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First impressions...

grawrt

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Okay so I just decided to put up a blog because I saw someone else put up one for their studies. Small background information: I'm a master’s degree student studying Interpretation (Chinese-English English-Chinese) at Beijing international studies university. I first started learning Chinese in 2011 in the USA and have studied in china before, first in Harbin in 2014 for 5 months and then at BLCU from 2014-2015. I took a year language prep courses at my current university from 2016-2017.  There are a total of 3 non-Chinese students (including me) in the course. 

 

My first week was a pretty rough start. I flew back into Beijing on the 2nd of September and went to register for classes that following Monday only to find out that registration was on the 1st. Okaaaaay. I tried to find out my schedule but the department head was gone, office locked, and thus no one knew the schedule. The lady I spoke with (who turned out to be one of my teachers) was nice enough to put me into contact with a second year student, who later put me into my classes wechat group and gave me the schedule. It also turned out that I missed the first day of class (Monday) sigh. Lol.

(my schedule is under attachments)

The politics class isn’t necessary to take, and neither is the Wednesday morning class. Those classes are just for Chinese students to take.

The classes are a lot of fun. Many of my teachers seem to have more of a ‘western’ approach to teaching so I get the impression they’ve had experience living or studying abroad. They love to use English in class. Its really quite normal to hear a teacher switch from speaking Chinese one second then English the next. Then there are some teachers who speak exclusively in English. Which is fine by me as a native speaker, but my other foreign classmates find it a bit hard to keep up because English isn’t their mother tongue.

One of my favorite classes thus far has been the 视译 (sight translation) class. It’s a mix between simultaneous translation and written translation. One of our first classes the teacher had us translate a sentence that she would delete as time passed.

Wednesdays last class (口译理论与技巧) is quite a useless class for me. It’s about improving spoken English.  I’m trying to see if I can just take a Chinese language course in place of this class as it won’t benefit me at all. Even the teacher was confused why I was even in the class.

There was one class I went into (one minute late) that was completely filled. My vision is bad so I thought I saw a seat available up at the front of the room (toward the window), but that wasn’t a seat. I stood in the middle of the room struggling to find an available seat and the whole while the professor kept lecturing without a notice in the world at the strange foreign girl just standing in the middle of the class, even my classmates seemed unphased.

I have a few impressions so far based on my (almost) first two weeks of class.

1)      Chinese students are insanely gifted. They’re very talented and I was so amazed after todays class that many could memorize the short hand the teacher taught (same day) in less than ten minutes). I’m also impressed every day by their abilities in the classes. I don’t think I will ever be as good as any of them but I think I could learn a lot by the end of the program.

2)      I don’t think that foreigners were supposed to be in this major. Actually it seems at times that they aren’t really sure what to do with us. There are only 3 of us and yet none of us have been on the roster. When I spoke to the office about it I got a very sassy reply that went something like ‘OF COURSE you’re not on the list. You guys didn’t take the test that the Chinese students took’. The fact that we have essentially a spoken English course also notes that perhaps they weren’t prepared for foreign students. There was even one teacher that asked if we needed a grade for the class. It can be bit discouraging, but I’m not the type to get hung up on trivialities.

3)      The Chinese classmates think all 3 of us foreigners are stupid and can’t speak Chinese. Maybe we are stupid, but we’re all in this class because we CAN speak Chinese. It really baffles me when I have classmates ask me if I can speak Chinese, or worse, the one guy who turned around to face me and instead of just asking me if I understood, he decided to ask the girl NEXT to him ‘you think she understands?’  uh? What? Excuse me? That’s just rude AF. If you wanna ask something ask me to my face, don’t ask about me like I’m not even there, or do it when you’re not facing me. That’s just obnoxious. I was so cold to him you have no idea.

4)      Students get to class something like 15-30 minutes before class begins. I normally get to class just in time and end up in the last seat available or at the very back. One day I managed to get to class early by 15 minutes and most of the room was filled, I got a seat on the side which was okay by me.

That’s about it.

Oh and my classmates fear me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my hair style? At first I thought I was imagining it. But then my friend also noticed the same. Noones ever feared me before. It’s kind of empowering but I wonder what I can do to fix that.   

 

 

class schedule.jpg



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> I wonder what I can do to fix that.

 

Come to class dressed in a clown suit.

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Just smile at them and when they talk as if you are not there just reply in chinese of course "I am fine thank you, its so good of you to be concerned for me. If I have any questions I will be sure to ask you"

 

I am sure after the novelty wears off you will strike up a friendship with some of them.

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Looking forward to the rest of this blog!

 

There's no point antagonising folk you'll be spending a lot of time with, and probably working on joint assignments. Be friendly and gently correct assumptions about your Chinese. Unless they're rude again, in which case all bets are off. 

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I am very interested in your experience, so I hope you can find time in between your studies to post more about it :)

 

I'd love to know if you run into any issues with accents as well!

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Thanks for the advice. I decided to try some of it today. I exchanged pleasantries with one girl and then another class I sat next to my classmate whose taking Spanish class with me. 

 

I have a classmate whose really eager to speak with all the foreign students in class, he hasn't had much luck with me because he pissed me off that first day and didn't attempt again until today. But I find that he says some really stupid things. For instance, today when I was leaving class he came up to me 'hey, hey" and I smiled and said hello back and then he asked me 'Are you wearing a wig?". I was like ??? what? huh? and he goes oh never mind I must be confusing you for the other american girl. I'm like uhhhhh I'm the only American girl in our class. At that point im not going to lie, I was kind of feeling pissed off. I'm thinking, does my hair look fake to you??? Then he goes on and asks if I'm a democrat because I said I was from New York, so I said that I was, then he goes 'oh me too'. And I'm like uhh what? In what world does China have a democratic party? 

 

I'll definitely keep this blog up to date. It feels a bit therapeutic. 

 

Most of my teachers have pretty standard mandarin. I just have one professor who teaches the short-hand class that has a bit of an accent that doesn't help with the speed he speaks with. I'm pretty sure he's from the south but I'll ask him next time I see him. 

 

 

 

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"Oh and my classmates fear me. . . . I wonder what I can do to fix that."

 

"Come to class dressed in a clown suit."

 

Clowns can be a lot scarier than foreigners, even.

 

Anyway, nothing new about this. I remember being told by Chinese friends long ago that many Chinese instinctively fear Americans.

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I don't think you should expect to make friends with all of your classmates, and you can also have different levels of friends, some you just nod and say hello, some you get into a deeper relationship and everything in between.

Don't try too hard, just be yourself, enjoy your classes and your time in china, although its nice to have friends its not the most important thing, especially right at the beginning.

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Actually, this guy's reminding me of my theory of cross-cultural idiocy. There are some people who are just pointless in any culture. Be civil and see how your Chinese classmates get on with the guy. It's entirely possibly they don't like him either. 

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I think I would occasionally seek that guy out just to see what weird stuff he's coming up with next.

 

A few times a month I go to a co-working place (dozens of people working on their own stuff but in the same shared space, not sure how common this concept is) and there is this one guy there who is just... a bit off. He lives in his own world, constructs his own reality and doesn't hear you when you try to talk sense to him. (Someone once told me he's autistic and it fits.) At first he annoyed me, but over time I've tried to figure him out and I now usually just listen with interest to whatever unlikely business plan he has now. Generally none of his ideas go anywhere, but he's harmless and now that I take none of what he says or does personally anymore, I'm no longer annoyed by him.

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It's possible at least that the wig question was no more than an ice-breaker. I was once asked straight out by a Chinese woman "Don't you think you're a little boring?" She went on to become a very good lifelong friend. 

 

I wouldn't have wanted to walk away from the democrat question, especially when he followed it up by asserting that he was a democrat too. He may have just been being provocative, but on the other hand he may have some very sincerely held and unorthodox (for China) political views, which he'd like to able to discuss with someone in private. 

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Based on prior experience:

 

1) Chinese students have spent their entire school career honing their memorization skills. You will never beat them because you are already at least 16 years behind the curve. That's okay. You'll make up for it with something else that they don't have (or aren't as good at): critical thinking skills & analytical thought.

 

2) It's probably a lot worse for you because you're doing this in China, but in general, most Chinese-English interpretation courses are created with Chinese native speakers in mind because they tend to make up the majority of the students in such courses. Hang in there! Get your professors and some of your Chinese classmates on your side! Help them out with English, and get them to help you out with Chinese! You're basically a unicorn, so use your powers for good. *g*

 

3) Again, also probably worse because you are doing this in China, but Chinese people are ignorant AF. This is your chance to educate them. Befriend them, take every ignorant thing they say as a joke (in my experience, it's just so much better to be laughing than raging). Remember also that they are surrounded by people who are equally ignorant, and equally rude. It's not like Chinese culture is a bastion of politeness. But at least they're being rude right in front of you, and you have an idea of what misconceptions they are having about you! You won't win all the battles, but one or two is okay. Find your niche with your Chinese classmates, and hang out with the ones you feel comfortable with! Remember that they will be your network in the future, so start building it now!

 

So excited to see this blog! Hope you keep updating. I'll be sending moral support from afar.

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1 hour ago, yueni said:

Chinese people are ignorant AF.

 

And a lot have abysmal social skills 

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17 hours ago, Flickserve said:

 

19 hours ago, yueni said:

Chinese people are ignorant AF.

 

And a lot have abysmal social skills 

 

Though I sympathize with grawrt finding herself in at the deep end and having to deal with a certain amount of gaucherie on the part of her classmates, I do find it a bit upsetting to read generalising comments like these. Maybe it's because I've never been a student in China, and most of the Chinese people I associate with are somewhat older than the average university student. All the same, I'm sure I've met a similar percentage of ignorant and socially unskilled people among my compatriots as I have among Chinese. Can someone give some more examples of behaviour that Chinese people commonly engage in that make them deserving of the charge of being "ignorant AF"? 

 

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@Zbigniew, I think you are correct in your criticism that that there was a lot of generalization in that statement. There was. I should have been more specific in that statement and said that in general, "Chinese students are ignorant AF".

 

And it makes complete sense why they would be. They have been completely sheltered/blocked off from the outside world and only exist in their tiny China is great bubble. They've been completely immersed in a study-study-study, test-test-test life from the time they learned to speak until young adulthood. And the entire Chinese education system has been built around rote memorization and regurgitation. Furthermore, if these students came from the more rural and backwards parts of China (and that would be the majority of students), they would have less, or even no, access to information streams about foreigners. I think it would be more surprising if any one of them weren't ignorant at all.

 

 

I, too, also know a lot of lovely, engaging Chinese people who aren't ignorant, but these tend to be more affluent and in the minority. The Chinese people who are ignorant, are, in large part, ignorant through no fault of their own. You can't expect them to read outside sources in a language they don't speak, right? And if they are closed off from "outside influences" how would they even get access to any of this? I don't necessarily think of it as an evil or a bad thing, but it is a thing, and it is quite simply, fact. 

 

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On 16/09/2017 at 1:57 AM, yueni said:

"Chinese students are ignorant AF".

Or more specific again and say that Chinese students often have much less life experience than you might expect, and much less experience dealing with foreigners or indeed anyone who isn't a teacher, classmate or family member. 

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