Learning Mandarin to Improve Professional Opportunities

As a lawyer with localized, small-town experience (rather than international, corporate, or financial expertise), I knew that finding work here in Taiwan would be difficult. Because my family’s relocation for my wife’s work was spur-of-the-moment, my job search basically began once we got here. My first step was networking through my few connections. I met with several lawyers and received one consistent piece of advice: you really need to speak, read, and maybe even write Chinese. This was clearly a long-term project.

As the first few months here passed, some opportunities outside of law came up and kept me from taking an intensive language program. I took on some work at my wife’s school and began to think that a career change to academics would be a better fit if our future were going to revolve around this international lifestyle and her academic career. I didn’t want to give up on law, though, so I decided to continue on parallel fronts to try to create opportunities in law for myself. Rosetta Stone software became an attractive option for developing the necessary Mandarin skills because it allowed me to work within the context of my shifting, sometimes unpredictable schedule.

Although I’m still a beginner, my early Rosetta Stone lessons have improved and enriched my professional network. By knowing some simple phrases, I can engage better with my Taiwanese contacts—especially those that don’t have great confidence in their English skills. They seem to really appreciate my effort and commitment to learning Mandarin. Not only have they helped me find professional opportunities, they’ve also helped me find people to speak with and places to practice Mandarin. As a result, I’ve made more social connections, and that has increased my chances to build upon what I’ve learned in my Rosetta Stone lessons.

people at coffee house typing

courtesy Getty Images

One person even worked with me to set up an informal class to prepare Taiwanese law students for study in the United States. I now teach the students English, focusing on writing skills, basic legal vocabulary, and commonly used phrases that formal language study wouldn’t cover. We discuss foundations of US law and the US legal system, and we also talk about current events, books, movies, and what they might expect from life as a student in the United States. The great thing about the class from my perspective is that for every English word or phrase I introduce, the students can teach me the Mandarin equivalent. And they can educate me about the aspects of Taiwanese law and culture that are parallel to what I’m sharing with them. Had I not shown my interest and my progress in learning Mandarin through Rosetta Stone, I doubt that my new contact would have been as motivated to help get this class going.

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Michael Russell

Michael Russell moved to Taiwan several months ago with his wife and son. He came along as the self-described “trailing talent” after his wife found a great job there—and that meant looking for work. It quickly became obvious that speaking at least a little Mandarin would make a huge difference in Michael’s prospects, whether he wanted to continue his career as a lawyer, or if he were going to try a new path. However, the scheduling demands of settling into a new community and culture, job networking, and some part-time work—plus the cost of formal language lessons—got in the way, and he hasn’t made significant language-learning progress thus far. His son is now his best source for Mandarin vocabulary, thanks to everything he’s picked up in his preschool class. Beyond the professional aspect, Michael is excited about learning Mandarin just for fun, and for the sake of getting around easily, eating well, and getting to know people. He has a broad, but not necessarily deep, experience with languages. Michael lived in Italy for several years as a child and has since studied and used it occasionally. He also studied French and Spanish for several years, but he’s not more than passable at them. Turkish, Japanese, and Mandarin are languages Michael has dabbled in, but he hasn’t had the chance or motivation to really focus on them, until now. Michael looks forward to his experience with Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe Chinese.
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