Can you say ”how are you?” in Chinese?
Maria Johnsen from Trondheim, Norway can. Actually, she manages to answer and turn the casual “how-are-you”-question into a deeper conversation in the foreign language. In fact, she learnt how to write and speak Chinese after 3 months using a special self-developed learning method combined with a self-discipline and an unflinching willpower.
“The first week was the most difficult. Firstly it was characters which I should have learned and understood how to combine them in a block to get a word or sentence correctly. My teacher Ms. Wang who was a master degree student in Russian language told me: “Maria, in China we say if you learn to write and speak Chinese, it means you are very intelligent”,” says Maria Johnsen.
Apparently it also means a strong determination. Maria Johnsen spent a whole summer vacation in China, where she fell in love with the country, the Chinese culture, 7000 years history and an urge for learning to speak the language. She found a good teacher and started out with 6 Chinese educational books covering everything from the beginner Chinese to Intermediary and finally Advanced Chinese mandarin. Maria Johnsen finished the first Beginner book in only one week.
“I studied 8 hours a day,” says Maria Johnsen. Besides reading Chinese books she practiced writing and understanding Chinese by spending as much time as possible with Chinese people and tried to live a Chinese lifestyle.
Today Chinese is just 1 out of 17 languages Maria Johnsen knows and masters. Even if a determined mind and multilingual skills have helped her, it is a well-known fact that we get by with a little help from our friends.
“My Chinese teacher and my Chinese friend’s mom also helped me to learn Chinese.” Maria Johnsen says.
Her learning technique became very popular, and later Maria Johnsen received several teaching assignments from the Chinese universities in Chang Chun and Chinese government where she used her teaching method in fast learning to inspire and help Chinese students from ages 5 to 28 years old to learn English, French, and Russian languages.
“When I received a couple of jobs as an English teacher at the university in China, I applied my fast learning method to help Chinese post graduate students to master English within a short amount of time. They were able to pass the English exam (Toefl), and 75% of my students received score of 6 and got qualified to receive scholarship from the Chinese government in order to pursue their PhD in the USA and Canada. Then I used the same fast learning method to teach students at primary school and high school in Chang Chun. I had 150 students ages from 8 to 15 years old. This is how I developed further my fast learning method to help students to learn and grasp the language faster.”
Maria Johnsen is currently working on a research PhD study called “Implications for Upgrading Accelerated Learning Practices In Educational Systems”.
If you wish to be able to speak a foreign language or learning anything at school, university or career, Maria Johnsen believes the most important aspect in learning is your strong will to want to do it.
“This is the very first thing I tell my students; If you have a strong will to do something, you can do it,” she says.
Maria Johnsen is the founder and CEO of a multilingual digital company has Norwegian roots but speaks and writes fluently in Norwegian, English, French, Russian, Chinese, Danish, Swedish, and German. She also understands Bulgarian, Serbian, Persian, Afghan Dari, Arabic, Hindi, Polish, Turkish, Italian and Japanese.
When ScandAsia asked what language she thinks in, she answered:
“I think in Norwegian, but I pray in English.”