Guest:Patrick Hassel Zein 蔡忠臣(Cài Zhōnɡchén)

He was born in Stockholm in December 1966, grew up in the town of Växjö in southern Sweden. From 2000 to 2004, he lived in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík. He returned to Iceland to work as a computer consultant for Hugur/Ax in 2007. He teaches Italian and Mandarin Chinese sometimes.

In his spare time he likes to study foreign languages (English, Italian, German, Chinese and Icelandic). He also likes listening to music, hiking in forrests and mountains, fitnes training, knitting sweaters, practicing tai ji quan, playing games such as chess (especially KaleidoChess), Mah-jong and Chudadi(锄大地), and many other things.

Patrick built a Chinese learning website by himself to share the information about Chinese ( We are interested in his Chinese learning and teaching experience. So we did an interview to share it. Here is the interview:

HJ:Why would you want to learn Chinese?
Patrick:It is the largest language in the World, and it has an ancient culture. In addition, I find it to be a most fascinating language.

HJ:Is Chinese learning popular in Iceland? How and with what purpose do they learn Chinese?
Patrick:There is a growing interest for Chinese in the Nordic countries. Some learn Chinese because it is different or interesting, but some also bring up the benefits for business.

HJ:How do you learn Chinese?
Patrick:By reading, writing, listening to music, watching movies, and so on. I believe that it is important to have as many different types of contact with the languages that you are learning. In the case of learning Chinese, I also find it important to study characters and radicals parallel with the study of pronunciation, since I find these two aspects aid each other.

HJ:Why would you make such a decision to build a website? Does all the contents on the website is organized by yourself?
Patrick:I love the Chinese language and to teach things to other people. I have written all the material on my site.

HJ:What is your students' biggest interest in studying Chinese?
Patrick:I teach because I like sharing my knowledge, and the students like my way of teaching. They also like game-like exercises.

HJ:You have learned many languages, in which I believe Chinese has the largest difference with others. What kind of suggestion would you give to foreigners who want to learn Chinese?
Patrick:The Chinese grammar is simple, but has few similarities with European languages. You can rarely translate a sentence word-by-word, but need to translate the message of the sentence into something rather different. Of all the languages I know, only Swedish and Chinese have different tones that make an important aspect of the pronunciation. Swedish people can easily hear and imitate the Chinese tones, but it is clearly more difficult for people of other nationalities. I always advice my students to try finding as many different types of contact with the language as they can. It is always helpful to try finding Chinese friends or maybe Chinese stores/restaurants in your home town, and talk to them in Chinese.

HJ:What do you think of the way people learn things on Internet?
Patrick:It can be a good complement to other types of studies. However, you also need to practice with pen and paper, because this will help you in many ways.