A digression: Learning mandarin

I started my elementary Chinese class this past week and…it’s hard.

Not hard in the way that makes your brain feel like it’s going to mush. Hard in that beyond comprehending the language, you are speaking in sounds that an American mouth has never made before.

A typical example of trying to make the right sounds:





…and if I do get it right, it feels like total luck.

And so I keep babbling my way through learning the basics of this language. At the same time, there is some comfort in that 1 billion people can already speak the language. If so many can learn, it can’t be impossible. But it sure feels like it.

The environment helps a lot. Our teacher is very focused on getting us out of the classroom and using our new found skills. She spent a large amount of time just letting us ask questions and learn phrases. Uber useful.

Starting this week, we begin the formal course, including the textbook, quizzes, etc. I am not as bold as many, and hold quite a few reservations about actually using mandarin words in public (fear of messing up, I guess), but this is study abroad. It’s not a choice.

So I strive on.


About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 09/13/2011, in College, General, Pitzer in China - Fall 2011 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I hope you’re not learning in Shenzhen, where one of the great joys of living in China’s most immigrant city is that every Chinese person you meet pronounces everything differently and then tells you how crap you are for not getting it right.

    I even get scolded by people for not getting my wife’s name right. She’s from Sichuan where the Zh is pronounced Zh unlike everywhere else where it’s pronounced like a soft J instead.

    Good luck with it – I’ve been here two years and my Chinese is still pretty bad.

    • Thanks for the comment Nick! No, luckily I’m not learning my Chinese in Shenzhen. I have heard, however, that Shenzhen is quite the incredible (and fast-paced) place.

      I’m studying at Beida in Beijing, so just dealing with that accent.

      Thanks for reading and your support! First day of Chinese this week tomorrow!

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