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Another hobby wanting to share the spotlight


suMMit

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I suppose it was inevitable, but after almost 4 years of making Chinese almost my only free time activity, I might have to adjusts things a bit. Another long time hobby that I love, but haven't had much opportunity to engage in, has recently re-emerged. This hobby also requires a lot of practice and study. I have by no means quit Chinese or lost interest, but I find myself wanting to split my time between the two now. I am still finding time for both of them every day, there are also times that I can listen to Chinese while doing the other pastime. Has anyone else had this experience?

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On 6/29/2022 at 10:13 PM, suMMit said:

I am still finding time for both of them every day, there are also times that I can listen to Chinese while doing the other pastime. Has anyone else had this experience?

------------ 

Definitely! Just started doing my other hobbies in Chinese. 

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I used to have time to juggle multiple hobbies, but since becoming a Dad, I don't have time for everything anymore. My recommendation? You have to follow what excites you. There's nothing wrong with dialing back the Chinese, or even quitting entirely, for a time.

 

I booked my first Preply class in almost a year today, and I haven't thought much about Chinese since finishing my last novel at the beginning of the year. Instead, I've been focusing on playing guitar in a jazz band. It doesn't matter that you study Chinese - what matters is that you do something fulfilling with your time on this planet. Don't be afraid to let yourself quit, if only temporarily. You can always come back to it

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My experience is it's easier to keep two hobbies going if you put one in maintenance mode and the other in more intensive mode.  Later you can switch if you so desire.  Maintenance mode for Chinese would mean staying on your current level with activities you enjoy, whether that's watching Youtube stuff, reading news in Chinese or just rereading what you'd already learned.

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  • 1 year later...

The last pages of the book The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke inspired me in regards to language learning. I think there is sacrifice, effort and pain. Part of the pain is in sacrificing other joys you have in order to create a reality for Chinese in your life.

 

Most successful Chinese language learners I know of had some level of formal study (even if the quality wasn't great), did intensive reading and or flashcards and narrowly focused for 1 to 3 years. And polyglots like Professor Argulles and Steve Kaufman don't appear to have any driving interests apart from maintaining their languages through reading or writing. I have only wholeheartedly with purpose studied Chinese this year 2023. The four years prior it was more of something I felt I had to do or didn't even want to do. Perhaps it was something I felt I couldn't even do successfully. So how many years have you sacrificed other joys and interests for this language?

 

I would like to have less pain when I read native texts one day and that requires effort and sacrifice now. For speaking, I can be at 60% but for reading, I want to have a high vocabulary and high sight vocabulary. Reading in my native language for enjoyment and sports are on the chopping block. I don't read any English books and I minimize how much sports I watch as much as I can. Of course I can watch sports in Chinese but I still don't think it is as beneficial as doing graded reading or vocab drills. 

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On 7/26/2023 at 4:53 AM, Ledu said:

The last pages of the book The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke inspired me in regards to language learning. I think there is sacrifice, effort and pain. Part of the pain is in sacrificing other joys you have in order to create a reality for Chinese in your life.

 

Most successful Chinese language learners I know of had some level of formal study (even if the quality wasn't great), did intensive reading and or flashcards and narrowly focused for 1 to 3 years. And polyglots like Professor Argulles and Steve Kaufman don't appear to have any driving interests apart from maintaining their languages through reading or writing. I have only wholeheartedly with purpose studied Chinese this year 2023. The four years prior it was more of something I felt I had to do or didn't even want to do. Perhaps it was something I felt I couldn't even do successfully. So how many years have you sacrificed other joys and interests for this language?

 

I would like to have less pain when I read native texts one day and that requires effort and sacrifice now. For speaking, I can be at 60% but for reading, I want to have a high vocabulary and high sight vocabulary. Reading in my native language for enjoyment and sports are on the chopping block. I don't read any English books and I minimize how much sports I watch as much as I can. Of course I can watch sports in Chinese but I still don't think it is as beneficial as doing graded reading or vocab drills. 

 

Yes, definitely - there's a lot of sacrifice and pain. In addition to what you said, another part of the pain is being unable to use what you've learned in your communications with other people.

 

First, due to a complex combination of factors, there's a certain kind of disconnect that exists between Chinese society and Western society, and it is very easy for people whose race and nationality are very different from those of the average Chinese person to be treated like an outsider. Second, there's an extremely strong correlation between nationality and the ability to communicate (well) in Chinese. So the result is: if you avoid initiating interactions with Chinese (or Taiwanese) people (if there are Chinese people in your proximity in the first place) because you hate the feeling of being an outsider, then you would end up having exactly zero people (one or two people if you're really lucky) with whom to communicate in Chinese, making "your world of Chinese" "your own little world". This implies that you can't communicate what you've learned to other people.

 

It's similar to the following hypothetical scenario: an expert grad student in physics enjoys learning and experimenting in physics. He's often publishing papers. He is the only physicist on his home planet, though, and everyone else on this planet does not even have an elementary understanding of physics. While this person can superficially talk with other people about the process of doing physics and what it's like, he could never communicate what he's learning. No one understands his papers.

 

What do Chinese and this physics scenario have in common? The common element is: a big pool of knowledge that one cannot use in his/her communications with other people.

 

The more you're passionate about Chinese, and the more you study and practice, the more socially useless knowledge you gain, the more you sacrifice learning things that are socially useful, and the more lonely you feel. In some moment, learning/practicing Chinese may be fun/interesting, but then once enough time passes and you start reflecting, you start realizing just how little fruit Chinese has to offer. It's excruciating.

 

People who are non-natively learning English have it really easy, because: 1) English is socially fashionable, 2) this world has an enormous sea of news, books, information, and entertainment that are in English and are high in quality, and 3) English is very, very pervasive, and is the implied global lingua franca, making it very easy for most non-native people to get plenty of real-life exposure to English.

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What you said is true. C people are also exclusive with each other. I am married to a C person and the only place where people are social are...can you guess? Her hometown. No where else are people social with her or us even in Chinese. Where I work only people from the same province or region socialize with each other. They don't tend to do this in a mean way, everything else is just some sort of office chit chat. Locals exclude non-locals. I also don't think C people move to other countries truly expecting to be included. China is home always. The hometown is where socialization exists, otherwise it does not. Russians study abroad, Chinese almost always return. 

 

I can totally accept and appreciate someone who moves to another country and doesn't want to learn the language. Some people are totally fine being with others exactly like them. The values are extremly different too- privacy, independence, dependence etc. They may just see their "host“ country as a place to work or a place to meet their rich Chinese wife or husband. People who immigrate to other countries may deep down not connect with the host culture and not even expect to. People can see the world entirely differently. 

 

I do disagree in that English materials are readily available for non-natives to learn English. In China (TM) you can watch "Friends"TV show on a few apps. But there is not even one old English TV show on standard television. Then there is the huge amount of C pop culure and movies people naturally are more interested in. Otherwise, it is Marvel movies.  Japanese and Korean Dramas/Music have more similarites in culture so they are easier to accept or be interested in.  Is Taiwan different? I know you don't need VPNs there but even if you were using a VPN you would need to know excatly what TV show to find. Most just view learning a  language for a test (certificate). For myself, I feel I got more interested in the language itself, to expand my world but not to be some type of cultural ambassador. There are many westerners who speak good Chinese talking to themselves (usually about Chinese food) on social media. They don't inspire me but I am sure they get a lot of views from Chinese people. Usually their wives speak English well also. It is only excruciating if you see from your own values. But what if you knew your whole life that the only real friends you would have would be the people from your hometown and the 4-8 girls or boys you shared a dorm room with in college?  

 

And finally, there is probably a 4 word idiom for what we are talking about lol. I just don't know it yet. 

 

Edit: To show that people can easily download anything regarding English and there are many videos on Tik Tok and Bilibili. I just don't frequent or use those resources. The lack of an English TV show is probably from copywrite laws.

Edited by Ledu
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The more you're passionate about Chinese, and the more you study and practice, the more socially useless knowledge you gain, the more you sacrifice learning things that are socially useful, and the more lonely you feel. In some moment, learning/practicing Chinese may be fun/interesting, but then once enough time passes and you start reflecting, you start realizing just how little fruit Chinese has to offer. It's excruciating.

 

I disagree!  Just yesterday I started reading a science fiction book (written in English) by Ursula Le Guin called The Lathe of Heaven, and I discovered that several of her chapter epigraphs are from Zhuangzi, including one quote from which she took the title of her book.  Investigating further, I found that a renowned Chinese translator informed her after the book was published that "lathe" was a mistranslation.  Seeing the Chinese version of the Zhuangzi passage, I can use my knowledge from one and a half courses in classical Chinese to puzzle through which of the competing translations for that passage is most helpful to understand the real meaning of that passage (which is a difficult one, and even with the mistranslation pertains to the theme of the book).

 

I didn't and don't consider the work I put into those Chinese courses a waste of time just because such incidents are rare.  Indeed, before the courses I barely knew anything at all about Zhuangzi, and that knowledge about him and his works enriched my life a lot.  So much so that I summarized one of Zhuangzi's stories for my best friend while I was in the course and got her to laugh.  But that didn't make my Chinese study "socially useful" in my mind.

 

I don't expect anything I learn to be "socially useful."  It's not a value for me or how I run my life.  If it enriches my life, for me it is worthwhile.

 

And learning has never, not once in my whole life, made me feel lonely.  I have always admired people who get interested in weird corners of human knowledge or who create eccentric works for no other reason than their curiosity and drive to know and create.

 

P.S. Le Guin was heavily influenced by Daoism.  She became world famous for her books, so her study of Daoism wasn't "socially useless" for her, although I'm sure she delved into it just because it drew her.   What my post shows is that when you engage in learning for its own sake, it often later has unexpected benefits, along with the pleasure of learning itself, which is the prime thing.  If you don't find pleasure in learning, then you might as well study something that everyone else in your world is interested in or that makes you richer or more popular.

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My thanks to @Moshenfor the valid rebuttal to that particular point and for reminding me I never quite finished reading Le Guin's own poetic translation/adaptation of 道德经 ("Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way - A New English Version by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1997").

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On 7/27/2023 at 4:09 AM, Ledu said:

What you said is true. C people are also exclusive with each other. I am married to a C person and the only place where people are social are...can you guess? Her hometown. No where else are people social with her or us even in Chinese. Where I work only people from the same province or region socialize with each other. They don't tend to do this in a mean way, everything else is just some sort of office chit chat. Locals exclude non-locals. I also don't think C people move to other countries truly expecting to be included. China is home always. The hometown is where socialization exists, otherwise it does not. Russians study abroad, Chinese almost always return. 

 

 

That's interesting - I wasn't super aware of this. But I would be careful about making 100% generalizations, though.

 

On 7/27/2023 at 4:09 AM, Ledu said:

There are many westerners who speak good Chinese talking to themselves (usually about Chinese food) on social media. They don't inspire me but I am sure they get a lot of views from Chinese people.

 

I'm assuming you're referring to the Chinese-speaking western vloggers who tend to get lots of views on YouTube and Weibo/Bilibili? And you bring up a good point, values play a critical role. One thing that I've noticed about these vloggers is that they tend to "exoticize" westerners who know Chinese and/or live in China, and they seem to not mind doing so (I'm just making a plain observation here - I'm not criticizing them). They don't have a certain value that people like me sometimes tend to have, which is being treated more or less as an equal.

 

On 7/27/2023 at 4:09 AM, Ledu said:

And finally, there is probably a 4 word idiom for what we are talking about lol. I just don't know it yet. 

 

Lol, yes! I know you probably weren't expecting a serious reply to this, but for anyone's whose curious, a fitting chengyu (or four-character idiom) would be "安土重迁" (the third character is pronounced as zhong4). It means: "be rooted stably and live peacefully in one's hometown, and be reluctant about the idea of relocating to another place".

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@ 骏马的丕沿?

Yeah I know at times my responses sound racist. I apologize to whomever it concerns. This is just my experience. The cool people I have met are usually highly educated and/or studied abroad for a significant period of time.  One bridge I have recently found is through sports- ping-pong, badmitton, basketball, football/soccer. 

 

As far as equality goes. I think some countries keep talking about equality, they idealise it but reality is actually tribal. Look at the film Tar and the character Cate Blanchett plays vs. the film Will Smith recently got an Oscar for. The depth of character is so extreme. Surely Will Smith is capable of acting with more depth. And then Everything Everywhere All At Once. It seems a group only gets rewarded by making a mockery of their culture/group. Every hit TV show has a very small segment (1%) of the country as actors in their show. But POC have to have roles forced into the show. I think like the Greeks and Romans, they preached moderation because they lived in excess. Equality is an ideal but I am not impressed with what I am seeing in my own home country. If I valued elitism, I would have chosen a different university to attend. But, I valued equality and picked an affordable city university. I told myself if I have the skills, I can acheive anything. But maybe if I went to Oxford, I would have sat next to other people who had the ability to pay and attend Oxford.  I didn't think like that at the time. 

 

If you could find an appropriate idiom so quickly, you are probably quite advanced. Thanks. A lot of people I know got to HSK4 and quit.  I quit for a few years too for the very same reasons you mentioned. I felt it was pointless. But since I love to read, especially philosophy, I now feel more engaged with the language and culture. If you love to read it might carry you upwards. A lot of people study Japanese just to read Manga.

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On 7/27/2023 at 5:49 PM, Moshen said:

I don't expect anything I learn to be "socially useful."  It's not a value for me or how I run my life.  If it enriches my life, for me it is worthwhile.

 

I think it's possible to make an argument that:

 

(a) all meaningful/satisfying human activities are social - they involve engaging with other humans;

 

(b) this includes reading and writing: you read an old book and you are engaging - across time and space - with the writer, and sharing this experience with the book's other readers.


And so, if you learned a Chinese word from a dictionary but never in the future used or encountered that word again, the time learning that word would be wasted time because it was not a 'socially useful' word: it was of no use in your engaging with people through the medium of the Chinese language.

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On 7/27/2023 at 12:06 PM, 骏马的丕沿? said:

once enough time passes and you start reflecting, you start realizing just how little fruit Chinese has to offer

 

I'm not sure if you're suggesting that:

 

- Chinese people are very difficult for foreigners to socialise with, therefore even if you end up with native-like language abilities, you'll still never be able to use the Chinese language to socialise?

or

- it would be possible to socialise successfully with Chinese people but only if you learned huge amounts of cultural reference-points - something which mere proficiency in the Chinese language won't supply?

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Re social usefulness, surely once we define any satisfying human activity as inherently social, whether directly or indirectly, than you're all making the same point. I took Moshen's words to mean that learning needn't be socially useful (as opposed to socially useful): that is to say, it may well be socially mediated - as it surely always is - but it needn't be immediately profitable in one's current social engagements.

 

Language being the currency of social exchange, any kind of exposure to it, at heart, is social - even my looking up a random word in a dictionary requires my contemplation of how fellow humans have come to express a particular concept as well as my enjoyment of a little textual vignette of it, too, in the form of example sentences. So what if I never encounter that particular text again? I can have an equally enjoyable exchange with a taxi driver I will never encounter again, too. Why wouldn't the latter be considered "wasted time" then? They're all one-off social exchanges. I don't think that not being absolutely certain that a language encounter can be somehow repeated in the immediate future should detract from the encounter itself. 

 

More relevant to the point of this page, though, which I understand to be frustration with the cost-to-benefit ratio of learning Chinese, I think the problem boils down to accepting that the Chinese language(s) & culture(s) is/are just immense and that it's okay to stick to one (socially useful) goal, or rather one (socially useful) goal at a time - be it fluency in street Mandarin, enjoyment of classical poetry, proficiency in journo/business reading or what have you. I believe all of those abilities and activities are socially useful. Frustration only comes from practicing one activity and expecting results in another. 

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And so, if you learned a Chinese word from a dictionary but never in the future used or encountered that word again, the time learning that word would be wasted time because it was not a 'socially useful' word: it was of no use in your engaging with people through the medium of the Chinese language.

 

I totally disagree.  I have learned lots of things that never in my life have I encountered again or had occasion to use.  It seems like you don't want to acknowledge that the pleasure of learning can be a pleasure in itself rather than a tool for something else.  If you have never experienced the pure pleasure of learning, fine.  I do, almost every day.

 

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I took Moshen's words to mean that learning needn't be socially useful (as opposed to socially useful): that is to say, it may well be socially mediated - as it surely always is

 

Right.  Language is an interpersonal/cultural phenomenon.  Without human interaction there would be no language.  But if you go from that to saying that every encounter with language involves encounters with other people, as RealMayo did, then you're making that an empty, meaningless statement not worth arguing over.

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On 7/28/2023 at 4:48 PM, sanchuan said:

even my looking up a random word in a dictionary

Sure there are people who would happily spent all of their time memorising 50,000 characters but I would put that kind of behaviour and proclivity on the opposite end of the scale from "social": it certainly would not be (in most instances) engaging with the thoughts and feelings of other human beings.

 

Desiring knowledge for knowledge's sake is like desiring money for money's sake or power for power's sake: acquisitive and sad.

 

On 7/28/2023 at 4:48 PM, sanchuan said:

I don't think that not being absolutely certain that a language encounter can be somehow repeated in the immediate future should detract from the encounter itself.

 

Your argument holds only if you equate chatting with a taxi driver, or reading a novel, to browsing through a dictionary looking for new characters to memorise.

 

On 7/28/2023 at 5:19 PM, Moshen said:

if you go from that to saying that every encounter with language involves encounters with other people, as RealMayo did,

 

I didn't say that.

 

On 7/28/2023 at 4:48 PM, sanchuan said:

Language being the currency of social exchange

 

This is not true.

 

 

Seems like some people reckon mathematicians get their biggest kicks from memorising 1000s of digits of pi....

I wonder if studying Chinese attracts people who like spreadsheets, or if people find themselves liking spreadsheets after studying Chinese.

 

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Chinese people are very difficult for foreigners to socialise with, therefore even if you end up with native-like language abilities, you'll still never be able to use the Chinese language to socialise?

 

I think so. First the way socialization is done is different. It takes a high level of patience and mercy to talk to Chinese people in any language. I assume if I lived in North Korea it would be even harder. But I also think this is challenging when using Japanese or Korean too, considering those cultures. I am sure there are people on this forum who are Chinese translators and have reached a high level, but if they go to a restaurant and they are identified as "foreign" suddenly their Chinese won't be understood. 

 

Socialization is done differently and not based on values of equality. You are seen for your “role”. So if I am invited to go out to eat I actually don't have to say anything, I can just sit there and that is totally acceptable. I also don't need to smile. The content of the talk will be realstic based on what one can see, hear, touch or feel. I usually prefer to talk about abstact ideas like what I am doing now. Perhaps there will be some gossip about someone not at the table. So I won't be necessarily expressing my ideas, thoughts or opinions about anything. No one is trying to piss off each other either. Often I won't be talked to about myself but asked about someone else so again we will be talking about another person. 

 

Secondly the lifestyles are different. Chinese people may be so busy that they dont really have social lives so there is no opportunity for you to be a part of their social life. This may be intensified in larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Thirdly, the highest educated people will usually want to speak in English and be comfortable doing so. 

 

Lastly, there is racism for certain groups of people. The most popular Chinese language learners speaking Chinese on Bilibili are not in that group.  If there is not that there can be nationalism that can be overpowering. In my experience, people from the North tend to be friendlier, louder more curious yet also more nationalistic. The loudness of the voice permeates all facets of life in the North. Extroversion also seems to be a value. In the South it is the opposite. Again I am making generalizations but this has been my experience. Instead of feeling like a racist myself, I prefer to think I am making an observation based on a sub-culture (North v South).

 

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I can have an equally enjoyable exchange with a taxi driver I will never encounter again, too. Why wouldn't the latter be considered "wasted time" then? They're all one-off social exchanges

 

The problem is that it is not enjoyable. If the only time I am speaking Chinese is with Taxi drivers the conversation will always be the exact same. "Your a forienger, where are you from?"  I say where I am from. "No, you don't look like people from there, are you sure? Where are you really from?".  And like magic every conversation will begin this way. Again, they are not trying to be rude. I also could just order a taxi on an app or take another form of transportation. If I was in Spain, most people would be learning Spanish to "connect" to actually make friendships with Spanish people. They would have more opportunities for socialization due to the ways the Spaniards live their lives. But studying a difficult language like Chinese and only talking to Taxi drivers is not stimulating. I am thankful for this forum. I can imagine many of you have MA's and or PHD's. The Chinese people I talk to who are educated also have Phd's and they prefer and desire to use English. 

 

*I hope others chime in as I have read comments such as..."once you move to China and can speak Chinese suddenly you have no one to talk to". The poster on this page mentions 1-2 people also. 

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On 7/28/2023 at 3:48 AM, sanchuan said:

Frustration only comes from practicing one activity and expecting results in another. 

 

Seems obvious, but this was a difficult lesson for me to learn. 

 

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@Ledu-- "It takes a high level of patience and mercy to talk to Chinese people in any language."

 

What an odd thing to say. It does not reflect my personal experience at all. While I certainly respect your opinion on this, I would be hesitant to accept it as a valid generalization. 

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I wonder if studying Chinese attracts people who like spreadsheets, or if people find themselves liking spreadsheets after studying Chinese.

 

I can speak several languages...badly. Chinese is the only one that I am learning for the language itself irregardless of communication. For some reason getting it right motivates me. And the higher vocabulary I get to, the easier it is for me to read. The further along graded readers I go, the more of a core strength I feel. Also learning the 4 word idioms and being able to read books on Chinese culture explains it. I have to know how to read Chinese to do that. I do think it attracts scholars or people who have devoted themselves to long periods of study. I feel like I am learning Kung fu, building muscle memory.

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Desiring knowledge for knowledge's sake is like desiring money for money's sake or power for power's sake: acquisitive and sad.

 

Wow.  If you really believe that, then you and I might as well live on different planets.  Knowledge for its own sake is a beautiful thing.  It is like contemplating the stars, appreciating daffodils coming up in spring, watching a baby take its first steps.  It is wondrous.

 

Knowledge for its own sake has nothing acquisitive about it.  It involves an experience of expansion, of adoration, of delight.

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