JOSH Peace has an unusual party trick.
He won’t spin bottles or break dance - instead he’ll launch into fluent Mandarin Chinese.
The 20-year-old Ocean Grover has just returned from four months abroad, two of which he spent teaching English in China, and said he simply fell in love with the language.
“I studied Mandarin Chinese from year seven right through until year twelve at Saint Joseph’s College in Geelong,” he said.
“I fell in love with all of the different characters they have, there are no letters just thousands of characters.
‘’It’s completely different to English and just really intrigued me.”
While most people give up on their attempt at mastering a second language, Josh has conquered arguably one of the toughest languages.
“By the end of year 12 there were only 10 of us left studying Chinese, I can read, write and talk fluently in Chinese,” he said.
“After going over to China, six years of school just goes out the window, everyday you have to speak Chinese so your level just goes up and up to the point where it’s not native speaking but fluent.”
Josh said Chinese people were taken aback when he started speaking to them and he’s taken a few people off guard.
He said it was always his goal to visit China so googled volunteering and a program teaching English came up.
So after paying for his flight, accommodation and living allowance for the program’s duration, Josh arrived in Shanghai to a massive culture shock.
“I remember getting out of the taxi with my hotel across the road and everyone’s Asian and everyone’s looking at me and I felt so out of place and I went to cross the road,” he said.
“Scooters are coming from every direction and it’s a red light but no one stops and I was like, ‘what am I doing?”
Josh spent two months on Changxing, an island of Shanghai, and said what surprised him the most was how hospitable the Chinese people were.
Josh said there were no other foreigners on the island so they were constantly stopped and the attention they received was mind blowing.
“You’re walking around and you’re the centre of attention, they stop you for autographs, photos, it was just insane. You just couldn’t do anything without people harassing you,” he said.
“They all have to learn English over there. They look up to western people sort of, they think they should learn English not the other way around so were really surprised we could speak Chinese.”
Josh said family was very important to the Chinese, particularly because of the one child policy.
“I wouldn’t say parents spoil the child but they sort of almost over protect them. That child is very important and everyone is an only child so the family unit is very tight,” he said.
“If they get a new job it’s all done through family connections.”
Josh said the experience was difficult to adjust to at first, living in a small dorm with one other American eating rice and playing Russian roulette with food.
“At first we couldn’t correctly decipher the menu, chicken wasn’t chicken,’’ he said.
‘‘At the start we were just pointing and hoping for the best,” he said.
For reprieve they would catch a bus back into Shanghai each weekend and explore the international city with fellow worldly volunteers.
Josh arrived home on Boxing Day and gorged himself on all of the foods he’d desperately missed.
He’s looking at studying Chinese at university this year. After that he’s not sure what the future holds.