I have been here over a year and have found the language hard and sometimes even an annoying chatter. Words blend together into a long string of difficult sounds to distinguish, never mind reproduce. I have tried, don’t get me wrong, but I have been told I am ‘hopeless’. I think I am saying it right, and what I hear being spoken and then reproducing as the same, again to be told this is wrong. It is difficult and very disheartening 😦 Working full time and very long hours, not to mention many weekends are spent marking and planning for the next weeks… I miss the opportunity to get out and practice and hear the language and learn it through usage. Some teachers take lessons and struggle to learn because they don’t have time to do the homework.
My day is surrounded in English and very sheltered, so again I miss the opportunity to learn through observation and cultural immersion. Many things locally are provided for in English, so we always can get by. I have asked questions and try to learn some simple and important phrases. I know more Chinese than I did over a year ago, but certainly not an impressive amount by any means.
A few weeks ago I needed to meet John and I had to taxi it alone. I always struggle with the speaking and they don’t always know what I am saying. For the first time I said where I wanted to go and the driver understood. Then to my amazement he asked me a question and I knew what he was asking me! I again responded this time with a yes, in Chinese, and was on my way! A year ago this would have been a long blend of sounds, but this was words and ones I knew.
This weekend I had a workshop to attend and I thought it was on storytelling. It turned out to be on teaching languages to non-native speakers. I was worried it would be a waste of time, but I ended up getting something totally different out of it. To show how the technique worked the presenter taught us French. I took 8 years of French and remember a small bit. Travelling in France some of it would come back as I heard and used it… and the same happened this weekend. Furthermore, she explained how words worked and some of the rules and now so many things started to make sense. I was able to read and translate a 500 + word story into English with few to no errors, something I never could do before. It was amazing! Her technique is more long-term as well and hopefully it will stick!
Today some of the students presented lessons and they taught us Chinese. I was able to pick up a few words. For the first time John asked me how do you say…..? It came in handy tonight when we went to grab something for dinner and I understood a few things they said as well as make a request and have them understand us!
Languages are hard for me and I am a slow learner, but I am getting there! I quickly forget what I learn and have no chance to practice it, so soon it is forgotten. I am starting to recognize words, not what they mean, but recognizing individual words and things are not long strings of sounds any longer. Now all I need to do is put meaning to these words and things will start to make sense! I certainly do not think I will be fluent…. but think of the possibilities if I put more time and effort into this. Maybe finally I am ready to learn; now I just need the time!
Stay tuned for more…