My language class has now moved on from mainly working on pronunciation to actually putting sentences together. It’s time to really start paying attention and to be sure to practice outside of class in order to keep up.
What’s interesting about the language class is that we’re not only learning about the language but also about the Chinese culture. A lot of the Chinese language has to do with understanding their culture.
This past week, we have been focusing on time–learning how to read the time and then also saying what activities we do at that time. We created a timeline to show what words to use according to the time of day–like how we have morning, afternoon, evening, and night. A while back, we learned how to say good morning (“Zaoshang hao” or just “zao”). I thought I would try and use the word “zao” more instead of always saying “nihao” as I say hi to the workers around our complex. However, I haven’t used the word “zao” yet because everyone always says “nihao”. I guess I am glad I didn’t use the other word because I found out that “zao”, even though it means good morning, is usually only used up until 9AM, unlike how we say good morning up until noon. Guess I won’t get to try out the word “zao”…:)
It was also interesting learning how they may say I’ll meet you at noon, but noon isn’t a specific time like it is to us. Noon could be anytime in the afternoon, so you have to be specific. It is so important to understand these cultural differences in order to use the language properly.
On another note, I’ve been trying to practice more as I am out and about. I feel like I do alright we I’m speaking or reading it but then have a native speaker talk back to me and I’m lost-they speak so fast! Plus, there are different dialects and people mumble, so it makes it hard. I was talking with a friend how I can have difficulty sometimes understanding a person with a southern accent, so throw in an accent on top of an unknown language and it’s hard! Fortunately, I can pick out a word or two and figure out based on context and gestures but it takes some time.
I went to buy a recharge card for my phone the other day and it did take a little time as I figured out what she was saying (I had to share the carrier I used in order to get the correct card). As I was trying to figure out the amount (I almost had it!), a line started to form behind me. A nice Chinese girl stepped up next to me and translated quickly for me, so I could finish my purchase and be on my way (and everyone else could be tended to as well). I am always so impressed with everyone who can speak more than one language. Kudos!
TOTE: What better way to learn a language, then to be immersed in it. Don’t be shy and give it a try! It’ll get easier in time.