One of the reasons I now enjoy writing this blog so much, is the feedback and help that I get when I do. I think that at the end of my first year I might try and make a list of the resources I have used, as it will include many things that get suggested over the weeks. This week gwr71 was incredibly helpful in suggesting a cultural visual dictionary, one for measure words, and a grammar book, all of which I now have an am beginning to tuck into.
Last week I was also asked about my schedule, including how much time I spend on homework, and so I will give that here. Each week we have 20 hours of class, with each class lasting 2 hours. That is broken down into 4 comprehensive classes, which, as the name suggests, brings all the elements we learn from the other classes together. We have 2 listening classes, 1 reading/writing class, and 3 speaking classes. Listening classes can be a bit repetitious, but I think that's just the nature of it, and there's really no way to avoid it. I also really need it as listening is what I find hardest. Regarding homework, some days we get it, some days we don't, it's fairly unpredictable for the most part. What is predictable is our reading/writing homework each week. In class we cover 2 chapters in the book, and for homework we take the list of new words from each chapter and write them out a couple of times, then make a word of our own choosing, then make a sentence which includes that word. I really enjoy doing this because it's where I get to experiment a lot and the corrections help a ton. We also have to do the exercises for each chapter, and then at the end of each chapter there is a text, and we need to write and answer 3 of our own questions relating to the text. This homework is supposed to be done over the course of the week, but being as it's on a day when I have 4 hours to kill on campus, I just hammer it out then. As I do other reading and writing throughout the week, I don't think it negatively impacts my studies in any way. We rarely get any homework for listening, and for speaking and comprehensive it really varies. Some days we might need to write a dialogue relating to the topic we are studying, or talk about a specific subject. Most days we have dictation in class, and so we need to learn the appropriate characters. We have now moved on to phrases (started with single characters, then words, now phrases, and I assume longer sentences will be next). My assumption is that the idea behind this is so we don't forget characters we have learned previously, and it seems to be doing the job! Being as we are still looking at very common characters, there may only be one or two that I really need to memorize, and so this doesn't normally take very long. This frees me up to do more of my own studying. Random new words that come up in class, and vocabulary that I just want to learn myself, I study throughout the week. I will attach a picture of what it looks like but I just do it in the way that I have found works best for me (and before it gets pointed out, I know how messy my handwriting is, both in Chinese and English!) - I write down 5-7 characters/words that I want to learn, and then write each of them down 5 times. A bit later I come back and write them down again, this time in a different colour. The following day I come back a third time, and again with a different colour I write them down a final time. How many words I do just depends on the week. Once I have a full page of words, I put them into Anki.
For listening I just try and get myself as immersed as possible, and spend time with Chinese people. I really like tattoos, and so I have made good friends with 2 tattoo artists who have a shop just down the street from where we live. They don't speak English which is perfect, and they are really fun to hang out with, and have even offered to teach me some stuff! It's perfect because they speak just like anybody else, which of course is often a far cry from what we learn in the books! I also find myself reading and writing more with Wechat (although it is of course pinyin input). I frequently message my current teachers, and my previous ones, with different questions about new vocab and grammar, and I will actually often ask the same question to different teachers, or just make up a question so that I can practice reading when they respond. Thankfully none of them have let on that they are fed up of me yet hah!
A highlight this week was attending a sort of 'Chinese competition' at the international student center at uni. Fortunately I wasn't involved, as this is only for the short term classes that I was a part of before I started the degree. This was a more advanced level than the one I had to compete in, as I was watching my friend who has now moved up to a higher level class. The reason I was happy not to be involved was that not only did they have to act out a skit of some sort in Chinese, but they had to sing a song, and my voice is unbelievably bad! It was great to watch, and actually quite funny. I think it also alerted me to the fact that the previous classes seem to have been much more rigid in the structure they follow. I feel like in the degree program there is much more freedom and the pace is basically whatever the students make it, rather than very rigidly sticking to the book and having to pack a large amount of content into a short space of time. I chuckled when I heard the phrases '三天打鱼，两天晒网不行‘ 和 ’在家靠父母，出去靠朋友‘，which I myself learned in the short term class only a few months back!
The final thing for this week (I feel like there is a ton I want to write, but I want to save stuff for future posts also!), was my reading/writing midterm. I think it went fairly well. I kicked myself afterwards at having written 容 incorrectly! I wrote two characters next to each other to try and compare them and remember which was right, one of them had a tiny extra heng just above the kou, and unfortunately I went with that one and erased the other one! Other than that, unless I have grossly overestimated my ability, I don't think it was too bad.
Ok, one final, final thing! As I add pictures each week and describe what I am doing to learn, please feel free to critique, make suggestions, tell me why there is a better way of doing things etc. I want to learn and I want to do it efficiently, and so far the help that people have given has been really, really useful. Thank you!
Edit - Please excuse the lack of pictures this week. I tried 4 times to upload a couple of photos but for some reason it failed every time, even after copying the blog post and reloading the page. I will try again next week.
All foreign students in the class are technically not even part of the system yet. What does this mean? I'm guessing it means we could literally not attend classes and no one would notice because we're not even technically registered in the course.
It's a bit strange. But I suppose I can understand. There are some classes that we 3 foreign students are not required to take. Such as the 政治 politics course, and the 中国语言文化 class. I also feel like I shouldn't even be in the 口译 class because it’s basically an English class, but I'm still attending these and just act as the teacher’s assistant when needed.
The Chinese democrat I mentioned last week has been telling everyone how stupid I am and picking apart my pronunciation. I don't care at all. It just makes it easier for me to ignore him because I didn't like him very much the first time I met him or any other occasion that follows. It bothered my friend a lot because she's in a group with him and she was like "OH next time I'm going to pick apart his English and make him feel stupid". I'm like It’s okayy I don't like him either. At least now I know the feelings mutual so I don't have to bother talking with him. haha.
I finally attended my other consecutive interpreting class last week (English-Chinese). It's quite different from the Chinese-English one because the professor doesn't want us to take notes at all. She wants us to focus on 1) presentation skills and 2) memorization. Some of the exercises in class consisted of having one student go up to the front and make a speech their own and present to the class. Afterwards, everyone had to record their own recitation of it. For now the professor said we should translate into our most comfortable language so naturally the Chinese used Chinese and I used English. But it's not as easy as you'd imagine. I found it quite hard to relay my translation of the speech while 30 other students were at the same time. I think this is good practice for more 'real life' interpreting. I also really liked the teacher who also seems quite 'western'. One of her requirements for the students is 'speak English', unless you're the 3 foreign students, in which case we all must speak Chinese. I think this is a little bit unfair on part of the other foreign students because their mother tongue isn’t even English.
My other consecutive interpreting class (Chinese-English) has so far taught us short-hand. I find these a bit harder to remember, because I think short hand is a personal thing and some of the symbols don't feel personal to me at all. I included a picture under the description to give a small example of shorthand. I love the teacher though, he's very talkative and very cool kind of guy. Putting it to use is just as hard but the professor goes over it during class when we have translation exercises.
The homework this week was quite normal until my professor sent us a translation hw Friday night, due Tuesday night. Which is kind of stressful because she had a total of 3 days to assign us homework and waited until the weekend to give it to us. I caught a cold for the weekend so you can imagine I did not spend a single second on Saturday studying (mostly sleeping and mulling about miserably), Sunday was beautiful and I'm a bad student so I just went out for the pizza festival. I can see now how Chinese students have no life outside of school. D:
When I went into the office today I found out that we only need to take our foreign language class (I chose Spanish) for one semester. I find it a bit strange. It seems almost useless to bother taking it for one semester but that’s the schools requirements. Learning another language is hard enough as it is but learning it in Chinese is soo weird. My professor was going over this grammar point and I honestly understood nothing of it, I just looked at what she was writing and the pairings and figured out the grammar structure somehow by my own genius, but I can’t for the life explain the reason to you.
Other than that the homework for most classes is pretty much the same. It’s something like 1) watch the news 2) prepare to present 3) prepare to translate. In about 3 or 4 of my classes it’s like this. I just have one teacher that prefers us to prepare different (not news) material to translate. I watch the news anyway but it's a bit more difficult to anticipate what your classmate will find as "the most important news of the week" is. Last week I prepared to talk about Irma only to find that was not the "most important" of the week.
Our first translation homework (a lengthy article on the housing bubble crisis) was put on the board for everyone to follow and discuss one student’s translation. It was one of the foreign students translation who was put up and I'm glad it was because she had told me before that instead of just having one person correct her translation, a total of 4 people decided to 'fix' it and they absolutely destroyed it and said everything she wrote was basically shit. When the professor went over the translation I was happy to find that the professor actually critiqued alot of the Chinese students 'fixes' and at the end advised everyone to not go into corrections as a mission to completely destroy the original, instead to just focus on one or two mistakes because a lot of the time the corrections were actually not correct at all. My friend has found a different partner to work on corrections so hopefully next time will be better.
Things I find confusing so far is that I have so many wechat groups that keep getting created that no one talks in. I'm not really sure what group I’m in most of the time and the banzhang is always pissed to have to answer. I just found out from one of my classmates that I was supposedly in their group and I felt so bad because a week or so ago he added me into a group but i wasn't sure what that group was for and the banzhang just put me into an entirely different group. I also feel bad because (and not to sound mean) but I really find it difficult to remember who my classmates are. Nobody uses their picture on wechat and they don't even use their names so I don't really know anyone even though many people have added me. I'm making an effort now to put a face to the name.
I made some friends with some girls who roll in about the same time as me to class all the time, we laughed about how we always seems to be late when we're actually early (1-5 minutes before class). And slowly but surely my classmates have been talking with me.
Oh if you thought foreign students were the minority in this class, you could also say guys are. I think there are only 3-4 male students in the interpreting class of mine, and the translation section might have about the same amount. They're a bit odd but I liked the guy who studied simultaneous translation into japanese and english. He's a bit strange but very sweet.
Complaint of the day:
My teacher had a last minute thing so she wants us all to do a makeup class and miss another professors class to go to a lecture. I'm going to the lecture but not class. I wish I could say "I hope the professor doesn't notice" but being the only three foreigners in class means the professor is always going to notice when any one of us is missing. I signed up for an event at the embassy two weeks ago and I don't raell ywanna miss it but I'm torn. To follow my western virtues or go Chinese.
Any thoughts? haha.
Here's another dim sum menu, sort of. This one is especially useful because it features only 12 items from a busy upstairs restaurant that offers probably a hundred items. (I ate upstairs.) These take away selections are available for purchase on the street level. My guess is they are some of the house's best sellers. This place was across the street from my Hong Kong (Wan Chai) hotel 華美粵海酒店。
If you figure out and learn these 12 items, you might not be a dim sum virtuoso, but you won't go hungry and will be able to gain a toehold in the dim sum world.
Well I guess I mistook which week we are in, because apparently this is week 7! I didn't update the blog last week as we had the week off, which was actually really nice and relaxing.
Anyway, things are continuing to go well as we start back up after our week off. Still a fair amount of students not coming to class. Week 9/10 is our mid terms, and it is doubtful whether or not some of the students will be able to sit the exams, as they may not have been to enough classes. If they aren't allowed to sit their mid terms, they automatically get disqualified from taking the final exams too, so I wouldn't want to be in their shoes!
Yesterday our comprehensive teacher told us that we have a big dictation deal on Friday, covering all the hanzi we have learned so far. Then today he dropped a 22 word dictation test on us out of the blue, said there will be another one tomorrow, but the one on Friday will be much bigger. It was nice to be able to see where I am at with no prior preparation or knowledge of what words were going to come up. Along with 2 other students, I got 100%, so needless to say I was pretty happy with that. We also had homework for that class which was to talk about our room and what it contains, but for me I had to do my whole house as I live off campus. This was also really good because it meant looking up new words and their measure words, as well as putting into practice the location words we've learned. Some of my new words were cactus, scales, drawer, punching bag, and a fair few measure words for those and other items.
We also had homework for our speaking class. We just finished up a chapter on time, and so we had to describe a typical day. I tried to make it interesting and add more than just 'I get up at x o'clock. I have breakfast at x o'clock. Class is from x-x o'clock.' I'm sure there were mistakes in there, but I want to get things wrong in order to learn more.
I definitely feel like I am improving across the board, but still find listening to be the hardest by far. I am usually there early so I chat with the teachers, but compared to regular people I meet in daily life, they are so easy to understand! I also find that I can usually do fairly well in the comprehension type listening exercises, but when it comes to the ones where we are given a sentence in pinyin and there are 3 words or so for which we have to mark the tones, I struggle a bit. I guess it's just practice, practice, practice!