1. Do not consider Chinese (or any other language) as a tool.
- People use tools to work and no one likes work (or at least I don’t.)
- Instead make learning Chinese a toy/game. Invite others to play. You always learn something better when you’re having fun.
When you forget how to speak your native language:
I learned all kinds of vocabulary in French and then had to learn the English translation when I got back! Has this happened to you?
What are your favorite words in foreign languages?
When you can think of good things to say, but don’t know how to say them in the new language:
- Don’t be afraid to speak. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That is what you are here for!
- Speak without trepidation. Speak confidently.
- Don’t judge people too quickly. Assume that you heard them wrong or that it’s not rude in their culture or in their minds…
These are good reminders for anyone learning a foreign language. The one I had to remember was “Think less about pronunciation and just speak. Let it flow.” Early in my study abroad, I got so caught up in speaking correctly that I would avoid speaking at all. Sometimes you have to make mistakes and sometimes you have to make a fool of yourself. It’s OKAY to be foolish!
When you first stepped off the plane and were bombarded with your new language:
When it’s been a month and you’re still not fluent:
No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby-so helpless and so ridiculous.
Learning the pleasantries “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “goodbye” in the languages of the places you travel to can make a big difference in the way you’re treated (and apparently the way you’re charged). Here’s a website that tells how to say “please” in many different languages.
Going abroad is an experience that most people walk away from feeling grown up and independent. But have you ever thought about how you felt when you first arrived in that new country? Before you did all of this maturing abroad, you were likely stripped of your adulthood and left to feel like a helpless child.
Sometimes I would say the same words over and over to figure them out, or repeat what other people were saying in order to get the sounds right. It’s a good way to learn, although it makes more sense coming out of a 2 year old than a 20 year old!
French is the language that turns dirt into romance.
It is necessary, especially for Americans, to see other lands and experience other cultures. The American, living in this vast country and able to traverse three thousand miles east to west using the same language, needs to hear languages as they collide in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
A tourist, browsing in a Paris shop, eating in an Italian ristorante, or idling along a Hong Kong street, will encounter three or four languages as she negotiates the buying of a blouse, the paying of a check, or the choosing of a trinket. I do not mean to suggest that simply overhearing a foreign tongue adds to one’s understanding of that language. I do know, however, that being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one’s own.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.