My 2014 Year-End Review

December 31, 2014

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TL;DR

  • Finished to learn Chinese. Can have basic conversation, and can read simple texts. Learned 1500 characters, out of 3000 required to read newspapers.
  • Started my career in tech as a freelance PHP / WordPress Developer.
  • Met great people in Taipei who introduced to the world of tech & startups.

I have learned Chinese for about 9 months at Tamkang University, in Taipei. I have reached a good level for oral and written Chinese. I can understand well what people tell me and I can speak in basic conversations. I can read 1500 traditional Chinese characters. This allows me to read most signs, restaurant menus, bills and get by in life in general. If I wanted to be able to read newspapers, I would need to learn an extra 1500 characters, to reach 3000, which is the number of characters that highschool students have learned in Taiwan.
To achieve, my objective, I did 3 things:

  • Attended class 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.
  • Did diligently all the homework
  • Used the app “Anki Card” extensively.
  • Practised a lot with language exchange partners. On websites like conversation-exchange.com you can easily find language exchange partners.

Out of all the things I did to learn Chinese the single most efficient method was definitely deliberate practice with language exchange partners. Many people who study Chinese don’t do it, and it is a crucial mistake. When you speak with someone, you have very little time to make up your sentences, and you receive instantaneous feedback. This means 2 things. First, since you have very little time to think, you get used to rely on your unconscious. This is how we speak in real life. Second, because of all the mistakes and feedback you receive, you will learn how to use the vocabulary in the right context. This is invaluable. Also, I have realized that many students make the mistake or learning too much vocabulary, but don’t know how to use it well. I believe it is better to focus on a small set of vocabulary and master it well.

Since my strategy to learn Chinese relied on immersing myself in it to the expense of everything else, I quickly realized that it would be impossible to both learn Chinese AND promote my service The FinBook. So I took the decision to stop it. It was a great learning opportunity. I have learned how to create a website, how to hire and manage freelancers, how to reach out to potential customers, how to open a business bank account, how to receive money with Paypal, as well as many other things.

In Taipei, I have met very interesting people in the tech industry, and they changed the way I see my future. One of them is a freelance developer who works remotely. I found out about “Digital Nomads”, i.e people who work remotely, travel the world at the same time, and generally work in the tech industry. Since I was thinking of switching to a career in programming and wanted the freedom of not being tied to an office, the appeal of this was huge for me.

To get started, I needed 2 things: skills and clients. Also, I needed to focus on a specific tech. It would make both my learning and my marketing easier. After a lot of research, I decided to settle on PHP and WordPress. WordPress is the most popular framework for websites, and it is written in PHP, a very accessible language. After studying for a couple of months, I started to run the Taipei WordPress meetup. On Mondays, I gave presentations about a specific topic of WordPress. The weekends before, I spent all my time learning the ins and outs of this very specific topic. The attendance was good, and I met very interesting people. One day, at my meetup, I met a French guy who had a web agency in Taipei. He became one of my first clients and introduced me to other clients.

I am very happy of what happened this year, and I feel very excited about 2015 🙂

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