Learning Mandarin Chinese Online 3.0

It’s the end of week 6 of studying Chinese and honestly, it has been so long since I studied Chinese so consistently. I’m absolutely loving it!

However, I’ve had a tricky two weeks, so I haven’t been reviewing my words as much as I would have liked, but I am still learning and attending my classes.

I’m learning how to talk about sentence structure, clauses and word forms more fluently, and I’m finally able to use less ‘basic’ sentences that people learn in their first years of speaking Mandarin. I suppose I never really evolved from those phrases, okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I certainly used them for far too long. 

I never watched tv shows in Mandarin and I rarely listened to the music, which definitely prevented me from learning social phrases and much of the ‘new’ language. My Mandarin is outdated and I hadn’t realised it until the last few weeks in my lessons. I had absolutely no idea how to talk about the internet, lockdown and adult life, because none of it was relevant when I was studying. 

I had Chinese friends when I was in Sheffield, and yes we often spoke together in Mandarin, but it wasn’t enough for me to be improving drastically. And this is still my problem. After my lessons, I don’t speak to anyone in Mandarin. I type to my students’ parents or I read articles online, but I do not actually have a conversation in Mandarin that helps me use my new words or improve my confidence when it comes to speaking. I’d love to have 3 or 4 lessons a week, but with money dwindling it just isn’t feasible. 

What have I struggled with?

Sentence / grammatical structures that I have absolutely never learnt before are puzzling me. They sound weird or wrong and I cannot get my head around them. I now, more than ever, understand how my students must feel when I tell them “Sometimes, there is no explanation. It’s just because.” I’ll include a couple here and explain why they confuse me.

What am I enjoying? I absolutely love ‘levelling up’ my language. Using more natural, common phrases that aren’t straight out of a 1998 text book.

I love learning new adjectives, although this is me in every language anyway, and being able to connect them to different situations. I also love randomly remembering phrases I have heard in Taiwan and *finally* understanding what they mean or why they’re used so often.

Mei you ban fa 没有办法  = I can’t do anything about it / I can’t help

Ni x shu ma? 你 X 熟吗? = Are you familiar with X?

And I’m fascinated by words that can be used for two completely different scenarios. Although, that is definitely going to be confusing for me. For example ‘di fang’ to me has always meant ‘place’ but I have recently learned that we can use it to ask about something abstract, like an idea or sense of understanding.

*I have had to send my teacher a message and ask her to clarify this though, as I’m still quite confused about it! If you’re a Chinese speaker and know otherwise, please let me know!

10 Confusing Words by Everyday Chinese on YouTube

Although I started taking lessons to help me prepare for my HSK exam, I have since decided that I’m going to hold off on it. I don’t need the exam certificate at the moment and to be honest it makes sense to work a little harder now and take the level 5 exam in the future. Rather than taking one now, and another one later on. Also, things are a bit unstable at the moment and the rules for taking the exam online a bit silly.

You have to be in an empty room without any books, have two cameras on you that must not lose power throughout the 2.5 hour exam. It seems ridiculous that you can turn your home into an exam hall in the middle of lockdown. People are working from home in their living space and let’s be honest, who has an empty room in their home just waiting to be used for exams? It would take a lot of effort to remove all the books from any of my rooms, given that we have over 200 and a bookcase in every corner of the flat. It just isn’t going to happen.

Anyway. This is just a little hiccup and I now feel more relaxed about my future lessons, knowing that I don’t have to focus 100% on the exam. It will also allow me to have more time, and room, to learn things that are going to be useful for me, like communicating with parents and friends.

Enjoying my lessons!

Many of you have also messaged me to say that you’ve watched the video of me speaking Chinese. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or say thank you, but I’m glad you were at least interested! I didn’t take any during my last two lessons because I was feeling run down and a little weary, I wanted to avoid adding any extra pressure to myself!

Stay tuned for one on the next update though – I promise!

So then, to round this up, have any of you been studying a language during ‘lockdown’? Are you trying to improve a language you already know? Or, if you’re thinking of learning a new language – which one??

Let me know in the comments and if you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you shared it on your Twitter!

Thinking of studying a language during lockdown? Read Miss Hillsmith’s journey of learning Chinese here!

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