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It’s a now just on a month since I moved to Beijing, and for the past few weeks I’ve been immersed in my first ever intensive language course.
I’ve been attending classes from 8am – 12pm, 5 days a week at Beijing Language & Culture University and will continue until mid-January, just before the Chinese New Year holiday festival.
4 hours of classes a day has been a massive shock to the system. I originally planned that I would be able to use the rest of my day to focus on other activities, but instead I’ve found that after each class I come away absolutely exhausted and I feel like I’m having my brain slowly pushed through a sieve! After class I find that I need to de-compress and the last thing that I want to do is sit in front of a computer.
So What Have I Learnt?
My goal for this course was to simply attend and try my best to keep up with the content and not beat myself up if I didn’t master everything instantly. I’m extremely impatient when it comes to learning new things and I need to keep reminding myself that I’m here for the long haul. The course has been a great start but it is only that – it’s bleedingly obvious that the way the teaching environment is structured isn’t optimal for me and I’m looking forward to arranging a tutor or perhaps attending a different school where I can have more input into what materials are analysed.
A good example of this is that we have been taught the words for dormitory, dining hall and mineral water, but not the word for toilet. Go figure.
Despite this, we have learned a significant amount of vocab and it’s amazing to be able to actually see and hear how the foreign signs and sounds are unraveling in front of me. For instance, I took a bunch of shirts to the dry-cleaner a couple of days ago and when I was leaving he said “ming tian, wan shang” which translates to “tomorrow evening” which is when the shirts would be ready. I had only learned the words “ming tian” and “wan shang” a couple of days earlier and it was incredible to actually understand what he’d just said to me.
Most of the time I feel like everything I hear, whether it is said directly to me or not, is like static on a radio. Very occasionally though, someone will use one of the few words that I know and can recognise and then for that brief instant I will get perfect reception, before dropping back into ‘static’.
Hopefully with time and practise, the amount of static will decrease and my ‘reception’ will get better.