If you’re having trouble viewing the video, click here to watch 3 months in China on YouTube.
The main content is in the video above, but there are a couple of points that I want to expand on.
At the moment I’m amazed by just how tough this is. Every day I’m trying to do the things necessary that will help me improve but this is without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. A university degree has got nothing on learning a language. The thing that makes it especially hard is that my success is dependant solely on me.
Self discipline is not my strongest skill and its becoming obvious to me that the people who succeed in learning new language are the ones that just stick at it day in day out and constantly work at it. It’s difficult for me because I’m motivated by being held accountable to other people and also by being placed in a competitive environment. Language learning doesn’t naturally have these elements. Unlike uni, where if you show up for 3 years, do a bit of study and write the exams, you’ll come out with a degree. Job done.
So what I’m trying to do is build in these elements. I have a class which I’m attending 3x a week with another student that is at a similar level. This creates accountability and informal competition.
I’m also meeting with a private tutor a couple of times a week, for conversation practice as well as doing my own study.
But my underlying strategy is just to throw time and effort and hope these activities bring me closer to fluency. The analyst in me hates this approach.
I’m finding that I’m at a level where I’m having no problem making myself understood to the people around me and getting what I want. I know lots of words. The difficulty is when someone speaks to me in an unscripted environment (like IRL) and I struggle to work out what’s being said.
Once this next set of classes wraps up I’m going to need to find a way to get more unstructured listening practice.
On watching back the video, I realise that I sound impatient. I know quality relationships take time to build & it’s been great being able to regularly keep in touch with people on Skype so that I don’t go insane.
If I come away with nothing else from China, I want to have a great network of like minded people who know me well. The projects can come second. The problem with having people know you well is that it’s risky. The more honesty you give, the greater the risk that you’ll inadvertently rub them the wrong way. It’s easy to have a relationship with someone when all you talk about is the weather. It’s a bit tougher if you want to be able to debate Kony2012.
This problem reminds me of a book by Jim Collins called Good to Great, in which he argues that companies that assemble a great team, before setting the strategy, have a better chance of success. So that’s what I’m going to do – spend less time on “what am I doing here” and more time with great people.
Finally, a shout out to Greg, Teresa, Konrad, Simon, Atilla & Jake, thanks for keeping me company in HK.