In my attempt to learn Mandarin, I experience both good and bad days. Lately, there have been awfully many bad days. I know that learning Mandarin is hard for many people, but how can it be so completely up and down? Like, some days I am doing soooo well, I am on top of the world, and I even understand my neighbours who keep a mouse as a pet and speak in a heavy Suzhou dialect.
And then some days (like today, like yesterday, like most of last week, and the week before that week, and maybe even the week before that…) I feel like a complete UFO in class. Teacher speaks, I listen. I don’t understand, I ask for the teacher to explain. She explains again, everyone else gets it, except for me. I ask again, everyone gets a bit annoyed and still, I haven’t got it.
Or, like lately, with new characters. It is as if my brain has hit its limit. ‘No more room for new characters!’ it is saying. ‘We’ve had enough, go somewhere else with those new words you are trying to learn!”. I write one word 50 times and still my brain refuses to accept it. Bastard. (Brain I mean, not character). How am I going to squeeze all of those in? How am I going to be able to take Friday’s essay writing test? How am I, who cannot even remember how to spell some of the ‘level 1’ characters supposed to go on to level 4 next semester? This slow working brain of mine better wake up soon, or else I am going to have some serious problems during my exams. You can’t get away with writing pinyin anymore when u are on level 3. I simply have to remember how to write these words by heart.
So what do I do when things go badly? Well, I escape to my resort. To my gym! Where I can chat with the trainers without having to worry about grammar or pronunciation. These trainers are the best. They are so forgiving. And they seem to understand most of the things I say. And, I don’t have to worry about characters when I speak to them. And I am not surrounded by Koreans and Japanese who ‘already know’ many characters for some, strange reason? (OK, I understand that the Japanese know a lot of characters coz their writing language is quite similar to Hanzi, but the Koreans? How do they do it? How, how??!)
I am developing something between rage and envy at my fellow classmates because they are so much smarter than me. And who am I kidding. Next year is going to be the same, if not worse. More characters. Faster speed. More reading. More falling behind. Maybe HSK. Aoooch. Sticky situation is approaching.
Then sometimes, I get to my senses and think: ‘ nah, come on Jonna! Get over yourself! How hard can this be?! It is only a new language?!! Relax for a bit….!’
And then I open my text book and start writing some characters, and five seconds later the brain is drifting off somewhere else and the characters are being written, but not remembered.
Oh, those good days better arrive soon!!!