Sunday, October 30

language learning...

I've had a few people ask me recently about how my language study is going. I keep forgetting that I've been meaning to write a little about this process for a long time.

The first few months I was here, I didn't feel like I was getting any language practice. I got frustrated that the language I had learned was slipping away, so I decided that self-study wasn't getting me anywhere. I enrolled in a night class when the fall semester started through the community education office that is sort of a part of our school. The class I started going to was too easy, so I moved up a level. That level turned out to be quite frustrating for a few reasons. At first, the main reason was that the teacher was pretty boring. The second reason was that he started to use more Chinese words. On my second day of class, he went around the room and had us translate a Korean vocabulary word into Chinese (as if that's a good language learning technique, or a good way to spend class time). When he got to me, I translated it into English and he said, "No! Chinese!" He doesn't speak English, so he feels threatened when any English is spoken, but what was my alternative? It wasn't one of the approximately 17 Chinese words that I know. He continued to write Chinese characters on the board as explanations for words (he doesn't even really speak Chinese, he only knows some words and characters), but he wasn't even doing it for words that the Chinese students really even needed. One day, I went in and he had written three sentences on the board in Chinese and he wanted us to translate them into Korean. I almost got up and left, but I decided not to be rude. I did ask, in probably a not-as-polite-as-I-could-have-been manner if we were going to study Korean that night. The next day, I went to the office to drop the class, but they were only going to give me 60% of my tuition back. (I only paid 330 yuan to begin with, which is only about 40 bucks for a whole semester.) Also, the guy in the office told me that he would talk to the teacher and it would get better. The class did get better, and the other non-Chinese that is taking the class with me thanked me for talking to the office. So, I'm still in this class. The teacher hasn't gotten any more interesting, but it is a steady way to keep getting language practice. The problem now is that I have other commitments twice a week now, so I only go two nights out of the four. The class is at a slow enough pace where this doesn't make it any tougher on me, but I think the teacher sorta dislikes me now. Oh well.

I started asking around for tutors once I thought that I would quit the class,so now I also have two Korean language tutors. I intended to use them as a replacement for my class, but since I didn't quit class, I have both class and tutoring. One is an exchange student from South Korea and one is a Chinese-Korean from here in Yanji. They both have their different accents and ways of saying things, so I think I'm getting good practice. All we do is talk in Korean for an hour. (Actually, I do more listening since I'm not naturally much of a talker and it's obviously much harder in a foreign language, but it's still good.) I also ask them questions about the workbook homework that I do for my class. So, finally, I feel like I am making progress again in this language thing.

I am also attempting to learn some Chinese, but I want to do it right and learn the characters and not just how to say things, so it's slow going. I bought the Beijing University conversation book and it's pretty hard and progresses pretty quickly, so it might be about 10 years before I can finish the first book, but that's okay. I have a friend who comes over once a week to teach me some Chinese, but we mostly just talk about life, and that's okay, too. That's the real reason why I'm here.

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