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Learning Chinese with Rolf Weimar

Zizzle has talked to Rolf Weimar, founder of Silly Linguistics, about learning Chinese, constructed languages and his experience with Zizzle App

· Expert Interview,Learning Chinese,Learning Tips

Zizzle is pretty cool, which is why after all, you are here visiting our blog. But obviously, we are not alone in making learning Chinese more fun and efficient. So welcome back to a new session of Learn Chinese with..., our series of expert interviews where we talk to people with a lot of experience in learning and teaching Chinese. If you have missed the last interview with Duang Mandarin founder Patrick Frick, check it out here.

Today, we are pleased to have Rolf Weimar join us! He is an acclaimed polyglot and founder of Silly Linguistics, a comic looking at the humorous side of language learning. He is also currently looking for people to support silly linguistics as a patron.

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Q: Rolf, you are having a great run and your community is continuing to grow. What was the motivation behind Silly Linguistics and how did it all start?

A: I have always loved learning languages. In 2014, I joined the language community on Facebook and I immediately felt that these were people I wanted to get to know better. Maybe it was just the particular community I joined, or that is just how it was at the time, but I found it too serious.

I wanted a place where we could have fun with language. So I created Silly Linguistics. I just wanted to have a place where I could share silly jokes with my friends. But I guess it was an intriguing idea to people to have a group dedicated to language humour, so the group started growing quickly and it hasn't stopped growing.

I created the comic in 2015 because there was no comic that was dedicated to languages. There are many comics which touch on languages. Itchy Feet deals with travel and so language comes up quite a bit in their comics. But I wanted to make a comic about languages for language fans by a language fan. Also, it allows me to make jokes about Proto Indo European and have people actually get them!

Image showing two faces speaking Chinese and debating about how to say cat in Chinese

Q: You are a polyglot, which means you speak quite some languages. Give us maybe one best practice advice on how you learn new languages.

A: I think too much focus is put onto book learning. I have always loved books and they are very useful! But it is only one part of the puzzle. You have to do lots of things in the language. The thing I love most to do in a new language is watch media in that language, especially music videos. I actually learned a lot of Swedish from watching Disney movies in Swedish.

Q: We know you have some experience with Mandarin Chinese. What is the thing you like most about the language?

A: I am still quite a beginner when it comes to learning Chinese, but Mandarin it is a very interesting language. It is very different to English. I like the writing system. It is very cool how Chinese languages use the characters to represent different words. And there are so many different characters. It is amazing that a system like this even developed in the first place. It is very complex, but also very interesting!

Image showing two face debate about Chinese characters.

Q: Motivation plays a big part in learning anything new. How do you motivate yourself to sit down and go through vocabulary lists?

A: To tell you the truth, I hate vocabulary lists! I prefer just reading in the language and looking up words I don't know. When I look them up later, I often realise I have looked them up before and that way I start to remember them. I just keep reading and keep looking up words and eventually it sticks in your mind. It is also a much more fun way to learn.

Q: You have even started to create you own language, Atlaans. What is it and how did you came up with the idea?

A: Atlaans is a constructed language I created in 2014. I love Germanic languages. My native language is English and I decided to learn German after I left school. After learning about Game of Thrones, I watched it a lot. They created a few languages for the show and that is how I learned about constructed languages.

I wanted to make my own constructed language because of the language I encountered on Game of Thrones. Afrikaans is descended from the Dutch spoken by Dutch settlers in South Africa. Over time it became grammatically simplified. I was wondering what a grammatically simplified German would look like. And I had just started learning a bit of Dutch, so I mixed German and Dutch together to make Atlaans. It is a lot of fun to work on!

Q: You have already tried Zizzle App. Tell us one thing that you would like to give us on our way and one thing that you liked most.

A: One of the hardest things in learning Mandarin is all the tones. But associating the tone with a cartoon character is a very clever way of making that connection stick in your mind. When I first encountered your posts on social media, that way of teaching tones really stood out to me and I think it is a great way to learn tones. Also, I really like your drawings. They are very well drawn, colorful and memorable.

Two people debating about the difference between Englisch and Mandarin Chinese.

Q: Do you have a favorite story in Zizzle?

A: Anything with the bulldog! He is a very funny character. I like the one where he dressed up as Darth Vader. I like all the drawings. They are drawn very well. Another bulldog one I like a lot is the one about the character for tree. It is funny to think about him kicking it to the moon.

Q: What are your next steps with Silly Linguistics? What can we look forward to?

A: My goal is to make a whole range of content for language lovers. Podcasts, videos, articles, memes and language learning tips. As time goes on, I am sure I will think of even more things. Working on Silly Linguistics is by far the best job I have ever had and I feel very blessed to be able to work on it.

Q: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

A: If you like languages and comics, I am sure you will like language comics. Silly Linguistics touches on all aspects of language. Words, sayings, funny and strange aspects of language and everything in between. If you want to have fun with language, and maybe learn a thing or two along the way, please check out my comic Silly Linguistics.

It was great having you with us! Rolf, we wish you all the best with your Chinese endeavor and with Silly Linguistics!

Thank you very much, 谢谢

And Last but not least, don’t forget to follow Silly Linguistics on Facebook.

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