Thursday, March 26, 2015

Steps in Mandarin

Another step in learning Mandarin Chinese is complete: I finished book two! I have not had much time to practice lately... being pregnant and just exhausted, everything takes longer chores-wise, and when I do have a moment to sit down, I just want to sit! But, somehow I still managed to do pretty well on the "HSK-2" test. My teacher is a great one.

With the completion of level 2, I also completed my lessons, at least for now. With Hadassah down to one nap, I was finding it hard to complete everything I needed/wanted to do while she slept, especially when 2 nap times a week holding an hour long tutoring session. Add pregnancy exhaustion to the mix, and I just wanted time to rest, to nap if I wanted to. I may pick the lessons back up, or they may be over for good. I've always wanted being a wife and mother to be my priority, and at least for now, the lessons were feeling like more of a burden than a help.

But, I definitely have enjoyed learning. I understand more than I can say in the heat of things, and I still am not very confident in speaking with others beyond basic things, even though in the lessons we studied everything from how to give detailed directions to a taxi driver to how to shop for gifts for friends. 

I do hope to continue learning some of the characters on my own, through a handy step-by-step book. Just a few minutes a day... I've found it's a lot of fun to write them and be able to recognize them when out. But it's also confusing just how similar so many of them are.

Every now and then I feel like I'm finally understanding and able to say a lot, only to have a phone call that leaves me tongue tied and completely not understanding a word, or a delivery man at the door who is trying to insist that I take a box I didn't order (I tried telling him it was for the floor below us according to the address, but he was saying something about the phone number on it not being answered)... thankfully I was able to knock on our neighbor's door and let the grandparents who were home take care of it.

Yesterday was also another blow to pride in thinking I knew good pronunciation and tones. Hadassah attracts a lot of attention when we're out still. Often, she now sees grandmas coming, exclaiming over her and how cute she is, and she turns and runs the other way. I'm trying to teach her that she needs to at least be polite and say hello instead of ignoring people, but I really don't blame her... being a star simply due to your hair and eyes gets old really quickly.

There are some sweet encounters, like the above one with college girls who somewhat shyly asked if they could have a picture taken with Hadassah. :)

And yesterday, there were two little girls Hadassah actually enjoyed playing with. It probably helped that both encounters were in a place there wasn't a large group, so a crowd didn't gather around as soon as she stopped to play. The first one was on a bridge on campus in the morning. Hadassah was dropping wild berries off of the side and saying "ploop" as they made a sound, and an 18-month-old little girl with I think her mom came and stopped to play too. It was cute to see the little girls give the berries back and forth, actually sharing for the most part! By the end, Hadassah was calling her Jiějiě (older sister). Hadassah has picked up quite a few Chinese words lately, learning all of the terms for our neighbors (grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, and the little boy's name). She also recognizes some of her numbers by their Chinese name, as we count in Chinese each step (all 35 of them, divided into 5 sections, where we start over at one) as we walk up the stairs. Carrying Hadassah up the stairs is getting more exhausting, so this helps encourage her to walk, though it's definitely a lot slower and not always possible when I'm also trying to carry up bags of produce!

Anyways, that afternoon we went out to the square in our apartment complex, and there was a little girl, probably 4 or 5 years old, that kept waving to Hadassah. She warmed up to her, and came closer to play with her, as they dipped long sticks into the water. Soon, the little girl started pointing to things and saying their name in English: cat, fish, "so many fish!" She was really quite good. I repeated the Chinese name to her, playing a fun game where we switched languages for a minute. Before I felt too good about my knowledge, though, I heard her say (in Chinese) "your Chinese is not very good." At least I understood what she said, and laughed and agreed, but still... it's pretty bad when a 4 year old doesn't think you speak well!

Little steps. I'm realizing how LITTLE each step is when you learn a language. It has definitely been an adventure and good lessons (in more than Chinese) that I'll take through life.


  1. Anna,

    I just wanted to say that I'm super impressed at the efforts and progress you've made in learning Mandarin! I've been struggling with marking progress in learning German (something I really want to do while living here) and I don't even have a baby to distract me. =) I know exactly what you mean about lacking confidence to speak in front of others (even when you've had lessons covering those subjects). I am assuming that everyone has a breakthrough eventually where it becomes easier for them (I haven't hit mind yet).

    I also wanted to share with you a couple resources that have been helpful to me in trying to supplement formal language classes. They are probably more helpful at building vocabulary that teaching grammar, and you may have already heard of or tried out all of them, but I wanted to share just in case they proved helpful. (They are also all free.) (haven't tried this one yet, but I've heard it's good)

    I'm glad you are choosing to put your family first, and I'm sure that even without formal lessons you'll still be able to soak up a lot of new information and make progress in your language studies. =)


    1. Thanks for the suggestions Jessi! I've started accounts in two (one didn't seem to have Mandarin) so maybe they'll help me continue studying. :) Hope German clicks for you! At least with Chinese, the words are really short... with German they are so long!