Friday, September 19, 2008

It's all about talking

This blog has been a lot about studying Chinese lately, sorry if I have managed to bore some of you, but I guess the fact that uni started last week and my new class was a bit different (especially teacher wise!) made me inspired to do some posts. I'll now try to cut down on the 'learning Mandarin posts' however, as I guess it can get repetitive after a while.

Just one last thing: I have decided not to take the HSK course this semester. Why? well, simply because I don't want to spend more time on listening in a classroom! I want to use what I already know, not just stare in a book and write characters. The other day at the gym I started talking to a lovely young Chinese girl called Catherine. We clicked instantly, exchanged numbers and yesterday we met for coffee (How ironic that I just wrote about the fact that I don't have any Chinese female friends in Suzhou...). We only speak Chinese and she understands me fine and to my big surprise, I also understand HER fine?! (this is something I've had a problem with before..-understanding random people. Because they all have different dialects and speak so faaaast!) I also noticed when I spoke to her, that it wasn't that hard to speak anymore.. the sentences just came flying, and I could talk about much more than the usual things like 'where I come from, what job I have done, what food I like to eat and my hobbies'... Awesome. Sure, there's still a while until I'll be discussing politics, but the fact that I can already have a bit deeper conversations makes me excited!

Somehow, without really noticing it myself I must have improved at least a liiiiittle bit. I still don't really believe it, because it sure doesn't feel like it when I am in class, but the main thing is not what u can say in class but how much u can use your Chinese in your every day life, right? So... I think I need more of the speaking bit and less of starring at my books. Actually, in our grammar class our teacher has told us that she won't give us too much homework (which is otherwise the standard) because she wants us to have time to go out and speak/hang out with our Chinese friends. Sounds good to me!

I was thinking that on top of meeting with Catherine and speaking to my gym friends every now and then it would also be good to find some sort of job.Before I was thinking about a kindergarten.. I could offer working there for free 1-2 afternoons/week just to practice speaking to the kids. But then again? I am really not a kids person?! (not at all.. when kids see me they normally start crying. I think they can sense that I am not a natural) I just thought this sort of job would be good because kids are normally more forgiving if you make mistakes than grown ups... And, we are probably on the same speaking level? Hm.. well, let's see. I have to figure something out. What other job could I do, mainly to improve my Chinese? Any suggestions? How have other people gone on from studying to working? But anyways, no HSK for me this semester. Maybe next year. Maybe never.


Anonymous said...

If kindergarten is not for you, maybe senior center?

Mark's Blog said...

Really glad to see your Chinese improving.

I reckon give a try of 养老院, old people like to talk, and they want someone to listen to their stories, besides, they usually have a deep understanding of Chinese culture and history.

Also, I am tutoring Chinese in NZ now. What one of my friend did was to find a classic Chinese novel and read it aloud with me. I read first, characters by characters, he then followed. It brought the language alive.

I reckon you to find some Chinese language partners for this, you read English novel to them; they read Chinese novel to you.

I am planning to work on Pride and Prejudice right now, not with real person, but read it aloud and recorded my sound, listen to it later.

As for the book, I recommend 围城. It's going to be hard at first, but it could let you engage in some indepth conversation with Chinese, so long as the Chinese partner's English is good enough to explain the characters in to you in English.

But, I think the most important point is to think in Chinese. You can constantly ask questions in Chinese in your mind, without speaking them out. Try to reason, make argument in Chinese, rather than thinking them in English or Swedish first and translate into Chinese later. A good way of doing this is to go to Chinese internet forum, posting entires there or just start an controvsary issue.

Better if you can write a Chinese blog, try to write your experience in Chinese, let your Chinese friend read them and make suggestions. I know some people actully did that. Here are some English,American and Korean students' Chinese blogs, they are really excellent

Anonymous said...

Yeah I kinda know what you mean about finding a local who can communicate with you.

I've always found that people in China do speak too fast. As a monolinguistic people who have, until the last few years, been reasonably isolated, they arent used to foreigners speaking their language,so they arent used to adjusting by speaking slower, or more clearly, or being patient.

And yeah, you'll be pleasantly surprised how much you improve without being aware of it. It's pretty cool isnt it? :)

Reminds me of something I saw a few days ago in my school. A girl doing level 1 was chatting with another lady (a nun- there's a group of priests and nuns doing cantonese here) talking about what food they like. Three weeks ago I was teaching the girl a few words and she hardly spoke any. The improvement was so quick!