Popular Post abcdefg Posted November 10, 2021 at 04:37 PM Popular Post Report Share Posted November 10, 2021 at 04:37 PM I left China in a big rush at the end of January 2019 when the Covid outbreak was just becoming known. Had to fly an indirect, stop-and-start path because of flight cancellations. Eventually managed to get back to Texas, my Stateside home. Had not lived here in any consistent manner for over a decade while exploring China and learning its language, history, culture and ways. Fell in love with the people, the cuisine, the tea. Thought I would probably live out the rest of my days there. Back in America, I initially maintained robust long-distance relationships, chatting regularly with Chinese friends who were still in country. We sent snapshots back and forth, did video chats. Gradually there became less to say, and we contacted each other less frequently, relying more on written messages. The connecting ties became stretched and began to feel somewhat strained. The messages became shorter. Locally I have spoken Chinese sporadically with staff at Chinese restaurants. Once or twice, when visiting in larger Texas cities, I've had a foot massage and conversed with the technicians. Watched the occasional Chinese movie. Read some Chinese-language news stories online. Did not read start reading Chinese novels. Never did that, even in China during my "Chinese language prime." Would have been smart to sign up for on-line tutoring and really step up my reading. But I got busy with resuming my western life and dropped the ball on keeping up my Chinese. My personal language proficiency was slow in coming, hard won. I was not a "natural" blessed with huge talent. Had to work hard. But my Chinese has been distressingly fast in disappearing. Now after nearly two years, it is ragged and rusty. In another year it will mostly be gone. My Chinese was not self-taught. I was blessed with excellent face-to-face teachers, and I invested maximum effort in learning from them. Plus, I used the language fearlessly with native friends and when out and about in the streets, gradually smoothing out the rough spots by the process of making lots of mistakes and benefitting from immediate and spontaneous native-speaker corrections. I've tried to think analytically about the areas of proficiency that have decayed the most rapidly. Far and away, where I now fall short the worst is in using the right tones. I just get them wrong in conversation. This obscures what I'm trying to say and requires that I repeat and sometimes rephrase. I often must "finger-write" the character on the palm of my hand. Instead of being fluent, I am butchering the language. I still tend to surprise Mandarin-speaking Chinese Americans by using colloquial Chinese pretty well. They can tell that I have not just learned in a classroom or from a textbook. But the tones are decaying faster than the rest of the package. If I quiz myself about what tones are involved in such and such a word or phrase, then listen to a native speaker on YouTube or some such saying the same passage, it is obvious that my tones are frequently off, significantly off. When learning Chinese, starting about 2006 in Beijing, I made the tones an integral part of any acquired new word. I didn't know the word until I also knew its tones. I realized early on that the tone wasn't just something that could be "tacked-on" later. I didn't make the mistake of thinking I would learn to read and write the words now and go back later and master their tones. So, it surprises me somewhat now to see that the tones are vanishing so fast. Perhaps part of the reason is that I have always had a pretty good ear. I could appreciate how the tones and the phrasing of native speech should sound. I did lots of child-like imitation of the native speakers in my life. Shameless and unquestioning "monkey-see-monkey-do." And I was surrounded by Chinese 24/7, avoiding most contact with English-speaking foreigners. I am posting this personal observation just to report the phenomenon, not trying to draw any deep linguistic conclusions. Was simply reflecting and thinking about it this morning. I wonder if this is the way in which Chinese language proficiency usually dies. Anyone else had experience in that area? What is the first thing to go when you stop playing a musical instrument after years of piano or violin lessons? 12 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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