Saturday, March 31, 2012

Public Holidays in China

This coming Wednesday is Tomb Sweeping Day, a public holiday in China, and because of this, I thought it appropriate to write a blog post on why this results in me having uni on today, a Saturday.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Avoiding Misunderstandings

As someone who has to deal in my second language on a daily basis, I still occasionally get instances where my accent and non-standard pronunciation causes misunderstandings. Occasionally, I also run into misunderstandings when I speak correctly.

Since I don’t look Chinese, most people try to make allowances for the fact that Chinese is not my native languages. This means, amongst other things, that if they believe that I’ve said the wrong word due to getting my tones mixed up (the most common pronunciation error that foreigners make), they mentally substitute the “correct” word for me.Usually this is fine, but occasionally the word that people assume is “wrong”  is actually the word I originally intended to say - but people mishear it because they're expecting to hear something different.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to Make Travelling Affordable

Travelling is expensive. Aside from the large overhead costs of air tickets and hotels, you then have to take into account food costs, ticket prices, and (for some jobs) a reduced salary for the period that you're travelling. While some people might be able to afford travelling without having to think about the money involved, the rest of us have to worry about cost. With this in mind, I've made a short list of things you can do to make travel a bit more affordable for  those of us on a budget.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tips for Studying in China

While the thought of studying in China may seem intimidating at first, it is actually not a hard thing to do. The costs are low (both in terms of fees and cost of living) and there are few barriers to entry for foreigners into most courses. The two main factors which make it hard to study in China are the relatively small number of people who go to China, and the fact that those interested may not be aware of where to search for information on Chinese schools. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Language Diary Thursdays

In the last couple of months, I've started learning two different languages: Malay and Russian. I briefly touched on my reasons for learning Malay in my earlier post on why to learn a foreign language - since my boyfriend's grandmother doesn't speak much English, I want to learn Malay so I can communicate better with her. As for Russian, I'm learning it in part because my boyfriend and I have vague plans to go through Central Asia during my summer holidays, and in part simply because I want to.

In order to keep track of my process, and to give others insight into the early stages of learning a language, I've decided to start a regular feature on my blog: every Thursday, I will give an update on my progress in both languages.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to start this section of my blog as I started learning each language, so you'll have to do with me starting partway through. For now, I'll give an update on my progress so far:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why I Chose to Study in China

I began studying Chinese when I was thirteen years old. At the time, I didn’t think it would lead to my studying in China, but it was definitely a factor in my choosing to come here. After studying the language through high school and then university, I found that I still only had a rudimentary grasp of the language. Now, had I put more effort into studying, I definitely could have reached a higher level of proficiency, however a large part of the problem was related (I feel) to two issues: 1) specialist language study in Australian universities is not nearly intensive enough; and 2)without having the proper language environment, fluency is very hard to attain.

When I first came to China, I had plans to improve my Chinese while teaching English, but I abandoned this idea after one year. My reason for this was simple: when teaching English, the classroom environment is an English-language environment. Between this, and the fact that the nature of English teaching means that you’re surrounded by students and colleagues who can all speak English (meaning that there’s less incentive to study the local language), I found that during my first year in China, my Chinese speaking skills improved the most dramatically when I went on holiday and talked to people on the train. I would recommend that anyone who wishes to teach English overseas as a way to expose themselves to a foreign language keep this in mind. I’m not saying that my Chinese didn’t improve during this time, but at the same time, it didn’t improve as quickly as I would have liked.

Friday, March 09, 2012

My Punishment in North Korea

I had hardly been in North Korea for more than a few hours before I got into Trouble with the soldiers. I hadn't even had time to get off the train yet.

It happened when I was travelling on this train.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Why study a foreign language?

One of my favourite books is Spring, the second book in the Torrents trilogy, by Ba Jin. While the first book in the series has been translated into English, neither of the sequels has. Likewise, one of my favourite tv series has never been given English subtitles. I have friends who do not speak English, and my university is taught entirely. in Chinese. When I travel through China, my knowledge of Chinese history and culture – gained largely alongside my study of thelanguage, has made me feel more connected to the places I visit. Even my daily life is made more pleasant through my numerous small interactions with the people I run into. Needless to say, my life today would not be possible had I never studied Chinese.

Studying Chinese has opened up avenues for me. Not so much in terms of what I do – after all, I can still watch television, read books and make friends without speaking the language – but instead with the range of people I can do that with. Speaking Chinese gives me over a billion potential friends, and it opens up a pathway for me to explore their culture and media.