So, I started to learn Chinese… but I just can’t. With all of the languages I speak at this point, my brain just explodes when I try to learn something new. Plus, no one could understand me when I reproduced the phrases that I learned from my Pimleur’s Mandarin audio tapes. That was extremely motivating, and I thought– If I’m going to study this and still be unable to communicate, then what’s the point?
Chinese certainly has a higher learning curve than most languages. First of all, the tones make it really hard to speak correctly. Locals have admitted that if a foreigner says a single word, they usually don’t know what the person is trying to say… it’s only from the context of an entire sentence that a local can get the gist of what we idiot foreigners are trying to say. Again, encouraging. Stuff.
Plus, the characters give me a headache to even look at. When I walk into a restaurant and there are a million characters on the menu, I’m screaming inside. I have a lot of respect for every kid who has to memorize what each of these characters mean. Probably while also being pressured to learn English.
The problem with not speaking any Chinese is that there is less English on signs here than in any other country I’ve visited. Nothing is in English on menus, transportation websites, etc. Well, I take that back– sometimes the sign will say one word in English, like “Schedule” and then the rest is just in Chinese. It’s just enough English to let you know that the solution is in your hands, if only you had the key.
I know that the last time I went out travelin’, I vowed to myself that the next place I lived would be one where I spoke the local language well. Wouldn’t it be nice… I don’t know when that idea went out the window. But I’ll say it again, and hope it sticks this time: the next place I live will be one where I speak the local language proficiently.