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On Speaking Chinese

Second languages have never come easy for me.

I remember sitting in high school Spanish having a light bulb moment when we learned the word “Estados Unidos”.

Like why don’t they just call America ‘the United States’ like everybody else does? …you mean every single word has to be said differently?”

This is called…monolingual.

I squeezed in some German in college and looked at a couple of ancient languages in graduate school, but nothing near “having a command of the language.”

Hubs on the other hand is gifted. I mean gifted.

Proof: During our second week of Chinese class, the teacher was explaining the grammar pattern (in Chinese) and he understood.

Further proof: He was dreaming in Chinese within our first month here.

Me: deer in headlights. Crying at home after class. chaos.

Hubs was soaking it up and searching for more. His Chinese is pretty much spectacular. True, he doesn’t know every. single. word. but he can get his point across. And he is completely unafraid. He rises to the challenge.

Me: deer. crying. chaos.

I want to be understood. I want to be connected to the people I’m trying to communicate with.

For crying out loud (yes, I’m mentioning crying again), I’m 32 and I want to be able to talk with my neighbors beyond the superficial. I can’t stand light conversation in English, why would I enjoy it in Chinese?

But light conversation is where I have been for a long time. Every single word that I have in Chinese has come through very hard work. None of it came naturally.

These days, I think listening is my strongest skill, but my greatest challenge remains: the phone. If I know the person, then I’m not afraid because they generally understand my language level, but if it’s a new friend I often find myself frustrated.

The phone is difficult because the verbal comes fast and there are no non-verbal cues. It’s also annoying to get a text message and have to consult a dictionary or a living dictionary friend to understand the full meaning.

I wrestle in my spirit because I know that I am suppose to study Chinese and speak it well, but this is not something I have a natural aptitude for.

On a recent outing, we saw these two turtles and I thought, “When it comes to speaking Chinese fluently – knowing that we still have years of study ahead of us to obtain this goal – sometimes Hubs just has to pull me along.”

Hubs – thanks for your patience.

2008-04-10@11-04-21

6 comments to On Speaking Chinese

  • Leigh

    What a beautiful post! Many people have shed many, many tears over trying to learn the Chinese language. (I remember very vividly a total and complete breakdown I had in class one morning, when my teacher kept insisting my tones were all wrong.) You and Hubs are such a fabulous team. You are not alone.

  • Laura

    Oh girl, I know how you feel. I often choose to cry during my language lesson after my teacher corrects me on the same thing for the tenth time. Its easy to forget that there are so many other people in the world going through the same thing. Will we ever have meaningful conversations? Miss you and your orange fleece!

  • Rachel

    Sandra, I have been there too! Some days I think . . . I will never understand. I will always be an outsider, understanding half of what is spoken to me. But then other days are better. At least you have your husband to help you along! Two is better than one!

  • JD2

    once again, i feel your pain girlfriend!
    love the pic/analogy…
    with or without command of this impossible language, you rock!

  • I am happy learning my few words at a time…hehe… love the picture though.. that is my hubby trying to pull me along… hahaha… hope you are fine with the latest tremour… take care

  • Yammie

    Love the turtle picture…you guys make the perfect team.

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