Monday, May 14, 2007

On Learning Mandarin....or at least trying to

So we have lived in Shanghai for over 2 months now. At this point, I have stopped counting the days. I can finally keep track of what day it is, although the date still escapes me. I no longer feel so new and wide eyed. And although I don’t have the experience of one who has lived here for 2 years, I feel fairly confident and at ease with my surroundings. We are starting to meet more and more people. Phil got out this weekend to play Ultimate Frisbee with a group of people training for league competition. I stayed home and relaxed.

In an effort to meet people, I have recently joined an expat organization known as the SEA (Shanghai Expat Association). There are over 50 nations represented in this group. It is a great way to meet other expats, learn about the city, take trips, connect with other business people, or just join a book club. I was recently asked and agreed to join the board of the SEA, which means my involvement will greatly increase. I am starting to meet people and make connections through this group, which is nice. I have met a good mix of foreign as well as American expats through this group. I would definitely like to meet more locals though. The government here does not allow the local Chinese to be a part of the SEA, so while I get to meet people from all over the world, I do not get to meet people who are native citizens of China through the SEA or organizations like this. I really want to make sure I don’t surround myself with western comforts and people alone. It is an easy and tempting thing to do at times. I want to make sure I immerse myself and develop relationships with the community around me. To effectively do this, it will help to learn the language.

Phil and I are currently taking mandarin classes. We have a teacher who comes to our house for private lessons 2 times/ week, 2 hours each time. I haven't really shared what it is like trying to learn Mandarin, so I will take this opportunity to do so.

In order to learn Chinese effectively, there are several things you will need to know. First and foremost- you must have a sense of humor. Once you find that, arm yourself with unlimited patience. Next, take everything you know about learning a language and throw it out the door. Intonation to turn a sentence into a question- forget about it. Sentence structure- in the trash. Just when you think you understand something- it will change. Just when you think it makes sense, it won't. And when you grasp a principle and the teacher tells you that principle does not apply to a particular word or phrase, don't even bother asking why. Why, you ask? Because the resounding answer will be- "that's just the way it is". Learning this language is one big T.I.C moment after another. (If you are unfamiliar with T.I.C., please refer to previous post). Oh and I would suggest padding the table you are at during your class, because banging your head on the structure below is a natural response at times. Seriously.

Although the language is insanely challenging, Phil and I are both up to it. We have always had a strong desire to learn another language fluently. What better opportunity than this. And so.... we press forward, with a pillow padded table and a lot of laughter.

1 comment:

Joe & Pearl said...

Thanks for updating. We enjoyed seeing you guys this weekend. Bella is getting so big! She is so Joey! We hope to connect again this weekend...are you out of town? Take care and stay away from throat clearers! How gross.