Friday, April 14, 2006

If You Think English is Difficult Try Mandarin – Part 2

… continued from part 1 …

A couple of students confuse a pronunciation with the name of a Kung Fu TV series actor. The teacher doesn’t get it. They talk about Jackie Chan as the mood of the class lightens. We try a few numbers that are simple to write in Chinese. One, two, three, four, ten, one thousand. Not bad at all, but I’ll definitely need those flash cards and a pronunciation tape. Then comes five, six, seven, eight, nine. We continue with eleven, twelve and twenty. Twenty one and creating multiples of numbers follow. Actually, it’s not difficult at all. Some of the higher numbers are childishly simple to create in both speaking and writing. The class continues creating more numbers by combining characters in Chinese. I glance at my watch. My fist Mandarin class will end in twenty five more minutes. The final number is one thousand three hundred million – the population of China.

The class is interesting, with its musical language, and fun at times, but impractical. Where will we practice? Who is there to talk to? Is anyone, besides me, even thinking of going to China? Where in China is Mandarin spoken? What are the other principal forms of Chinese? These are only some of the questions that pop into my head during the class.

If I intend to have any success with this Mandarin class I realize that some learning and study aids are going to be needed such as:

Recordings of pronunciations
Drilling practice flash cards
Reference sheets of class work
Background information on China’s culture, history, people and geography
Focused practice with functional language (that I could use during a trip to China)
Graphics applied to the materials as a memory aid
Extra tutorials to help me over the “rough spots” in learning the language
Photos and realia for an extra added touch
Study projects on the people, culture, geography, and history of China

An idea of what motivates the other students might be interesting and helpful too. So I’ll try to chat with a couple of them before and after class. Several factors make learning Chinese a considerably more formidable task than learning another Germanic or Romance languages. It should be an interesting experience over all though. I’ll keep you posted of interesting developments. Wish me luck.

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