The 1-month mark!
Before coming to China I had studied Chinese for about 2 years, an endeavor which was initially sparked by a visit here in '07. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that I stuck with it so long, because as anyone in their right mind might expect, Chinese is a BEAST. And like most BEASTS (caps is fully warranted), right when you think you have it tamed it bites off your arm and runs away from home.
No joke, after my plane landed and I got to hear the locals speak for the first time, I thought I had been studying the wrong language. It's not just a regional accent like you've got back in the states, it's a whole set of vowel and consonant shifts that SOUND NOTHING LIKE STANDARD MANDARIN. So, while I was able to rattle off my own ideas to others, when they responded I had no clue what they were talking about. It's a pretty sucky feeling, let me tell you.
Well, I've been here a month (as of Monday), and I'm FINALLY getting the hang of what the heck is happening around me. Part of it is the Chinese tutor I have, who is really pushing me to get more comfortable with day-to-day vocab and grammar. (Today I had to explain in Mandarin how to make an omelet. Not easy, dudes.) The other part, of course, is just being submersed in it all day every day. I can actually eavesdrop on conversations on the bus now, which is strangely thrilling.
Of course, this is just the spoken aspect of the language. The other (more formidable) half is the writing system, which I'm trying to tackle as well. Not easy, but it feels darn good to be able to read signs, even if it still only amounts to "mountain - something - tree - something - something - something - beer!"
But for all its struggles, life here is such a rush, full of crazy adventures and really cool experiences. The locals are so eager to talk with foreigners, and are willing to go WAY out of their way to help. So yeah, it's worth every moment.
Now, how to get Linty Fresh here?
posted by Mr. Linty @ 9:58 AM,
- At 11:30 AM, Katrina said...
What you said about eavesdropping is so interesting... when I came to the US for good, I was working in an Animation Studio and while I could speak and communicate with others, when I was sitting in my cubical I tried to eavesdrop of what people were saying around me and I couldn't. It was so frustrating listening all this talking and not being able to understand. This cubical might have been the loneliest place in the world!
I know, not exactly your experience but reading your post this story came to my mind...
- At 1:36 PM, Eric Terry said...
So English isn't your first language?? Could've fooled me with that comment. Flawless! Bravo.
- At 10:51 AM, Danger said...
just got back from beijing after living there for 5 months. i had a private tutor for a few weeks, but all she did was tell me how sucky of a student I was. i only learned enough to survive -- ie order food, talk to taxi drivers, and haggle/shop. good luck there. i love your shirts. check out plastered tees if you haven't already, great story.
- At 2:00 PM, Katrina said...
Haha, thanks Eric! Truth is I try really hard to achieve an acceptable level of writing. The funny thing about foreign languages is that you have to use so limited vocabulary that you feel like a complete illiterate which makes you so frustrated. Anyway... btw, I just posted a blog about Hairy Harry! Check it out... ;-)
- At 12:42 AM, Eric Terry said...
Danger - bummer on the tutor! How did you like it otherwise? I visited Beijing in 07 and wasn't too crazy about it. Too crowded and the air quality was ridiculous.
Katrina - awesome, I'll check it out! And seriously, congrats on your mastery of English. It's very natural!
- At 1:10 AM, Danger said...
i loved my chinaland experience. it was a great time. learned so much about the culture and life there. would love to go back. the air polution was good for a brief period - during the olympics - then it got bad again. what city are you in?