I miss my old classmates...
So far, Mandarin level 5 has been nothing but scary. I don’t know if that is the teachers intentions during the first, intensive weeks (when you haven’t quite worked up your ‘writing-character-speed' yet), but if it is, they are definitely successful. There’s been a lot of ‘comparison’ of students. A lot of praising. Some verbal caning. Some ‘warnings’ (“My exams are really hard and I suggest that if you don’t understand even 90% of what I am saying, that you stop wasting anyone’s time and jump down to level 4”) as well as some ‘shocking information’ (such as the fact that our grammar teacher won’t “waste any time” on explaining how to use the 79 new words for each chapter. We have to do that ourselves). Also, stupid questions are not acceptable, however, if you have a nut that you seriously cannot crack, and that you notice that a lot of classmates also have a problem with, it is OK to ask.
We also have to keep 3 notebooks. One for writing sentences. One for ting xie (which is a weekly character test). And one for… yeah, to be quite honest with you, I should probably already head down to level 4 because I didn’t quite get what the third book was for. And I didn’t dare to ask. But it’s still early days, so I guess I figure it out with time.
My classmates, then, is another story. As always, a highly ambitious bunch. But this time it is almost over the top. There are two people (one Korean girl and one European guy, I didn’t quite get where he was from –hm, another sign that I need to jump down one level?) who already have degrees in Chinese studies, but who haven’t ‘used their Chinese for some years’ and feel they need some ‘freshen up.’ They are both fluent to that extent that I don’t understand half of what they are saying. The girl speaks really fast and the boy says things like “I am studying Chinese in order to expand my world-view” (I had to look it up in my dictionary), speaks with a heavy dong-bei accent and had previously worked as a Chinese translator (“although it was eight years ago so my Chinese has gone really bad now” –eh… yeah, sure, whatever).
What are they doing in my class?! Them, with their fancy degrees in Chinese studies are going to learn together with me, who have only studied for 1,5 years?! Don’t get me wrong, I am going nowhere, I finished level 4 on a quite high score, although I cannot help but wondering how the gap between two levels can be so wide? I almost wish there was a 4,5 class….
(Even though I keep reminding myself ‘not to compare myself with them’ it is a bit hard not too. Although trust me, I am doing my outmost. Repeating it to myself at least once ever 10 minutes)
Our grammar teacher (an old, old lady) already told us that she’s not going to "baby" us by using vocabulary that we already know when she speaks. Rather, she’s going to be using a lot of new words, to make it harder for us. She also said that all of us probably won’t pass her exams, and pointed towards a tall, western guy seated at the front. Not until later, when the guy introduced himself did we understand what she meant: this guy is taking level 5 for the third time (!) this semester. He apparently has a lot of problems with the characters (hm.. sounds familiar...) and hasn’t yet managed to pass the exams.
Well one thing is for sure, I am going to study my a** off so that it’s not me sitting there again next semester saying that I find ‘writing Chinese characters’ to be my biggest problem. NO way. I am moving on. One semester at time. Regardless of tough teachers and over-ambitious classmates. Here we go.