Mandarin is one of the hardest languages I have tried to learn.
After my meeting with my Teach English in China advisor Brendan, I learned more about the process and what I should be doing now to prepare for my upcoming adventure. The first and most important is to learn mandarin. I decided that I should start now to make my transition as smooth as possible. Brendan has been so helpful and available to me for answers whenever I need them, it has truly given me piece of mind while preparing for this adventure.
Since I am unsure about which province I will end up in, the pronunciations will be unknown precisely. The mandarin characters are all the same though. I found this great app called Chinese Skill that teaches me characters and a certain dialect of pronunciation which I am hoping will help at least a bit. I really like the layout because it is teaching me quite a bit to start with. I’ll probably try a second app as well to hone in my skills but for now this works.
It is a very different language – I’m not used to having to learn characters and sounds. Usually I can sound out a word and have a general idea utilizing root words as a guide. There are so many characters- I’m glad I am starting now! As much as it pains me to admit that something is difficult, this is that something. I’m trying to create ways to remember the characters in relation to what they mean but very few are actually sticking. It is a little disheartening but I also know that when I am surrounded by native speakers on a daily basis it will come much quicker.
Aside from the app, I watch this video daily about how to describe the type of vegetarian you are in Mandarin and how to answer common questions that you will face. I find it very comforting to get these things down now and will probably write out certain sentences in a book to show people when I first arrive until I am comfortable with my own speech.
When I was learning Dutch, I could understand much more than I was willing to say because I knew I was butchering the pronunciations and that I sounded funny to locals. When I would read the kids bedtime stories they would always pick Dutch books so they could giggle at my pronunciation. French and Italian I learned in a classroom setting with a verbal requirement so I feel more confident in those pronunciations. Spanish I have only learned verbally through friends and my boyfriend so this characters over pronunciation thing is a far different approach than what I am used to.
When I arrive I hope to be able to understand enough basic Mandarin to get by and really look forward to taking lessons with a native speaker to learn as much as I can. I plan on making index cards with the English, French, Italian, Dutch, and Mandarin words/characters for everything around the house. When I have children they will learn multiple languages at a young age. I feel that is important because of how small technology has made our world. Learning new languages is a challenge yes, but a fun and rewarding challenge as I am making my world more accessible and opening more doors.