Tuesday, June 24, 2008

it's tuesday and i'll cry if i want to

I tend to avoid things that give me a headache. There are plenty of things I put myself through on a daily basis that I find uncomfortable, like wearing heels for example, but the pain of a headache is something I usually try to avoid altogether. In fifth grade when I went to see Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, I walked out of the theater because watching the alternating high and low speed transitions made my brain hurt. After about 30 seconds of Tom Leykis's grainy voice spouting misogynistic propaganda to penis-driven young males and insecure females, the beginning pounding of a migraine forces me to change the station. If only I had a choice when it comes to Chinese.

Of course, I do have a choice. I could just not go to China. However, that's not really an option. I want to go to Shanghai and teach English more than anything I've ever wanted to do before, but learning the language is like putting my head through a vise while simultaneously listening to recordings of the word "Ma" being said in all four tones. I have never tried to learn something before that literally gave me a headache when I studied it. Today in class, after a series of encouraging words, my professor offhandedly commented that I needed to practice my Pinyin and I nearly broke down into tears. Of course I know that I need to practice my Pinyin, to date I've only had 9 hours of formal instruction in Chinese, but after being asked to distinguish being "zh" "ch" and "sh" for thirty minutes my brain had reached maximum capacity. I am definitely making progress, but like any sort of language learning, it is taking time, especially since I have to learn how to read and write characters as well. Luckily, my class is super small (four people including me), so I was able to pull each person aside today and warn them of the inevitable waterworks that will occur sometime between now and the last class in 4 weeks.

To help in my Chinese language endeavors, I filled my Netflix queue with a bunch of Chinese and Taiwanese films and will be watching them over the next month to somewhat immerse myself in the verbal part of the language. It's pretty cool that this school is in southern California because there is a huge Chinese population, and so many stores and businesses have Chinese characters in their signs. So far I can really only recognize 5 characters, two of which are in my name, but when I do see a character I recognize it feels so rewarding. Approximately 3,000 are required to be able to read a mainland Chinese newspaper, so looks like I have 2,995 to go.


Andy said...

Good luck with that. Learning languages is difficult, but when it comes to languages whose alphabet is TOTALLY different to ours, it's SOOO freakin' hard. Yeah, I tried to learn arabic a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Dude, literally billions of people in the world speak/are Chinese. Don't become another statistic. Say no to Chinese.

Rachel said...

I am just completely in awe of what you're doing. It's incredible.