Though his professional career started in engineering. Ash has been fervently learning languages since 1991. He speaks Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese and German, all in varying states of decay. In addition to these, he has learned to some level or another another 7 languages. With both an undergraduate and a Master's degree in electrical engineering, specializing in electromagnetic wave propagation, he worked as an engineer/programmer for 8+ years. Somehow during this time, he managed to spend 1.5 years living in Utrecht, the Netherlands and even worked for a short time as a professional Dutch to English translator as well as a volunteer interpreter. Less than a year after graduating with his Master's in 2004, he left engineering and moved to Asia to pursue a long time passion: a career in foreign languages.
After a short seven-month stay in Hong Kong, he moved to Taiwan to attend the intensive, academic Chinese program at ICLP (臺大國際華語研習所) for 10 months. Before entering the PhD program in the Chinese department at National Taiwan Normal University, Ash spent six years in the Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (TCSL) PhD program where he focused his coursework mostly on linguistics, including courses such as:
- Introduction to Sino-Tibetan (漢藏語概論)
- Chinese Dialectology (漢語方言學)
- Classical Chinese (古代漢語文學之教學研究) taught by Prof. Cheng Tsai-Fa (鄭再發)
- Chinese Syntax (漢語語法學)
- Chinese Semantics (漢語語義學)
- Special Topics in Contemporary Linguistics (當代語言學專題研究)
While preparing for the TCSL PhD qualifying exams, he also became very familiar with the following topics: topology and universals, semantics, transformational grammar, case grammar, functional grammar, contrastive analysis, Chinese syntax, pragmatics, phonology and Chinese morphology.
Around 2006, he was introduced to and fell in love with Old Chinese phonology and Chinese paleography. He was very fortunate to be able to attend two separate two-week intensive seminars in Old Chinese phonology and paleography at Leiden University (2007) and at Oxford University (2009), arranged by Dr. Dirk Meyer of Oxford University and taught by Dr. William Baxter of the University of Michigan and Dr. Chen Jian (陳劍) of Fudan University (復旦大學).