Sunday, January 15, 2012

Learning Chinese

            Learning Chinese is going to be a harsh little time for me.  See, I still do remember a large amount of what I learned of it in undergrad, a large amount when you consider how long ago that all was, but the focus at FSU is different than that of FGCU.

            At FGCU I learned characters, and was far better at knowing the English definition of a character than I was at recognizing spoken Chinese.  I would hear Chinese spoken, sound it out into Pinyin (that is Chinese language written as English script) then remember what that Pinyin coordinated to with the characters, then knew what the character meant.  That is a lot of steps that I could trip on.  If someone just wrote several characters I would be able to tell you what each meant, and over a period time I could start to get the gist of sentences (sentences written for a first grader).

            Now I am at FSU where spoken Chinese is the norm.  Which makes things hard, because I am expending a lot of energy to learn it, and since I am less efficient at doing so I am left with less time to remember the individual characters.  Sort of an economics problem, I am efficient at learning writing, not at speaking, so I am not using my greatest possible utility.

            I can kind of see where they are coming from, spoken language is the most common form of communication on Earth, but here is my rebuttal: I don't like talking to people.  And I will never speak Chinese at a level that would permit me to talk with someone in it that wouldn't make me sound mentally disabled, with most conversations being that of tired and forced chit-chat that people pry out of tourists.  But I could conceivably learn to read and write it well enough to read a novel in Chinese, a newspaper, or street signs.  So while I will take the lessons, I will take the tests, and I will do as well as possible, I feel uncomfortable, and this will probably be the most challenging class I take this semester, then again the other two classes I am taking are so in my ballpark they are standing on the home plate.

A Chinese stop sign.  Though many also write stop in English.

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