Monday, August 31, 2015

Students Together

Learning Chinese. I now more fully understand the challenges everyone living in a different country faces. Not only does nearly every aspect of daily life take MORE time, not only are you without most of your family and friend's support, you're also somehow supposed to fit in time to learn a new language. And that on top of job and home and family responsibilities that are way more complicated in a different country than you ever thought.

We have been impressed at how much time people do sacrifice for it. Seeing friends who have studied intensively for a few years able to converse with almost anyone and even read characters is inspiring, and shows it really does pay off. But, for our situation in life, tutoring 3 times/week for an hour and studying on your own for even more just doesn't work. Yes, we could sacrifice more to fit more study in, but since we aren't planning to live here for life it's hard to know how much some of those sacrifices are worth it. Less time with a daughter who grows so fast so I can communicate a little more with a few strangers for the next two years? I just haven't been able to reconcile that.

And yet... Knowing more of the language would make daily life easier. We want to be able to connect more with local friends and be able to speak to others we see at the playground or just taxi drivers. We don't want to waste this great opportunity to learn a new language either, as it's rare to have such an opportunity!

Ryan, too, is busy working a full time job, being a great husband, and an amazing father. He doesn't want to take time away from us to study language either, as it seems every day Hadassah is growing and changing in some big way. The weeks fly by, and we're still behind on move-in tasks. Fit in something new?

But, we found a way to study language and bring him and I closer together! It's small - 1 hour/week with a tutor after Hadassah goes to bed on Thursday evenings, plus quizzing each other in the moments we get here and there. And yes, having a lesson together has the downside of less time for us to have individual talking time. But the quizzing each other and just learning together more than makes up for it. It gives us something we're both working on and thinking about, and I just love learning with Ryan, as he thinks to ask more questions than I ever would. He's also amazing at hearing and saying the tones Chinese requires, something I too often slack in, so has been ruthless in holding me to the right ones when we study, correcting me way more than my teacher does, so that I know I will improve with his help. He still has some of an upper hand on me with his grasp of Chinese, having lived here before, studied it in college, and just interacted with more taxi drivers and restaurant staff and so on, but I did get a little further on some vocabulary in my previous lessons. And while he has more time to quiz me during the day (as I'm doing dishes or getting lunch on the table or wrangling Hadassah or whatever), he gets the advantage of learning by teaching (which sometimes helps you remember more) so we're both benefiting.

It's a small step. We only just started, and we'll have to take a break in a month when we head back to America for 2 months. But, we finally decided we had to start somewhere, and something is better than nothing. I am grateful to be able to study with my best friend!

1 comment:

  1. Anna, I can so relate to a lot of what you are experiencing. I especially know what you mean about not wanting to waste the opportunity to learn a new language while living with native speakers, but also needing to prioritize your time. My husband and I try to find 15-20 minutes a day after he gets home from work to work on our German, and we have fun incorporating what we learn into the emails we send each other during the day, or into our dinner conversation. I figure every little bit helps. I hope to learn enough to be able to converse easily, but I'm not going to beat myself up when my progress is slower than I expected. ~Jessi