Peppa Pig helped Edinburgh student Grant learn to speak Mandarin

A languages enthusiast taught himself Mandarin during the lockdown by watching Peppa Pig - and says the coronavirus pandemic has made him want to move to China.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:59 pm
Peppa Pig helped teach Grant Swanson how to speak Mandarin

Grant Swanson, 22, has learnt in ten months what many students learn in two years of full-time education, by studying ten hours a day during his 'obsession' with learning.

He tuned into Chinese podcasts, listened to Chinese music in the shower and in the car, and watched Chinese TV shows including Peppa Pig, to familiarise himself with the tonal sounds.

Even when he was playing computer games, he would use a Chinese server so he could listen to teammates speaking the language and was staying up until 3am studying for fun.

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Grant challenged himself to start thinking in Chinese, and his parents allowed him to paint characters on his bedroom walls.

He started learning in February 2020 and by July he was dreaming in another language, and believes growing up speaking Gaelic gave him a head start.

He is able to read primary school-age books in Chinese, and now hopes to study in China or Taiwan.

Grant, who lives in Edinburgh, said: "I can semi confidently watch simple Chinese TV although it still goes by quite fast for me. I can more or less express whatever I want, but it takes me a while to format sentences in my head.

"I am definitely a long way from fluency.

"I'm not sure learning Mandarin was inspired by covid, but certainly enabled it.

"Having so much free time on my plate and my dedicated interest in the language created the perfect environment for learning."

"Now I'm at the stage where my Chinese has come on a lot.

"I have just passed my HSK 4 exam at the start of December after studying for ten months exactly.

"It takes on average four years to pass this exam from scratch learning at home or two years full-time at university - or apparently you can be locked down at home for ten months with nothing but time and an obsession."

He believes he knows more than the 1,200 words required to pass HSK 4, from picking up lingo from podcasts and TV shows.

He said he has had to 'rewire' his brain to learn the language, which has four tones, no plurals, no verb conjugation and no masculine and feminine.

Grant added: "I think learning Gaelic at a young age definitely developed my brain in a way that would allow me to take on other languages far easier.

"I have read a lot about learning a second language as a child having a number of positive impacts on development.

"My plan for the future is to try and be accepted onto a scholarship programme which will fund me to study Mandarin full time at a Chinese or Taiwanese University.

"These scholarships would pay for flights, accomodation, education fees and allowance."

Grant hopes to be able to work in the robotics industry in China, as he has a degree in it from Heriot-Watt University.

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