Friday, February 27, 2009

Slowly getting used to things

Yesterday I met with my language partner and she was curious to hear about how I was getting on at level 5…. Well, that’s until she heard that I am not doing so well. Fortunately, she’s one of the kindest people I know, so she decided to take me under her wing and help me. So on Sunday we are having a whole day of Chinese where I will not only be practicing on using all the 4982634896239462934692364 new words I am learning every day (it is a bit over the top I have to say), but also will head to a bookshop and get a Chinese dictionary… I adore my own little electronic life-saving dictionary, but I have come to this point where we are studying so many new words that the dictionary cannot explain, so I figured it would be good to get myself a Chinese one (and one that shows how each and every word should be used, since our teachers don’t want to bother explaining that).

It’s been a somewhat shaky week in school. One thing that I still have to get used to is the aggressive atmosphere amongst my classmates. EVERYBODY wants to talk, ALL THE TIME! Me, not being the aggressive kid, can just forget about it (and to be quite honest, I guess that suits me fine… at least at this point!)

Also, the discussions we are supposed to have during our oral class always snowballs into something completely different. Like the other day when we were talking about what jobs are the most popular ones in our countries (and I had nicely prepared a few things I wanted to say)… Well, it didn’t take long before one of the smart kids (the guy with the degree) turned that discussion into a 10 minutes speech about what the credit crunch is doing to the people of his country. Soon we were out on deep waters and I couldn’t follow anymore. It’s kind of sad that the teachers doesn’t direct the discussion back to where it should be, but so far they have fallen head over heals for this ‘extremely intelligent laowai’ and gives him as much room as he wants, which he, of course, it happy to take (I personally still don’t really understand what he does in my class because it is obviously too easy for him? He speaks and reads extremely well, and every time the teachers explain some grammar he already knows it and asks about something far more complicated. It would be like me going back to level 2 or 3 where I already knew everything? No, I don’t see the point, but I suppose he has his reasons?).

Also, because there are so many words constantly being spoken, I am finding it impossible to keep up with it all. Except for the 60 new words of each chapter there are another 40 new words that comes up during every class. First I decided to write them all down in a notebook, but when I did I noticed that only after 2 days I had gone through more than 10 pages… So now I am being more selective. I mean, there is no point for me to try to push 100 new words into my brain every day? No good will come out of that (only headache). Rather, I’ll focus on the most important ones and just learn how to use those.

Anyways, I think it is all going to turn out fine in the end. I have decided to see it as an advantage (to study together with so many whiz-kids) rather than as a disadvantage. Sure, I don’t get to speak so much during class but it’s OK. I have my Chinese friends to practice with. And as for all the new words that we are going through… I reckon that in the end, maybe it will even help me to advance faster? Today I am signing up for the HSK course as well, so from March onwards I will have even more books to study!

“You’re going to take on that one too?!” my boyfriend asked me last night, seeing that he's seen how busy I've been this week with trying to keep up with my class. But I am thinking yeah, why not? It’s already so hard that I doubt that it can get any harder.  

Also, yesterday my language partner asked me: ‘where do you want to go with your Chinese –like, how good do you want to get?’ and I guess that is a good question. For the last month or so she’s been telling me that I should get a job rather than studying and just continue to advance by communicating with my Chinese workmates. And I guess she has a point, especially since I am mainly after being able to communicate orally and read in Chinese (however cool it would be, I know I will never fully learn how to master the writing). Although at this point, I still don’t think I am good enough to get a job and totally rely on my Chinese… but who knows, maybe after this semester?

(bah, what a boring Friday post!! Next week will be more cheerful -promise!) 


Anonymous said...

I was wondering Jonna. Where do you get the time to study, and have a social life, and write these wonderful blogs entries?


Jonna Wibelius said...

Adrian -u r too nice. Lately the blog entries have been nothing but wonderful... quality slipping for a bit (but I'm working on it!!). As for studying/social life/training -not watching any TV instantly gives u some extra hours during the day... getting up extremely early also does :) (Fortunately I am a morning bird!)

Jono said...

Jonna, I think we have something in common - I too gain all my extra time from not watching TV and getting up early :-)

When I used to study alongside other foreign students last year I too was somewhere near the bottom of the class (if not the bottom) but to be honest I consider this a privileged position to be in - not only do you learn from the Teacher but also from everybody else in the class - since they are all better than you. Some people don't like to be near the bottom because it can be more stressful and they are out of their comfort zone - I prefer to think of it as 'pushing myself' and forcing myself to work hard rather than taking a backseat approach to learning and sticking in one of the easier classes like a lot of my coursemates did.

Just my view on things :-)

Little Tiger said...

Strangely enough, signing up to a Chinese class might be the only way for that guy to practice his oral Chinese. I'm sure he is sick of having the basic nationality/age/occupation/why are you in China conversation whenever he jumps into a taxi.
Also, as Confucious said '温故而知新' (New knowledge can be gained by reviewing old knowledge)....

Grrr I envy your routine. I can't get to sleep earlier than 1am. Then, when I get up I usually have a quick glance at the afternoon shows on TV (or as I call them...the 'morning' shows).

nova said...

your friend has a good point; working would probably be a less-stressful way to pick up the language.
at the same time, though, it can be fun to challenge yourself.
i think that as long as you remember that having the best grade, or even passing a class is not always the point.
you're putting yourself out there and trying, and that is what matters.
good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hang in there! You'll catch up, I know you will. You just have to be patient with yourself. Good luck with the HSK class!

Diane said...

I think you mean to say "anything but wonderful." "Nothing but wonderful" means the opposite of what you are trying to say.

And even so, I enjoy reading your blog. This will be good for you to look back on and remember how you felt because you will get past it. Already you are seeing it in a more positive light knowing that you will be more challenged by the better speakers.

Christopher said...

I admire your perseverance with studying Chinese, I can imagine how difficult it must be. I've been thinking of starting a course too, but here in Wenzhou I can't seem to find anything appropriate. I've had multiple private teachers, but it never seems to work out well. So far I have only learned what I have picked up since I arrived -- which makes me brilliant at ordering food (and only food that I like), and that's about it.

Good luck, and add oil :) (thanks for reading my blog too)

undertree said...

yes, I also have doubt about how can you save so many time to write such a good blog?
This is more important to share with us.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Jono -yeah, isn't it great not watching TV?! When I lived in Australia I didn't have any TV at all.. I figured if I did, I might just watch it, and I preferred to spend as much time as possible outside and as little time as possible in my flat. It worked miracles. When I after Australia moved to Finland the TV became my best buddy. 1. Coz I hadn't had one for so long and became completely addicted to soaps, and 2. Coz I was living in a new town where I knew no-one and the TV was became my 'good company'... looking back at it now, I wish I hadn't had any TV back then either! Might have made everything smoother. Anyways, now when I am supposed to watch Chinese TV shows to improve my listening skills I still find it a bit annoying. Kills too much time!

As for being at the bottom of my class: yup you are def right about the way u can look at it: I learn a lot from my smart classmates every day. Although them being so good has a small disadvantage and that is that I become a little bit reluctant to speak, as I feel I am so much 'worse' then them. I obviously just need to get over that but it's easier said than done. My speaking-Chinese-confidence is (unfortunately) quite low.

Little Tiger -U r probably right, although I cannot stop wishing that he would go to level 6 instead of being in my class..... :/ (today he didn't come to school and it was... kind of nice! Everybody else got a chance to speak and the level was more appropriate... and I didn't have to reach for my dictionary all the time).

Sour -you are right. There is no point competing or even trying to be the 'A student' because in the long run it will give u nothing... Well, this semester I actually think that even if I would want to be the class' no 1 student, I wouldn't be able to, no matter how much I studied! Haha!

flyingfish -yeah just registered! :) Will u also do the HSK test this year? U must be on like... level 12?!

Diane -haha, yeah f course that's what I meant!! Typo -big time. It's the Swede in me that is shining through! :)

Chris -love your new blog header! :) When I was working some years ago in Shanghai I also tried the whole 'private tutor' thing... but it didn't work. it was really hard to find a good tutor and then it was the whole time thing. I was doing so much overtime that it became impossible to get into a routine.. that's why eventually decided to quit my job and start studying at the university instead. Studying Chinese is a full-time job I reckon. Especially if you want to master all the characters.

Undertree -thank you for those kind words... :)Like I said, I am a morning person... during the early hours of the day my mind is fresh and full of ideas.. this is my most productive time of the day, so then I take the opportunity to write a blog post. I bet if I would save updating the blog for afternoons I wouldn't be able to update as often as I do now... dunno why, it's just how my brain works.

mantse said...

This is a good start to think find a job to practise more your Chinese orally.

I have an experience to share with you that is i also try to practise my Putonghua when i worked in Beijing before, however, more people want to practise their English (or even Cantonese???) and then talk to you with those laugage. Most time make me mad as my brain need to overwork.

Practise make perfect!

Rowena said...

Now I can really see where those chinese students are coming from. Some time ago I was in chat room and this guy from China (that's what he said) logged in and started chatting in english. I have to say it was pretty good and I could tell that he wasn't mother tongue english. So I told him, "You're pretty good at in the world did you ever learn it? It can be a difficult language for foreigners." To that he replied, "study! study! study!"

Swiss James said...

My girlfriend studied Chinese for quite a while when she first came out, took the HSK and passed with a decent grade.

For the last year or so she's been working in an office to try and just use her Chinese in every day life.

It's worked out pretty well I think, but one problem has been if everyone in the office is Shanghainese. Then they just talk in dialect and she can't understand what's going on.

So if you do go down that route- try and find somewhere that has a mixture of shanghai and wai di ren!

asiseesit said...

that's really nice to hear. give yourself time and miggle more with the locals. you might feel lost at first, but they will accomodate your level and in no time, you will be able to speak like one of them.

Anonymous said...

It's good to study in class but practice is the best way to move up faster I got my first job in Japan after 4 semesters of Japanese in Canada. I had no practice at all. I worked in a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere where no one spoke English. I learned real fast...

BTW, if you don't work, how do you manage to stay in China o.O??

Bagman and Butler said...

Not boring at bring China home in so many perceptive details

Anonymous said...

If you're finding your dictionary lacking, a good way to get more used to how words are used is by looking them up online. nciku has a good example search with English translations, or if your Chinese is good you can just search for a word in Google or Baidu and see how Chinese people use it. There's a lot more content than in a paper dictionary.

Anonymous said...

Actually, not a boring post at all. I love hearing about the nitty gritty. If you never spoke about the difficulties, we would not believe all the glorious times!
I've only been to China for short 2-3 week periods of time and have tried to learn here in U.S. Not so easy at all. I'd love to have the opportunity to immerse in the language.
Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your experiences.

Phoenixkidd said...

Hang in there Jonna, just a few more years and you may become fluent, I hope you like the Chinese Culture tho' as it can be very rough and crass, after all there's over 1 billion people out there, and to stand out you have to be. I could never do it, although I do like Chinese outside of China, like Singapore, Jakarta maybe even in HK

odmmb said...

No, no, no! Not boring at all! Very interesting. :-)
Thank you for letting us "read over your shoulder." :-)

Anonymous said...

I cant imagine you being the class wallflower in anything ;-).


Anonymous said...

I got to say I am impressed by your dedication!

It is a good question, what people want from studying chinese. When I think about it, I can not remeber.

I think your friend got a good point, working with chinese people will help you develop your chinese. I am learning a lot from having chinese as the daily office language and your chinese is way better than mine, so I guess you would do fine!

Anonymous said...

Hello Jonna, What do you think about Mongolia? ... so nearly China
Maybe interest this social life.