Archive for March, 2011

It’s not a hill but a mountain, when you start out climbing…

March 28, 2011

I have decided that I am going to continue my Mandarin study. It’s not that I actually stopped or anything, but I have been going through increasingly large spurts where my motivation to actually study language is at an all time low. This may come as a surprise to some people but…Language study is hard work!

There are two things that constantly come to mind when I think about my Chinese study. On the positive, the Lao Tzu quote, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Funnily enough, I have always taken a degree of motivation from that line. A language like Chinese feels like an impossibly large endeavour. If you think too much about it, if you concentrate on being fluent as opposed to getting there, it just kills your desire to continue. I have been studying the language for years now, but on a casual basis, and largely via self-study.

Which brings me to the second point which is now that I have several years of Chinese under my belt, I still feel like my progress is nowhere near where I would hope to be. If I listen to native Chinese speakers conversing in mandarin – such as on the Chinese news, in a Chinese movie or somewhere around Box Hill, I can barely understand the individual words, let alone ascertain their meaning. If I was to write down what they were saying, even completely without comprehension, I couldn’t even begin to guess. I am quite good at hearing pinyin, but man, when native speakers speak, it’s not only fast, but it blurs together into something incomprehensible. No amount of hearing it seems to change that either.

So while I intend on enrolling into a Mandarin class in May, I swear, finding the motivation to continue is a constant, uphill battle.

My ultimate goal is to become conversational, ideally fluent, but at the very least conversational. I want to be able to speak to someone in Chinese and then understand their answer…or most of it. Right now, while living in a town where the majority is actually Chinese, I too hesitant to try. I would rather be back in China speaking to someone who does not speak English as you simply have to have a crack at it. Here, it feels silly speaking another language when you don’t need to, even for the sake of questioning. Worse, if I do use basic Chinese, they then assume I can speak the language which ultimately ends in my feeling like an absolute tool when I can’t understand their reply.

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