Language classes

It’s been more than a year since my last Mandarin lesson and now that I am exposing myself to the language through Chinese/Taiwanese music and TV shows, I can say that my interest in the language is just growing. I’ve been trying to learn lots of new words and I also learned how to read some commonly used characters too. But then, I knew that studying by myself can only go so far, so last month I enrolled for a class in a school near our home. Everything’s going well so far and I’m really enjoying my classes!

The school offers Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Chinese classes and these courses are further divided into several levels. Since I haven’t tried their classes before, I wasn’t sure which level I should be in. They gave me an assessment test (which I think was a mock exam or simulation test for the HSK, or the Chinese Language Proficiency Test) and I was placed in Basic Chinese 4. But then, I still didn’t know how to read and write. I also felt like they had a more advanced curriculum which would make it difficult for me to catch up so in the end, I decided to enroll in Basic Chinese 2 to review my grammar and enhance my vocabulary.

It turns out that I made the right decision in choosing the level; Basic 2 was perfect for me since I get to review what I already learned and at the same time learn lots of new words and grammar rules. The class is heavily focused on conversational language and improving our pronunciation. It’s also a nice bonus that the teacher also offers cultural backgrounds of some terms in the language, and even teaches us the Taiwanese equivalent of some words. It’s really useful because I am traveling to Taiwan in a few months and I can’t wait to use the stuff I learned.

Although we’re still not learning how to read and write, the class materials have Chinese characters written on them along with the pinyin (the phonetic spelling of Chinese words using the Latin alphabet), which means that I can learn how to read on my own as early as now. I was a bit weirded out in the beginning though because we are being taught simplified characters, while I was more exposed to traditional characters due to my habit of watching Taiwanese dramas. Oh well, I am learning both forms, though I can only write simplified as of now.

I am really happy because I am making lots of progress and I am actually enjoying what I am doing. I hope I get to continue these classes and maybe someday I can travel and be able to talk to others in Mandarin!

24 Comments

  1. Don’t forget to update your bookmark, too <3

    Anyhow, I've always found the Chinese language interesting and it only got a nod from me because I studied China's history so much in World History class. I'll never forget: CIVIL SERVICE EXAM! The first time seeing that word in my textbook about China. Anyhow, before I totally digress, that's awesome. I hope you continue to rock your class!

    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks for the heads up! I didn’t notice that your link was outdated, but I’ve changed it now <3

      Wow, we didn't study a lot of China's history in World History class so I find it really cool that you learned so much about it! 🙂

  2. Learning a language is always exciting! Sounds like you’re doing well which is great. I really should learn Mandarin because my in-laws don’t speak much English, but uuhh I studied Japanese before I met Mike and I don’t wanna pile on. :’D

    1. Wow, Japanese is a great language to learn! 🙂 Can you speak it fluently? Personally I find it really complicated because of the Kanji, but if you study Mandarin you will find some of the characters familliar 😀

  3. That’s great that you’re still learning Chinese! I took several Chinese (Mandarin) classes in college, but it’s been 8 years since, so I’m super rusty. (I grew up with Cantonese, so I understand that dialect better.) When I was learning it in college, they made us choose between traditional or simplified to write with, but we were required to read both. I chose traditional because it was what I was used to too. I think that’s interesting that they haven’t taught reading and writing yet. The classes I took taught it at the same time as speaking, and we had written tests every week.

    Aahh, this entry reminds me that I should find some Chinese shows to watch, so I can get used to it again. I’m glad that you’re enjoying these classes and that they’re going well!

    1. It’s nice that you’re able to read both simplified and traditional! Both are useful and when you travel, you will still be able to read no matter which Chinese-speaking region you go to!

      Our class is aimed towards students with absolutely no background of the language, so I think that’s why we aren’t being taught how to read and write yet. They must be thinking that it would be overwhelming for new students to learn all those at the same time 🙂 They start teaching reading and writing in Basic Chinese 3, and I’m so excited to learn! 😀

      Ooooh, I love watching dramas! I recommend In A Good Way (我的自由年代) 🙂

  4. It’s always good to learn more languages and expanding your interests to other cultures :). I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying the class! Hopefully you’ll learn as much as possible and get those grammar down! I know how to speak Cantonese except my grammar or word usage can be weird sometimes; like saying 1,000 vs 10,000.

    1. Lol, it can get really confusing sometimes! 🙂 I think that when I perfect my tone I will be focusing on my grammar next. I still sound silly when I talk to Chinese people, but at least they understand some of the things I said. Haha!

  5. Learning different languages, I feel, is pretty much one of the best things you can do for yourself! It’s so great to expose yourself to the deeper aspects of other cultures. I tried my hand at self studying Mandarin as well (had a very long phase of Taiwanese dramas, heh), but Chinese sure is tough. I think I’ll probably go your route of taking classes to get a more structured approach 🙂 Much luck with your classes!

    1. I watched Taiwanese dramas too! 🙂 That’s actually how I started learning the language. I agree that self-studying Chinese is hard, especially at the beginner level. At first I didn’t even know the difference of the tones, LOL!

      Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  6. Good luck with your language courses! I think it’s great that you’re doing this 😀 I should do the same with Japanese . . .

    And I see nothing wrong with putting yourself in a lower-level class instead of sticking to the higher-level one where you’d struggle with it! Good on you for doing that! 😀

    1. Thanks Tara! 🙂 I actually think I made the right choice because I learned lots of new things in the lower levels and brushed up on my pronunciation too 😀

      You’re studying Japanese? Good luck with that! It’s a great language to learn!

  7. Great job on pursuing your lessons in Mandarin! I took up Spanish classes way back for a class requirement, and I’m trying to self study and refresh my lessons. I kind of forgot a lot of things, so I hope to go and take formal classes next time, just like you did.

    Good luck! 😀

    1. Thank you Jhanz! 🙂

      I can relate to your situation. I also learned Spanish in high school but forgot most of the stuff I learned because I couldn’t practice with anyone. Haha! Good luck with your Spanish as well!

  8. That is really cool. I am glad that you could find a class that was able to help you and it was good that you found the right level. Otherwise it would have been really difficult, so I am glad it worked out well. 😀

  9. I learn Mandarin simply because I love listening to Taiwanese Idol groups a lot! and even though I am nowhere good in speaking the language, at least I can survive during their fanmeetings or when some random Chinese people came up to me to ask me things, hahaha. I wish I can learn more, since I only attended Level 1 Mandarin, so that is so basic hahaha.. come to Malaysia and you can practise your Chinese skills!

    1. I love Taiwanese artists too! I don’t know a lot of idol groups (lame right? LOL) but I do listen to solo artists 😀 It’s so cool that you’re applying your learnings in practical situations! Hahaha maybe I should attend more of those fan meetings.

      Are there lots of Chinese-speaking people in Malaysia as well? Maybe I can test my skills when I go there someday! 😀

      1. there are three main races in Malaysia which are Malay, Chinese and Indian, and yes, there are a lot of Chinese in Malaysia, and these days, even the Malays and Indians are good in speaking Mandarin because if you know Mandarin, you can easily get hired here in Malaysia because many of huge companies owned by the Chinese ^^ Which solo artists do you listen to? Well, I don’t know much of Taiwanese idol groups too lol, there are too many these days that I can’t keep up hahaha~

  10. This sounds great. I myself have started learning Spanish recently. Well I have always wanted to to learn it but I used take one lesson and then lose my inspiration. This time I’m thinking of going all the way through it. I haven’t enrolled in any classes yet. Just trying to learn it by myself for some time before getting into a formal class.

    Good luck! 🙂

    1. Thank you Shweta!

      I know how you feel! It’s really easy to lose inspiration in language learning especially when it gets really tough. It’s great that you’ve really decided to pursue it now 🙂 A bit of self-study before going to formal classes sounds like a good idea as well, you would be able to review what you learned and learn lots of new things to connect with the ones you already know 😉

      Good luck with your Spanish! We can do this! 🙂

  11. I am so thrilled to learn that you’re willing to learn Chinese! Like you, my boyfriend was placed right into English 101, but thought that he was a bit shaky on writing essays so he decided to go to English 98. He made the right choice, just like you did!

    Quite a few years ago (I think 2004 or 2005?) I took Japanese and lost interest in it. Only because one of my friends was a bit cocky with her attitude and could do no wrong. So, I decided to take something that interested me and wasn’t just another sheep in the herd. I decided to take Chinese 1. A lot of people (including some Chinese people) thought that I wouldn’t pass Chinese. Well, I passed it with a B+. How’s that for a person that isn’t Asian? Lol. My boyfriend a few years ago bought me some Chinese language books as I thought I would have plenty of time to teach myself the language. So, I finally decided to go back to school and thought they would have a chinese class. Wrong, they don’t. All my college has is Spanish and French. Anyways, I’m in my second year, and my English professor has a thick accent and told us that she’s Taiwanese. Well, I decided one day to ask her how she was in Chinese. She was shocked (as I knew she would be) and she told me that my pronunciation was on key. I’ve forgotten most of what I have learned, but I am so thankful to have had a professor who worked with me on the pronunciation parts of speech, until I got them down right.

    Correct me if I’m wrong…but isn’t xiaoxue means professor or Mrs?

    1. Hey Jamie! 🙂 It’s indeed uncommon to find non-Asian people learning or speaking Chinese, but congrats on getting a good grade in your Basic Chinese course! It’s also great that you have someone to practice with regarding pronunciation, it’s one of the most difficult parts to get right! You may have forgotten a lot of the things you’ve learned but with regular practice, I bet you’ll be able to speak more confidently. I hope you make lots of progress!

      Hmm, xiaoxue (小學) means primary school. Professor is jiaoshou (教授) and Mrs. is taitai (太太) 😀

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