Sunday, February 19, 2012

Picture Day in Mandarin Class

Mandarin is very difficult, but very exciting as well. The pinyin is coming well, but the characters still aren’t registering with me. I know a few, but I don’t feel like they are solidly in my memory. Professor Xiao is an amazing teacher. She is probably even better in her native language and I’m so impressed that she had the courage to come to the U.S. and teach in a foreign language. I keep expressing to her my fear that I won’t be able to communicate while I’m in Changsha. She assured me that it will be difficult at first no matter how much I learn and that knowing some Mandarin is better than knowing none at all. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to teach us something so simple to her.

I was reading Peter Hessler’s book River Town and he talks about how frustrated his teachers in the Sichuan province were when they tried to teach him Chinese. I imagine it’s a bit like parents teaching their children how to use the bathroom. Ok, maybe that isn’t the best example. She is so patient with us, though. She’ll often say things like, “You guys are so cute” when we make mistakes. One time, she said that our pronunciation of the words for mother and father actually sounded like a little baby. She sort of chuckled at us, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m resigned to the fact that I will have to be brave in trying to express myself even when sometimes it might be amusing to the people in Changsha.

Today in class, Professor Xiao asked to take a picture with the entire class and afterwards gave everyone a gift. It was a traditional Chinese knot that the people make by weaving a single thread of string into beautifully ornate patterns. I’m a bit sentimental about things and so I was delighted to receive it. I have attached the class photo below. Everyone seems to get a long well and it may be because we all feel a bit out of our elements. However, I am definitely the black sheep in the class. I found out the students decided not to invite me to their study group because my “status” was intimidating to them. One kid named Thomas has always been very kind to me and we chat frequently before class about how our studying is going and about the Utah Jazz.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Update on China Preparations

So, the kids are doing great with the Fluenz program.  There are a total of 75 lessons (Mandarin Levels 1, 2, 3) and they have almost completed all of them.  Plus, they seem to be retaining it well and their pronunciation is very good.  Stacie and I are in the twenties somewhere, so we have a lot of work to do, but we are having a great time with it.  For myself, I am plugging away at the Beginning Mandarin class here at SUU.  Professor Xiao is such a great teacher and her enthusiasm is unmatched.  As a foreign speaker, she says many things that I find incredibly endearing.  For example, after a student answers a question well, she will say "Ah, you are so clever!"  Also, when calling on people, she'll say "Yes, you the beautiful girl in the front."  Just a really sweet lady.  She is apparently going back to Changsha at the same time I will be arriving, so it will be nice to have my lǎoshì (teacher) with me while I am there.  The pinyin is going fine.  I have no trouble with remembering the pinyin words that I am learning and the pronunciation seems to be going ok.  The real difficulty is remembering the simplified Chinese characters.  Professor Xiao will write things on the board and we are supposed to remember what they mean, but honestly I don't.  I've made flash cards and hopefully that will help.