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This week I finished my last Chinese class as a ‘Survivor‘. An appropriate title for a beginner course as it feels like surviving most of the time. Keeping my head above the water as a sea of strange sounds tries to drown me!

As I was writing my presentation for the end of the last module (I have survived three) I once again realised how much there is still to learn. Remembering words is easy. Remembering their tone marks, not so much. And that’s of course exactly the part that makes you screw up the pronounciation, gets you strange looks, etc etc. I am considering signing up for the next level 3 HSK exam as this may be the proverbial Dutch stick I need behind the door. On the bright side, I am able to tell a joke and a few taxi drivers have laughed at them. Now you can never be sure they are laughing at the joke as I can imagine my speech is funny to them too but so far the laughing has only occurred at the punch line and not during the whole ‘conversation’ so I think I’m ok.

In the meantime I continue to survive all sorts of things, good and bad, in this strange but wonderful land. From tasty pancakes to floating pigs, when its good its good but when its bad, it really is bad. It makes China very interesting but also hard to comprehend at times. But I continue to the next level of my course which is called ‘Social‘ so who knows I may be able to chat about it over a cup of coffee soon.


Need character, will write novel

Last week I really started to learn Chinese characters. So far I am able to write about 15 odd. Since there are tens of thousands of them I’ve barely made a dent in it. Nevertheless I tried to impress my Chinese teacher with my newly acquired writing skills and I think she was a little bit. I’m not sure of her general level of ‘impressedness’ by me but the other day I put a fairly long sentence in the correct order and she said ‘that’s right‘ with great surprise in her voice as if she was thinking to herself ‘she’s never gonna get that one‘. I do have to admit I was quite surprised myself. We had a good laugh about it.

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The funny side of learning languages

This week I finished the first Mandarin language course book after just over 30 hours of classes. Two more and I will have completed the beginner level. So technically I should now be able to greet people (appropriately at different times of the day), introduce myself and others, buy cakes and clothes, order food (online doesn’t count apparently), take taxis, make appointments and book all kinds of tickets. Easier said than done…

Yes, I can introduce myself. Not that I do this everywhere I go but still, I can. Food. Well, I have been able to buy real beef (after asking) but have given up ordering ‘yi bei re kafei Americano’ in Starbucks just because it sounds so silly saying Americano after trying my best to speak Chinese. It just makes me feel weird. Buying clothes has not been much of a pastime, partly because shop assistants follow you around shops constantly (literally like a meter behind you) which really takes the fun out of browsing, however it may explain why the book devoted a whole chapter to this subject. As far as transport goes, I have managed to buy train tickets but the taxi driver can still only get left and right out of me, which has proven to be enough to get me home. Pointing also works in taxis but it is not advised in shops due to the previously mentioned overzealous shop assistants.

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