Monday, January 21, 2008

Learning the language

这是我们的韩国同学们. My Korean classmates. A tired bunch.

WHO said that learning Mandarin is easy?! I have a very clear memory of at least two people telling me (before I went to China) that “learning Mandarin is a piece of cake.”

I suppose they think so because both of them have lived in China for several year, and can speak Mandarin fluently. To me, however, speaking Mandarin fluently seems like a far fetched dream. And if learning Mandarin is supposed to be "a piece of cake" I have to assume that I am a slow learner.

At the moment, I’m at the end of completing my first year of Chinese studies and today I had my speaking exam. Like expected, it went so-so. We had to read a lot of characters and that’s not my strongest point. In fact, reading characters is a bit of a bitch (It didn’t help that I clearly stated to our teacher that this is a SPEAKING exam, not a READING exam. He just pointed at the paper and said: 友娜,读一读。Meaning: Jonna, read!!) and I am a bit embarrassed of the fact that I sound like a six-year-old when I read. I stammer, I stumble on words, and I pronounce things wrong. (Actually, to say that I read like a seven-year-old would be to give myself too much credit. I’m more like at level of a five-year-old). It must be painful to listen to me!

Tomorrow I have my other two exams: listening and reading & writing. The latter is my big worry since writing is the hardest thing when it comes to learning this language (Yeah, if reading is a bitch, then writing is the devil!)

After tomorrow, however, we have a five week uni break (!) so I guess shouldn’t be complaining too much, even though a break for me simply means more work. (So yes, I’ll still be as stressed out as I am now. I suppose that is one of my characteristics). And since I am planning on continuing studying Mandarin level 3 next semester, I also have to keep the language up during the break. That’s why I’ve decided to read the following book; "My China Daily" by the New Zeeland reporter Edwin Maher. It’s a collection of witty articles written in Chinese characters (no pinyin –the simplified reading text–) with English translation on the opposite page.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the Chinese language… hm… can I say. It’s a lot harder than it looks, and if you look at some Chinese characters, you instantly notice that it already looks quite hard! Just to give you two examples… This is how they write ’wine’: 葡萄酒 and this is how they write ‘ice cream': 冰淇淋. Yeah. Maybe now you understand what I mean. I am still waiting for that magic ‘aha experience' when everything falls into place and I can write and speak like a native.

(Yeah right!)

The challenge...


Janike said...

Hej Jonna,
Maste saga att det later klart mycket roligare att plugga kinesiska pa ett cafe i Kina an att analysera data i ett gammalt sunkigt kontor som jag spenderar minst 8 timmar i 5 dagar i veckan!!! : )


Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin said...

I have just started learning Mandarin myself, I am also finding writing and the reading the hardest aspects.

I hope that I will be able to move out to China within the next couple of years.

I will be following your blog from now on.