying to learn some difficult languages here! Also, I’m talking about some quality programs. Some good Chinese & Japanese anime, movies, and dramas. You can find them all over the internet, but usually you have to pay a subscription fee to see them. I got tired of that a while ago and decided to find some free shows to watch. I scoured YouTube, the Piratebay and a lot of other places, but I was disappointed at the results I found. However, I eventually hit two goldmine sites full of TV shows, anime, and movies, and to my amazement it was all free!

The sites are DramaCrazy.net and AnimeCrazy.net

They’re packed full of TV series and movies and are updated daily with new video content. Watching TV is a great way to pick up a language especially when you’re not actually living in that country where its spoken.

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Update and Poll: Which Language Interests You?

For everyone who’s been reading this new blog of mine, thank you! Especially those who’ve subscribed to my feed. Things have been a bit slow lately since I’m in the middle of taking final exams now, but lately I’ve been brainstorming for a lot of great content for the site. I’m going to be updating the site layout and graphics within the next few weeks, and I have plans to write an e-book that I’ll be giving away free to all subscribers.  I’ll tell you more about that as I come closer to finishing it.

I’ve just put up a poll in the sidebar titled “Which Language Interests You?” I’m trying to figure out what most of you want to see more or less of. Please send me suggestions and comments about the site too. I’d really appreciate your input. The poll is in the sidebar under the Top Commentators box.

Thanks!

Best regards,

Alex

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My Zousho: I started with Ultimate Japanese

This is the first of many book reviews I’ll do in the My Zousho series. Zousho (蔵書、ぞうしょ) means library or book collection. I’m going to take you through every book in my library that I’ve used to learn Japanese. I think these books will give you some good ideas and direction for learning. If you follow my path for learning Japanese you will definitely learn a lot in a short time. I learned Japanese by myself mostly by reading books and so I believe anyone else can do the same thing.

The book that got me started was called Ultimate Japanese. It’s a really barebones kind of book mostly for newbies and beginners . No fancy pictures and glitter, but it definitely gets the job done! If you’re just beginning you should have enough energy to blast right through this book without any qualms. Think of it this way. The more pictures and colors there are the more they will only distract you. This is your like your Japanese 101 boot camp! If you can get through this book then you can get through anything! That’s how I think about it, and I felt energized the whole way, page for page, through this book.

Japanese is one of the most difficult languages there are. This book will build a strong foundation in the language so you can move ahead. Start at page 1 and read all the way to the Appendixes at page 483. Just read it and try to understand the material, but don’t get caught up on anything. You don’t have to try to memorize all the vocabulary and grammar at this point. You just need to begin to recognize the language and some of the patterns.

In Ultimate Japanese you’ll find:

  • 40 Lessons with natural dialogues and expressions. The dialogues are all written in romaji for beginners so you don’t need to know hiragana and katakana. You’ll learn them in the book.
  • English translations and explanations of Japanese grammar and usage, pronunciation, vocabulary, and cultural notes.
  • Sections that introduce you to hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
  • A complete summary of Japanese accents and particles.
  • An extensive two-way glossary. This is really convenient as all the words you need are right in the back of the book.
  • Quizzes and review sections at the end of each chapter.
  • 8 CD recordings of the lessons. (You can buy the stand alone book or the book + CDs)

There are lots of books out there that you can use to get started learning Japanese, but a lot of them are just bad. I can tell you through experience though that Ultimate Japanese is a good book and will most likely work for you too. Read this book and separate yourself from all those people who just “wish” they could speak Japanese. You have to take action so you might as well start here.



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20 Things to Bring With You for China Study Abroad

This is a list of things I think are either necessary or very helpful to bring with you if you study abroad in China. I’ve learned to always pack light for a trip, so I’ve tried to stick to more of the essentials in this list. If you’re only going for a short time then you might not want to take everything on this list, but that depends. If you stay for a long time then you can just buy a lot of the things in China and you don’t have to bring it.

1. Books (Bring books in your native language that you’d like to read.)

2. Laptop computer

3. Power converters (The voltage in China is 220V. Converters and power strips may be purchased locally for cheap, but I’d recommend bringing one with you too.)

4. English/Chinese, Chinese/English dictionary

5. Debit cards/Credit cards (There are tons of ATM machines in China.)

6. Razors/shaving cream (Buy an electric razor when you get there.)

7. Sunscreen with high SPF (Higher SPF sunscreen is hard to find.)

8. Cash (You can exchange currency at the airport, banks, and hotels.)

9. Camera and/or Video Camera

10. Medicine/Medications (Unless you can read the Chinese medicine boxes, it can be hard to find Western medicine.)

11. MP3 player (to keep listening to your lessons and podcasts, music, etc…)

12. Alarm clock (bring a portable one/or buy one there)

13. List of contacts (your embassy, friends, and family along with the extensions)

14. Deodorant (this is very hard to find in China still, so bring enough)

15. Shoes (if you have large feet, like size 10+, you will have a hard time finding shoes)

16. Calculator

17. Glasses/Contact lenses (bring backups)

18. Your favorite branded items, whatever they may be (probably hard to find in China)

19. Tissues/Toilet paper (This is more for when you first arrive, and depends where you go. Most public toilets don’t have free toilet paper, so be warned.)

20. Musical instrument/ tools for any talents you have (Trust me. Somebody is probably going to ask you to perform a talent at some point. So be prepared.)

Please leave your comments and tell me what you think. If you have any of your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below. Maybe we can try to get this list from 20 up to 50 things.

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