It has now been twelve years since I took my first trip to China, felt left out of conversations by my colleagues, and started studying Mandarin when I returned home. I managed to cobble together study materials by myself before Chinesepod came along. Since then Cpod lessons have formed the core of my study regimen, although, I have been augmenting with 《上下五千年》for the past couple years.
I left the company that had offices in China, and occasionally sent me there on business trips, a few years ago. So, I no longer have any career related reason to study Chinese. In fact, what Chinese I learned was seldom helpful to my job when I was there. However, I still keep at it.
For the last three years, I have somehow finagled my wife into travelling with me to China for our vacations. We’ve hit all the big name tourist spots, and have moved on to exploring less advertised locations. For example, last trip we explored Yunnan. Some people comment that it is strange that while my wife is the one who looks Chinese, it is I who speak.
In tourist type conversations, I manage to order something to eat at restaurants, get cabs to take us where we want, and so on, but it is painfully obvious that my Chinese has many imperfections. I’ve cultivated a network of net friends and teachers who I have more involved conversations with, and can bluster through most topics, but often have to work around gaps in what I know how to say. It is usually more of a surprise to people that I can read and write than that I can speak. However, reactions vary from none at all, to not hearing what I’m saying, because it is not expected to be Chinese.
The occasional grey hairs, from when I started, have taken over my head and you’d have to look closely to find any hairs that are still their original color.
I’m still current on every Intermediate and above CPod lesson, but have been haphazard about listening to all of the new elementary lesson dialogs. Cpod seems to be changing, too. There is a long list of users and team members who have come and gone, features, too. However, the lesson content is still very contemporary Chinese, and interestingly written. So, I’m still a moth drawn to the light.
RJJune 02, 2014, 08:02 AM
I made my first trip to China in 2004. I have been to China 18 times since. I too hated being left out and struggled to find study materials. I discovered cpod in 2007. I think I listened to Ken and Jenny for 24 hours straight that first day. I was thrilled to find someone that could actually explain Chinese. Even though my study is part time, I have not missed a day in 7 years. Every day I do something, but my Chinese is still far behind yours Im afraid. Im still waiting for that point where everything will crystallize.
I also made my first trip to China in 2004. May - June 2004. I think I made 10 trips back and forth during the subsequent 14 months. Funny if you and I were on the same airplane and didn't know it.
RJ, I don't know that your Chinese is far behind mine. Anyway, I remember two points where something "crystallized". One was when the sound of Chinese started to sound like words rather than random noise. The second was when I had a sufficient repertoire of things I could say, that when someone didn't understand me on the first try, I could keep talking until something connected. That was when it got easy to get most people to talk to me in Chinese when I am in China. Everything else has been a long, slow slog, and still is.
antony73June 03, 2014, 04:26 AM
I've been in China around 3 years, although I've been studying on and off for around 5 years. I realized that my Chinese was coming together about 6 months ago when I had this long conversation with mother-in-law, and I really got what she was saying, (although she's a 昆明人 she always speaks 普通话, which is a great help). And the thing was, was that I was able to repsond with clarity.
I am finding listening easier than speaking, I can somehow fill in the gaps. My speaking isn't far behind for general conversation but the only downside is that most in Kunming speak 昆明话. I can catch the jist of it, but if it's spoken by a local farmer, I have absolutely no idea what is being said.
The point I'm at now is that I can really speak what I know very, very well indeed. But now I think I need to learn more words, more longer sentence strucutre.