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!

Positive habits

I mentioned the other day how my new Apple Watch tells me if I’ve been sitting for too long. It wants you to move at least once an hour. So now I get up and walk up and down the apartment whenever it prompts me.

But what I’ve decided to add on from today is studying Chinese. I now work my way through my flashcards while I’m walking 😊 Pretty cool! Again, it’s only like 1-2 minutes each time, but if I’m doing this every hour, it still adds up 👍 So just by doing this today, I got 9 minutes of study done. That’s still better than zero minutes! And they were spaced out throughout the day, and consistency is always good for language learning. And I also have flashcards for my other languages, so technically I could be working on any of the three languages while I’m walking 😆 #polyglotgoals I think this is going to be a good habit 🤞

I also did 15 minutes of dancing that, again, I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the goals that I’ve set myself on my watch. So my basics should improve now! 😱 All these positive habits are so goood ☺️

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 😊

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 👍

A lifelong learner

I worked on colour grading today! 😊 I watched a tutorial on the basics of colour grading, and also on how to use the colour grading section in my editing software. My colour grading skills needs a lot of work, as you can imagine, but at least I can now navigate my way around some of the basics in the software! 😅 Hopefully over time, as I colour grade some more, I can get my videos looking exactly how I want them to look! At the moment, I can only just accept what my limited abilities can do 😆

I also had my Chinese lesson today. My listening was pretty shite today, but at least I’m trying! My teacher was telling me about some of her students who spend 2/3 of the lesson telling her stories in English! What’s the point in that?! 😂 At least I try and speak as much Chinese as I can during a lesson. Even if I’m slow and my grammar is all wrong, at least I’m moving forward. What’s that quote? ‘No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.’ Yep, I totally agree! 😊

I think I’ll be a lifelong learner. I can’t not be learning, it’s just one of the things I really enjoy doing 😊

A word game

There’s this word game that I play with my students where I say a word, and then they have to give me a word that begins with the last letter of my word – eg I say apple, and they say elephant. I modify the game depending on the level of the student. And we just keep playing until I get bored and I want to move on to something different 😆

Today, though, it was my turn to be the student: I played this game in CHINESE!! 😱 Now I know how my students feel!! 🤣 The Chinese version is a little different. We chose two-character words, and the second character of her word has to be the first character of my word. Now for native Chinese speakers, this is perfectly fine, but whenever my teacher chose a word, I didn’t even know what the word was, let alone how to write it! 🤣 So it was actually a great way to learn new words. I said we should play this game for a little bit each week, as I think it’s both fun and educational – the best way I like to learn a language 😊