Saturday, December 6, 2008

HSK disaster and rude girl

There seem to be a minor HSK obsession amongst our teachers at uni, so yesterday we were offered to take a test for free (!) just to get an idea of our level. Although it wasn't compulsory it sort of still was, so even though I really didn't want to take it (I knew I would score terribly. Speaking is my thing meanwhile writing/reading isn't... and the test doesn't test your speaking skills) I did, only to experience it to be way too hard for me.

It's actually quite an awful feeling when u r sitting there with a test in front of you and realise that you don't even know the answers to half of the questions. The first and second part (listening and grammar) was OK, but the second and third (reading comprehension and fill in the blanks... -as in fill in characters!) went so badly that I felt like writing someone else's name on top of the test paper when we had to hand it in. And I thought I was doing OK with my Chinese studies?! Gosh -this test is going to put me on some loser level that might be equivalent to level 1 or 2!?! Although I already consider myself to study quite hard I obviously have to study harder. At least if I ever want to be able to do an HSK test and feel comfortable.

Some other little side notes about the test... although it wasn't a 'real' test, but just a test to find out our levels, the teachers 'guarding' us still took it extremely serious. I had expected there to be an interval of some kind between the 4 different parts, but no... so, when I after part 3 got up to run to the bathroom I was met with suspicious looks and the teacher even stopped me before I went out.

-There is already a girl at the bathrooms You Na, so you simply have to wait!

More serious than our mid term exams?!! What's going on.

The fact that one of the old men 'guarding us' refused to turn off his mobile phone was also quite interesting. There we all sat, reading away, being carefully observed and not allowed to go to the toilet unless it was empty, and this man's phone just kept ringing?!! And it wasn't any discreet ring signal either. I am talking a Chinese version of 'I want it that way' on volume 4... And just to rub it in: the man's "WEI!" when he picked up (because he did, every time) was the high-pitched kind, clearly showing that he didn't give a shit if he disturbed us.

None of this would have probably bothered me if it wasn't for the fact that I was doing so badly on my test. I am terrible in that way. I hate losing/ performing badly and as a result I get annoyed, angry, disappointed and frustrated.

So, when the (disaster) test was finally over, it was with heavy legs I rode my bike to the closest post office to send a Xmas package to a friend in Australia. When I came into the post office I immediately got even more annoyed because everybody was starring and someone even pointed, something that I normally don't care about, but this day it made me sort of angry. The man who wrapped up my package was so nonchalant, making me even more annoyed, so when I finally got to the clerk who was giving me the address slips and he gave me one in French, I sort of erupted.

-This is in French! I can't read French, don't you have anything in English?
-It is not French?
He said, looking like a question mark.

Unfortunately, once the volcano had erupted, ill-behaved magma continued to flow out of me.
I was so rude I am ashamed of myself! I yelled at this boy as if it was all his fault.. gosh, if someone would have heard me I would have probably qualified as 'lao wai jerk of the year'... I mean, I used to work in Mc Donald's during high school so I know what it is like when people who has had a bad day take it out on you and the cheeseburger you just gave them, and at that time I promised myself I would never turn into that person... still, there I was yelling away, like another bad-day-loser.

Fortunately, the boy didn't seem to take it too personal. He remained calm and kind of oblivious, which just made me more angry. Then, an older man appeared behind him and said something like:
-hehehehe.. Lao wai... hehehee.
And I blurted:
-Yeah, lao wai what?! You've never seen a lao wait before or what?!
This made both the man and the boy laugh and once the man left the boy smiled to me and said:

-You're Chinese is quite good!!

I felt like crying.

I mumbled some lame apologize, and added something with 'bad day' before I paid up and left.
When I was outside, unlocking my bike, another clerk came running after me:

-Miss, miss! Your pen! You forgot your pen!

I felt like crying moment number two.

I am never going to be rude to people here again. Never.


Anonymous said...

haha...You Na, you so cute.

afritzse said...

Don't worry about the HSK thing. Learning the strokes is a good way to start, should be very easy. It's just work! I guess if you are able to speak correctly, you should be able to write correctly.

Rambler said...




Anonymous said...

poor you..
take it easy, the language exams in china are always too focused on reading, it dosen't show your real language level!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jonna, I am so sorry. But the HSK exams really are not necessarily a good indicator of your level. It's natural that your speaking/listening skills should outstrip your writing skills at the moment. As long as you keep at it (you don't even have to study HARDER, you just have to keep studying), your writing will catch up. It may never be as good as your speaking, but it will be good enough.

However, it's possible that you may never do all that well on the HSK, no matter how good your Chinese becomes. The Associate Director of the Chinese Language Program at Harvard, who takes the teaching and learning of Chinese as seriously as anyone I've ever met, once told me this. I was planning to apply for a teaching job and I asked him if I should take the HSK. He kind of hemmed and hawed and said, "Well, it might be a good idea, but you have to remember that it's really hard to do well on the written parts, and a lot of the time it's a matter of luck because the vocabulary can be so random." Just like the TOEFL, I guess! So don't get too wrapped up in the idea of the HSK as a barometer of how you're doing.

As for being rude, well, sometimes even really nice people are rude, aren't they? We all have bad days. I know I'm only telling you what you already know! But seriously, you shouldn't blame yourself too much.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymouse -cute?! hm.. when I re-read this post I feel like a real cry baby... haha! :) Glad u can find it cute though.

afritzse -easy?! Gosh, I find writing characters everything but easy. If I can memorize them for reading purposes I am happy. Speaking and writing are like 2 different things to me.

Tripfriend -hm... I am not so updated in the 'smiley world'... Is that the smiley for 'cry baby'?

斌 -这是我的第一次HSK考试。我不知道是一个好还是不好的考试但是我觉得不好。虽然会看汉字和写汉字, 但是不会说的话你的中文有什么用? 我希望HSK考试也有一个口语部分。

zhou -I hope you are right!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna!
I read through your post every day without a comment. This morning, after reading this, I’d like to leave one.
I’ve tried to learn two more foreign languages in addition to English, so I speak from experience on the ground. German and French are fascinating to me, but I almost give them up. Learning foreign languages is hard, needs persistence, patience, and doesn’t care about the tests and scores. There’re too many people in China are tortured by the stupid tests, you’re absolutely not alone. It’s a shit! Forget it as soon as possible. When I didn’t care about the exam, I found the learning is really a fun, and keeps going …
Hope you’re having a good time in China.

Merry Xmas in advance!


Mark's Blog said...



唉,记得当年在中国上学时候也经常因为考试影响心情,其实过后想想也没什么。再说了,失败是成功的妈妈嘛 ^_^




Anonymous said...

hi, blonde girl, if you wanna avoid future exam bombing, self embarrassment, and services offered in french, i know a good hair salon in the city...

Anonymous said...

Disgraceful behaviour Jonna, go stand in the corner for 15 minutes, LOL! Don't worry, we've ALL lost it from time to time through frustration building up and then released in one go on an "innocent" local.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Flyingfish, Justin, Mark, Woai, anonymouse... thanks so much for your comments. I feel a whole lot better after reading them all. F course u guys are right, letting an exam get to won't help improving my language skills, and it's not even worth it. It's just ups and downs that I have to learn to deal with better. Chinese is just such a hard language I have to say.. I have studied many languages before: English, Spanish, French... but nothing has been even a fifth as 'deceiving' as Chinese.. some days I feel on top of the world with my language skills, and then other days I feel as if I just arrived to China and can barely get 'Ni Hao' correct. But of course there is no other solution but to keep on studying.. and maybe not take those HSK tests too seriously.. :) Thanks you all for cheering me up!! :)

Anonymous said...

Only the Lord knows how much I (someone who grew up and went through all K-12 and college in China)have hated and despised Chinese educational system, especially all the tests, exams, college entrance, etc. This isn't China's own problem. Most Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Japan have the same system. Theirs is content-based education (i.e., memorization after memorization of some useless facts). I am glad to have my kids born and raised in the U.S. They have a lot more opportunities than me as a child to develop their own talents when they have don't have to spend hours each day on memorization. As a language teacher (ESL and Chinese), I firmly believe spoken is more practical and in many ways more important than written. I have found that most American students pay a lot more attention to spoken and listening comprehension than reading and writing, whereas most of my ESL students from Asian are so bogged down with grammar exercises. I think I am the only one in the ESL department in my college who understands the kind of grammar questions raised by Asian students. Most native speakers don't care nor have any clue on the so-called English grammar taught in Asia. I usually encourage spoken over written for Chinese language learners. After all, for most of them, that's all that matters in the long run. If I have any power over China's language teaching program, I would make that change accordingly. Maybe together we should try to make the power that be understand.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you try to keep your diaries in THIS blog in Chinese. If you think your Chinese is not yet good enough to express yourself well, you may tell the main story in English and following it with a briefer Chinese version. Anyway, you should force yourself to write some Chinese anywhere and anytime possible.

Anonymous said...

You took pic during the exam and ppl were sleeping ???

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous: Can only hope that China's edu system changes with time...

Anoymous 2: U really wanna read my diary in Chinese? Hm... U know, my vocab isn't that HUGE.. I might end up writing about the same things over and over again. Not to mention all the mistakes I will make and so on.. it is a good idea but maybe it will have to be a seperate blog (where I blog under an anomymous alias so I don't have to feel embarrassed bout my crappy Chinese) so that I don't bore blog readers who cannot read Chinese...

MG -Nah.. this phoso isn't from the exam but from an everyday lesson... ;)

paladin said...

I will have my "test for English major--band 4" , too . My god ,so hard .