January 31, 2012

So Happy

Woot! I started Mandarin Lessons in order to hit one of my goals for 2012.

My teacher is a very close friend. We share a love of language (in fairness, I may think of myself as a language lover, but I've got nothing on G--she easily puts in 20 hours per week on her linguistic hobbies).

Because we share the linguist passion, each lesson involves us gleefully discussing and comparing other languages, and pronunciation, and grammar, and general word nerdery between the Mandarin I'm learning and the languages either or both of us have learned in the past or actually speak to some level of competency.

Tonight, I learned that I'm learning the old-school version of Chinese characters. The kind used by Taiwan and many immigrants to California. The kind that will be the most useful to me, I'm told. I inherently trust G, so if that's what she thinks I should learn, that's what I will learn.

It doesn't hurt that I've invited an additional person (L) to my lessons (Lessons? Party nights? How could you tell?). L is a Singaporean native, a very disciplined individual, and she agrees that it's easier to learn the classic complicated characters first, followed by the simplified, modern characters. So, yeah, Complex Characters? That's what I'll be learning. I'm led to believe they have a name. Perhaps I'll learn it and refer to them accordingly at some point in the future. For now, I'm swimming through the 4 tones and all of the pinyin. Yikes! That's enough!

When L learned that I was doing Mandarin lessons with G, it quickly became apparent that she'd be great fun as an addition. She learned Mandarin (and Hokkien) as a child, natively in Singapore, but since she learned by osmosis and moved to Canada at age 10(ish), she doesn't know the formal rules as well as G, who is English-first, American-University-Chinese-Degree-trained, worked in Taiwan for two separate jobs, and now is a professional technical translator from Chinese to English.

In short, with the combination of the two of them (and G's selected curriculum of ChinesePod for this week's lesson), I couldn't help but feel that I have the best self-made Chinese study program, EVER!!!

G showed up at my house and quizzed me on a bunch of Pinyin (I'd say I got about 85% correct. Much better than last week, but still, nowhere close to what I need.)

Then, L showed up, so we did last week's vocab and memorized conversation + variants, then we reviewed brush strokes and my writing homework (which, amusingly, I'd spent quite some time practicing and memorizing how to do completely backwards by assuming the numbered points on the diagrams drawn by G were the finishing points of the strokes instead of the starting points) and finally we moved to a new lesson of vocab, memorized convo for next week and additional characters to learn how to write.

After the lesson, we cooked dinner. L & G conversed in easy Mandarin while I listened (my favorite way to learn a language) and made pork belly, onion, butternut squash stew. L asked G technical linguistic questions. G asked L native speaker and cultural distinction questions. I was able to prepare delicious simple food to feed people I care about while learning a new language from people who really care about the linguistic nuances and were willing to discuss them at length in front of me.

I was, basically, in heaven.

Thank goodness the homemade garden-grown butternut squash, onion, pork-belly stew was a hit. The Holiday Cheese collection as a post-meal treat didn't earn me any enemies either.

Good Times!

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