Meet the team: Crystal

My name is Crystal and I work with Mark to develop and record Coffee Break Chinese.
I graduated with a Bachelor degree of English and International Business from Shanghai International Studies University in China and later on an MBA from Nottingham Business School in the UK. In my early career, I worked in a variety of companies in China including US business information company Dun & Bradstreet, and for the Finnish Consulate in Shanghai, assisting Finnish businesses entering the Chinese market. I also worked in large state-owned companies in China, involved in developing strategies to attract foreign investment into China.
In 2014, I established Crystal Pan-China Consulting in Scotland. My company specialises in cross-cultural awareness between China and Britain, in a business setting. I have provided consultancy services to the Scottish Government, Scottish Opera and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and local companies both large and small in Chinese business culture and etiquette.
I am also a linguist with a genuine interest in history and the usage of language. I am one of only few that have obtained the “Certificate for Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages”, which is issued by the Chinese Government. Since 2016 I embarked on the journey of Mandarin teaching and have never looked back.


What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

In China, English is a compulsory subject at schools. In cities, children start to learn English even at nursery schools. This continues throughout the primary, secondary and university education. In my experience of learning English, the biggest difficulty was a severe lack of language environment and access to English learning materials: text books were the primary learning material. We had to learn by memorising words and phrases in a hard way. So when I came to the UK to study for an MBA, I found my English was rather ‘book English’. Being immersed in an English-speaking environment, exposed to the nuances of the language, the English sense of humour and culture was the critical point in my English learning journey.  If only I had an English equivalent of Coffee Break Chinese which would have allowed me not only to learn the language, but also the culture in a relaxed way!

As a qualified Mandarin teacher, I am teaching non-Chinese speakers Mandarin and Chinese speakers English. It is said that “to teach is to learn twice”. I love constantly learning English as well as my native language Chinese as part of my teaching.


What are your favourite memories of working with the Coffee Break team?

One day when I arrived at the studio to record Coffee Break Chinese as usual, Mark gently broke the news that we were going to do our first live broadcast on Facebook. He kept on reassuring me there was nothing to worry about, and he would make sure I would be fully prepared for the live show. Believe it or not, the whole experience turned out to be surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable. Being able to meet and talk to our learners live was simply incredible!

Where would your ideal coffee break be, and with whom?

I would love to learn French.  My ideal Coffee Break moment would be reading my favourite book, The Little Prince, in French with the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in a rose garden in the South of France.

What advice do you have for Coffee Break learners?

Using the language you are learning as much as possible.  Love each one of your successful mistakes in your language learning experience.

Quick-fire round

  • Favourite language: English and Mandarin
  • Favourite word or phrase: To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend. (The Little Prince)
  • Favourite Book – The Little Prince
  • Favourite destination – Paris, where we celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday; Tuscany where we had an amazing family holiday with my younger brother who lives in China.

Do you have a message for the Coffee Break community?

Learning language is such an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. I cannot imagine what would I be and where I would be today without learning English. Go for it and you will fall in love!