My constant struggle with learning Chinese

I had my Chinese lesson today. I never feel like I’m improving 😔 I’m sure that not practising during the week isn’t helping my cause either!

There’s this thing with the Chinese language called tones. They basically indicate whether a word should be said, for example, as if you’re asking a question or if you’re exclaiming something. So let’s use the word ‘hey’ as an example. If you said hey as if it had a question mark after it: ‘hey?’ vs if you said it as if it had an exclamation mark after it: ‘hey!’, these two sounds now have two different meanings in Chinese. And Chinese has FOUR of these punctuation marks! 😱 And every syllable has a punctuation mark, so not only do you have to remember the sound of the word (‘hey’) but also the punctuation mark attached to it (‘?’).

I think this is one of the hardest things about learning the language. And you just have to remember the sound and the punctuation that’s attached to it. Knowing English is of absolutely no help because the two languages are not related to each other in any way! 😩

Anyway, that’s my first whinge about these tones, which I think is bad enough. My second whinge is about having two words related to one another have the same sound but having two different tones. So imagine that the word grape can mean either ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ depending on what punctuation you use with it. So, for example, ‘grape?’ means ‘buy’, but ‘grape!’ means ‘sell’. WHY would you have these two related words, ‘buy’ and ‘sell’, both use the same word ‘grape’, and the only way to differentiate whether the speaker is saying ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ is by listening to the punctuation mark at the end of ‘grape’! Argh! 😩

This is indeed the case for ‘buy’ and ‘sell’. But it is also the same for:

  • ‘where’ and ‘there’; and
  • ‘season’ and ‘episode’

And goodness knows what other related words are out there! It’s hard enough getting your head around all the different tones, but then to have related words sound virtually identical is just cruel! 😩

Three blahs and one yay

I wasn’t feeling all that great today 😔 And it just happened to be the day that I spoke to my mum, so I was probably snapping at her more than I should have 😔 Not that I should be snapping at her anyway, sighhh…

I was also working on my next YouTube video today when my editing software crashed on me and I lost about an hour’s worth of work 😩 Mannn, I really didn’t need that today 😔

And the hot water in the kitchen is now just lukewarm. Isn’t that just great 😒 We’ll have to get the handyman in to see if he can fix it.

But I did have a good Chinese lesson! 😆 We worked through my journal, the one that I’ve been writing at least one sentence in each day since sometime last week. My goal of writing just one sentence per day seems to be working…! If I only have the time (or energy) to write one sentence, then I just write one sentence. But if I can write more, then of course I write more. But sticking to just that one sentence keeps me consistent, and one sentence per day is better than none at all 👍

So I think I will end today’s entry on that high note, hopefully as a lead in to tomorrow 😊

Playing tricks on my own mind

In case you’re wondering, no, I still haven’t had the guts to do a handstand 😝 Let’s see if I can muster up the courage to do one tomorrow….

But I did write a sentence in Chinese today, after I set the challenge for myself to write at least one sentence a day. That’s two days in a row now 😜 But that’s still better than nothing, don’t forget! AND I’ve actually written more than one sentence. I wrote two or three sentences on both days 👍

It’s really just that obstacle of starting. So if I set myself that not-so-intimidating task of writing just one sentence, then it makes things that much easier. It’s just one sentence. I can write one sentence easily! And even if I can’t remember a word or two, it won’t take too long to look up that one word for my one sentence for the day. And then of course while I’m there, I can easily write a second or third sentence as well. It’s overcoming that initial hump that is always the hardest thing for me. But if you can make that hump as low as possible, then everything else becomes so much easier!

I have also been studying my flashcards as I pace up and down the house when my watch tells me that I’ve been sitting down for too long. So I’ve reviewed words as well with this technique.

I’m just playing tricks on my own mind – and it’s working! 😂

Language learning

I had my Chinese lesson today. Every time I have my lesson, it becomes painfully obvious just how little I study 😔 So in the shower today – where I usually get all my ideas – I have decided that I am going to write at least one sentence a day in my journal. I’ve abandoned my Chinese journal since I started to get really busy. So instead of trying to write an entire journal entry even just once a week, I’ve decided to aim for just one sentence a day, maybe a sentence to describe what happened that day. As I keep saying (but never DO!), small amounts of study add up to huge progress at the end of the year. Let’s see how I go with this idea….!

But despite how stressful these lessons are, at the end of each one, I am still very happy that I can somewhat converse in Chinese for 95% of the lesson 😄 It’s probably more like 98%, as we really don’t use that much English. In fact, my teacher probably uses more English than I do, when she’s explaining a certain word or grammar point to me. So I shouldn’t discount my effort during these lessons! 👍

So I’m off to write that sentence now 😅 Have a good day/night, wherever you are in the world!

Chinese apps

I had my Chinese lesson today. We talked about equivalent apps in China to Apple Podcasts and YouTube. Apparently you can monetise your accounts on them, so now I’m wondering if I should register an account in those apps too and see if people would be interested in my videos (and podcasts, if I started creating them too) 🤔

China may not have ready access to Facebook or whatever other apps we have in the west, but they have so many other apps that are just a variation of them that we don’t know about. I just hear about them from people who actually live in China. It makes me want to improve my Chinese so I can navigate my way through their apps more easily! 😆

Oh and access Taobao, their equivalent of Amazon. Apparently they’ve got a ton of stuff, but again, because my Chinese is limited, I haven’t really used it. Not that I use Amazon much as it is, since I’m not much of a shopper. But Taobao would just open up my shopping world that much more 😆

My Chinese is slowly improving, though, so maybe if I log in now, I would probably understand more than the last time I logged in, which would’ve been months ago. I should try 😊

My Apple Watch stats

I was so tired today, I was barely functioning 😔 Needless to say, I didn’t have the most productive day!

Apparently I haven’t been getting enough sleep. My new Apple Watch has been tracking my sleep, and I averaged 6 hours 19 mins last week 😱

I seriously don’t know what happened on Friday 🤣

I am not one of those people who can function on less sleep, so no wonder I am always tired! So that’s another thing that this new watch has highlighted for me: I didn’t realise just how sleep deprived I was! I don’t have the regular interruptions in the middle of the night anymore – if you remember, Kitty would wake me up a few times each night pretty much on a daily basis – so imagine just how broken my sleep used to be!! 😱 How was I even functioning?!?

But I have managed to reach my daily exercise goals this past week. The watch tells me when I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long, and I actually get up and move. And I make an effort to exercise for 30 minutes every day, whereas before, I would’ve just brushed it off and said to myself, “You’ve done 15 mins, that’s good enough”. I am a sucker for stats 😆 Now I need something that will help me study my foreign languages every day! Anyone know an app on the Apple Watch that will help me do that??

Still a bit sad

I was feeling a bit sad today 😞 I missed her more today 😢 I also didn’t get much sleep last night, so that probably contributed to my blah mood today 😔

I did manage to finish most of my YouTube video for the week, though, and I also called my parents and helped them a little with their finances, so it wasn’t a complete waste of a day 👍

Oh and I had my Chinese lesson. I even looked up the Chinese word for penis, ready to explain the double entendre 😅 But in the end, I didn’t have to, she already knew the meaning. She must have enough immature students who have taught her in the past 🤣

A double entendre

I borrowed a few children’s books from the library, and one of the books that I borrowed had this:

I couldn’t stop laughing 🤣 This is from a library book that kids are reading! 😱 I am going to mention this to my teacher tomorrow, but I don’t quite know how to explain the double entendre using my limited Chinese! I’ll let you know tomorrow how I go… 😆

Anyway, I’ve borrowed these rather simple books because I want to incorporate some more natural sounding Chinese sentences into my spoken Chinese. These sentences are being read by native speakers, so you can’t get any more natural than that. I am using a lot of English grammar to translate what I want to say into Chinese, and so I’m trying to eliminate the translating by trying to make these simple sentences my go-to sentences from which I can build more complex ones. So I’m trying to repeat them as often as I can to internalise them, swapping out words and inserting new ones. Basically, I’m doing this:

– The kids are playing near the river

– We are playing near the river

– They are eating ice-cream near the river

– They are drinking water near the big tree

– I am reading a book under the big tree

Basically playing modular blocks with the different parts of the sentence 😊 The words and sentences are easy, but they’re not fully internalised. I still have to think about each sentence. So it’s all about repetition. And the books that I borrowed actually do a fair bit of repetition, so it’s definitely good practice for me 👍

Intense and not so intense

I had a mega productive day, right up until 1am 😱 One of those crazy days where I somehow got the energy from somewhere! Sorta made up for the previous two days 😆

The rain was pelting down tonight, which also somehow made it easier to work. Maybe it’s the background noise it provides that helps me concentrate, I don’t know. But it was really nice 👍

The black rainstorm signal was issued today, which doesn’t happen often. There is amber, red and black warnings, indicating rainfall expected to exceed or has exceeded 30, 50 or 70mm respectively in an hour, and is likely to continue. Thunder and lightning accompanied the rain too. Pretty intense!

And I had my Chinese lesson today. I didn’t feel too lost today, but still feel guilty for not spending enough time studying 😔 I don’t feel like my speaking and listening are improving – simply because I don’t practise! I really should try and get even just a few minutes done first thing in the morning each day, just get it out of the road before the day kicks into full gear. Anyone else studying a foreign language? How do you maintain consistency in your study??

Poor customer service

I ran a few errands today, and one of them was to go and visit an HSBC branch. I am almost never impressed with customer service anywhere in HK, and today was the worst I have ever received. I usually brush it off, complain to N briefly to vent, and then just go on with my life. I don’t like continuing to give out negative energy into the world 😔 (although I will be doing exactly that in today’s post! 😂)

But today, customer service was sooo bad that I actually want to write in and make a formal complaint 😡 I haven’t written the complaint yet, but I’d like to do it this weekend, otherwise I’m never going to do it. And then I’ll start forgetting all the details as well.

I know it’s important to do so, so the bank can actually improve their customer service offering to new and returning customers. Assuming that someone will actually take these complaints on board and work on improving their processes.

But given that I will be writing my complaint in English, there is the added risk that my complaint will fall on deaf ears 😔 Because despite English being an official language here, the actual level of English is quite poor. I was expecting the standard of English to be the same as that in SG, given that both cities are financial hubs in Asia, with large English-speaking expat populations. But it is far from it. English is the language that brings everyone together in SG; here, it is Cantonese’s poor cousin.