Hi, my name is Allan Ngo, I have been running Money in Mandarin for some time now. And truth be told, one my most fulfilling moments in running this site is connecting with you, my reader. And the About page is where you get to know me first.
That’s why I decided to re-write this page in order for you to get a deeper sense of who I am, what my mission is about and for you to decide whether or not this site is for you, while at the same time hoping that you’ll share your own story.
Just in case you just want to view the quick bio, here it is:
“Allan Ngo created Money in Mandarin with a goal to help raise awareness of the various career and business opportunities for bilingual Mandarin Chinese speakers. Another goal is to aid them in landing these lucrative spots through improved Mandarin Chinese fluency via self-study while relying mostly on resources available online.
After missing out on a lucrative European post during with a top local bank due to his inability to speak Mandarin Chinese, he applied and fortunately qualified to be part of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation – China Scholarship Program, a highly regarded one year intensive Chinese language program. He studied Mandarin Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines as well as the prestigious Fudan Universtity (复旦大学) in Shanghai, China.
Ironically, he actually HATED studying Mandarin Chinese growing up as a child. Since he is a Filipino of Chinese descent, attending a Chinese school is a must. The teaching methods though promoted the use of huge amounts of rote memorization which he (as with most of his peers) found boring and useless. Thus, despite passing year after year of Chinese classes he DIDN’T REALLY LEARN ANYTHING.
He wants people to take advantage of the growing value of learning Mandarin Chinese and help people avoid making the mistakes he did growing up. He currently lives in Manila, Philippines.
We’re done with the clean and neat bio.
Here is the no holds barred version
Let’s start out with some of the dirt and flaws, because there are a lot of them.
Where to begin…
- I’m a terribly shy guy. In fact, this About Me page has me sweating bullets. Back then, some of my closest friends thought that I was a real SNOB when they first met me. Now though, they’d (hopefully) tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I welcome the opportunity to meet new people. I’m just not the approach any person at will sort of guy. So just say “hi” if you feel to do so. This shy guy welcomes it.
- I’m not a Mandarin Chinese teacher. I get asked whether I teach Mandarin a lot. The quick answer is no. I am still a constant learner. That’s the reason I can absolutely relate to a Mandarin learner’s struggles which is why I like to discover new and better ways to study the language. I am sort of my own guinea pig. The discoveries that I make along the way are the type of things I love sharing with you.
- I have no prior writing experience. Don’t expect to read any sort of literary classic here. There will probably be plenty of grammatical errors. That isn’t as important to me as getting my message across and actually talking to you. If you want pristine writing, you may want to look somewhere else. If you want a conversation, you’ve found the right place.
- I actually have no time to write. (Even this About Me page) Here’s the deal: I work full-time, 6 days a week, while preparing for a wedding, which I totally LOVE by the way (hi hon!), and on top of that do regular exercise with my family at nights. So where do I find the time to write for my site? Well, it’s less about time management but more about prioritization. And trust me, my site is my baby, and sits pretty high on my priority list.
Anyway, despite all these, I’ve been blessed to have met plenty of wonderful people through the site. Some of whom pave the way for me to get published in two nationally circulated magazines in the Philippines in Tulay and China Business Philippines.
I even managed to write an ebook entitled “10 Clever Chinese Idioms: Express Yourself Better and Be Absolutely Impressive” with my friend Kevin Tang.
[Download] 10 Clever Chinese Idioms: Express Yourself Better and Be Absolutely Impressive
China Business Philippines Magazine
But what is the point of doing all these?
Hmm… I could explain it point by point but that would be such a bore, so I’ll make it a bit more interesting…
by telling you a story.
I am a Filipino-Chinese. I attended a traditional Chinese school up until high school. It’s basically just like any other school except for the fact that it has an additional Chinese curriculum (not a pre-requisite for college admission).
More than 10 years of Chinese lessons later… I can’t say any damn thing in Mandarin.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, sure I can say “hi” and ”goodbye” in Mandarin but I’d be nervous wreck filling in the words between the two.
Why is this so?
To make a long story short, the system is simply outdated. The system is set-up to promote rote memorization instead of comprehension. I should know, heck I passed each and every level I completed without learning how to use the language.
And I HATED it.
Just to be totally clear though, I was a pretty good student at my English curriculum. Humility aside, I was consistently in the honors list. But the Chinese curriculum was so mind-numbing that I even “negotiated” with my mom to allow me to just concentrate on my English subjects and forget about the Chinese curriculum, since
- It’s not required to get admitted to college, and
- I won’t use it in real life anyway (I know, visionary, right?).
She agreed. Well, she didn’t say “yes” but she didn’t adamantly object either. She sort of understood where I was coming from.
I concentrated on my English subjects and life was good until…
It was Time to Face the Real World
I was fortunate enough to land a managerial position at one of the top banks locally after college. Being that the Chinese population is really small in the Philippines, just around 1-2% of the total population, It was sort of a novelty for my colleagues to quiz me about the Chinese culture and yes… the Chinese language.
I became the default Chinese culture expert.
Questions ranging from “What is Feng Shui?”, “Why do you guys like wearing red?” and the one I dread most… “What does this (Chinese character) mean?”
Answering (evading) these questions wasn’t difficult in itself. What was tough though was the fact that I didn’t seem to know much about my culture. I have always been surrounded by people from my own culture that I never realized how little I really know of our identity.
It left a hollow feeling within.
This feeling simmered for quite some time but came to a boiling point with one unforeseen incident.
My work requires me to deal with our foreign offices on a daily basis. I have built a solid relationship with them over time. Until one day, seeing that I am of ethnic Chinese descent, one of the European office heads offered me a post to handle their Chinese desk.
It was a truly golden opportunity to cross out a lot of items sitting there on my bucket list, namely:
- Living independently - I wanted to experience the fullness of life by living alone and bounded by no one but myself.
- Residing in a foreign country - People who lived abroad seemed to have a wider perspective in life. I wanted that.
- Earning tons! - Self -explanatory
But alas, that dream shattered as quickly as it appeared. The reason?
You’ve probably guessed it, they needed someone who can speak Mandarin Chinese.
… and Found
All these episodes made me feel like something has to change.
One day, I was on the phone with my buddy, Cyrus, and were ranting to each other about our dissatisfaction with where we were in our lives. Me with my career and him with his studies in law school.
It was our typical quarter-life crisis sound-off.
We were just going back and forth until he mentioned a recent e-mail he sent me calling for applications to an intensive one year China Scholarship program provided by the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation.
Light bulb moment!
Normally, this is something that I think about (a lot!) before deciding. But with the hyped up emotional state that I was in plus the fact that the deadline was just 3 days away.
I just simply went for it.
The funny thing is, it has all the bucket list items that I just missed and though I won’t strictly earn a ton, I will be saving a lot with the scholarship program. But most of all, it gives me the treasured second chance to learn the Mandarin and redeem myself.
So after scores of essay, a phone interview, a panel interview, months of waiting and numerous prayers…
I was in!
On Equal Opportunities, Overcoming Insecurity and Finding the Silver Lining
I have come full circle.
From hating learning Mandarin Chinese in school to dropping everything and putting my career on hold — for a chance to do it all over again. Crazy, right?This time around, I cherished every moment.
I came to learn a new system, simplified Chinese, from teachers younger than I was (25) while adjusting to living alone, in a totally different country, together with classmates from all over the world!
How’s that for being a student again?
The most important realization I had from this experience is that language is equal playing ground. It does not care about your:
- Background - I have seen Caucasians, Africans and Latinos with NO Chinese blood speak better Mandarin than I do.
- Age - Students range from undergraduates, professionals to parents. It’s really never too late.
Fudan University Experience
I have admit there was a sense of embarrassment and jealousy on my end simply because of the fact that I have Chinese blood running in my veins yet couldn’t speak my ancestor’s language the way they did. Whenever they started speaking in Mandarin, I started to shrink in their presence.
On the flip side though, I understood that they didn’t achieve this level of fluency through any innate advantage, for they didn’t have the environment nor ancestry to lean on. Whatever they got out of the language was in correlation to the amount of effort they put in the language.
And effort is something I (and everyone for that matter) can control.
I experienced several language breakthroughs along the way:
- Watched an entire movie without any English subtitles and actually understood it.
- Made friends with people who don’t even speak a word of English. Thus, solely relying on our Mandarin to communicate.
- Wrote a couple of hand-written postcards for my parents back home, all in Mandarin (for mother and father’s day). Something I thought I could never do… ever!
These were things I once thought were absolutely impossible. Thereby making these simple feats truly fulfilling.
And more importantly, anyone can do it!
But alas! I could not stay as a student forever and will have to face one of the toughest question awaiting me upon the conclusion of my studies…
From Confusion to Clarity
For starters, I had to accomplish project on behalf of the scholarship to share our learnings from the program. I wanted to do something that would encourage more people to learn this vibrant language for both from the cultural reconnection and financial success points of view.
Lo and behold, in the course of my research, I discovered two things:
- Learning Resources - I came across a great deal of learning resources, mostly online, that simulates the benefit of learning Chinese in China. A lot of them come totally free or come at a minimal cost.
- Lucrative Careers - I was able to talk to several head hunters and uncovered the extremely well-paid bilingual career that most people do not know about.
I thought to myself “why don’t more people know about these?”
I saw a gap that needs to be filled. Thus came about the birth of…
Bridging the Gap
With Money in Mandarin, I aim to do 3 things:
- To help busy people like you to learn Mandarin Chinese by using effective learning strategies, proper attitude and modern technology. Allowing you to learn more in less time with proper priority management and dedication.
- To provide awareness of the different money making opportunities available for bilinguals . Complete with an insider look into the careers of successful bilinguals as well as exclusive company partnerships that would help you reach your career/business goals.
- To build a community of like-minded thinkers who aim to learn and promote Mandarin Chinese both for it’s beauty as well as it’s role in being a globally competitive citizen.
These are pretty lofty goals for me, especially considering the flaws I mentioned earlier, but it is something I deem worth doing. I draw inspiration from one of my favorite quotes of all time.
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli
And if you have read this far, first of all congratulations!, secondly, that means there might be something here that really speaks to you. So if you haven’t already, take a chance with me and sign-up to be part of the Money in Mandarin family below.
If you could spare 2 minutes…
I’d really love it if you could go here and let me know how I can help you.
I look forward to our road ahead.