Tone Deaf

I guess anything is difficult when you are first learning, but man am I ever frustrated with this damn Chinese thing.

I’ve realized that if I’m going to get anywhere with it I really need to practice more. I tend to just throw in a phrase here and there, and mostly listen… but I don’t do my homework. What I’m starting to recognize is that if I want to see real results I’m actually going to have to work at this … but I feel like a bit of a knob sitting alone in my apartment saying “Ni de ba ba ma ma hao ma?” (How is your father and mother?) over and over again…

No, I’m not trying to be all sauve and learn how to inquire about someone’s parents… but it is a good sentence because it uses three out of the four tones, plus the neutral tone… but even after practicing it for five minutes and I’m certain I’ve nailed it I listen to a recorded version of it… and it’s not even close.

I am hopefull though, as it was explained to me by Tom as thus: Where in Spanish it is quite easy to pick up the basics quickly, when you get into the grammar, it’s very difficult – so being a novice at Spanish is easy, but being fluent is quite hard. Chinese is the opposite. The grammar is very simple, but getting the tools to just be able to pronounce the words is tough… if you get over that initial hill though, it’s smooth sailing…

So, I’ll keep at it and see what happens. I’ve decided I’m going to put my 2-hour Chinese lesson to better use and focus learning pinyin (Chinese written in Roman script, as opposed to characters). I’ll then make myself responsible for increasing my vocabulary and picking up conversational things. I’m also seriously considering paying for additional classes come the new term when I have more time.

The funny part is, I know that even if I stick to all this, at the end of my seven months I’ll only have enough to REAL roughly get by. Matthew, my neighbour, has been studying for seven or eight months now… and is JUST getting comfortable having basic conversations. Sigh.

Oh, last night was my party – a good load of people showed up… four of the crew from Dalian, about 4-5 of my “adult” students and Serena, Annie and Mary from Future School. Doris also showed up a bit later, as did Tom and his girlfriend, whom I had never met. It was a nice little get-together. The Chinese folk didn’t stay very long, but my friends from Dalian made a go of it and we drank and chatted until after midnight.

Back to school tomorrow morning.. I wouldn’t mind so much if I didn’t have a bunch of make-up classes to fit into my already full schedule, so I’m in for a busy week. But only two more weeks of classes and then I’ve got another mini-holiday between semesters.

I’m a little excited and a little apprehensive about the new semester. It’s bringing with it a lot of changes, and I’m just finally getting used to things. First, a lot of people are leaving… Tom as well as five of the eight friends in Dalian. Second, a new person is coming – and I don’t have any idea how that’s going to affect the living situation. One of the Matthews next door is moving to Kai Fa Qu as well, which means they may just move the three of us that are left (Matthew, new person and myself) into one apartment… which I am not too eager for. I’m keen on having a roommate, but Matthew has already confessed that he’ll drive me mad.

Also, our school is moving to a new building – and though it is closer… I was just starting to like Bu Xing Jie.

Anyway, I think me and the crew are heading up to Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, this weekend. It’s about a five or six hour train ride to the city, but I think it should be a good weekend trip. It is the fifth largest city in China, and plays host to a mini-forbidden city/Imperial palace… though I do feel like I’m going off to explore when I’ve not even really explored here too much – but I think there’s about seven of us going, and safety in numbers.

I’m also hoping to make a weekend trip out of going to Dandong. It’s a city on the border to North Korea and is only a few hours away as well. I don’t know if it’ll be very interesting, as I’ve heard mixed things – but by all accounts, the Korean food is top notch. I think the main draw of the place is so Westerners can go and wave at the poor saps in N. Korea… however, the Koreans may have a bit more swagger in their step now that they’ve admitted they’ve got nukes…

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