New Year’s resolutions! We’ve all made them. But when made in front of family (that was my first big mistake) you can’t easily back down - they become a challenge.
How hard can learning Mandarin Chinese really be?
And how frightening is it to go back to University (The Confucius Institute aligned to Hull University) when you’re in your mid 50s?
Well, after getting your head wrapped around the ~50K characters, a written style that at first glance seems impossible to learn, and some complex tongue twisting articulation, it’s surprisingly very interesting to learn. With the 2nd term started and simple sentences beginning to form, it’s time to start speaking it in public, which gets more than a few giggles and comments!
I tried out my Chinese a few weekends ago in our local takeaway. I didn’t get it all correct; I probably didn’t really get any of it right and, if I’m honest, it was tough work with the kids watching and listening. But, hey’ho, language is all about speaking. The lad behind the counter even got his mam out to listen, which I hoped was because I was that good? No, I don’t kid myself (it seemed to give her a right laugh!) He did say pop back if you need any help – which is probably a great sales pitch from him and it possibly means I’ll be eating a lot more Chinese meals going forward.
I walked out of the shop feeling 6 feet tall (people who know me will understand that joke) and when we got home, realized I hadn’t picked up our supper…back to the shop feeling small again and not so smart!
Another tale, during a lesson, and a great one liner for future use:
‘I am an Englishman’ (nice and simple statement, it’s in all language school books) = ‘Wo Shi ying guo ren,’ but mumble it incorrectly without any real conviction and you can get ‘Wo Shi ying guo ren de guo wang,’ which I was told (I’ll stand corrected if someone knows better) means ‘I’m the king of all the Britons.’ Now this statement is guaranteed to get you a good table in any restaurant worldwide, I’m sure.
There’s a long journey ahead, even to get to a GCSE type level, but with a great mixed age class, fantastic teachers and being able to laugh at your own mistakes (and those of others), it’s an interesting way to spend a few hours a week. If nothing else, as a Yorkshireman, I have a student card and that gets me some discounts…so it isn’t all bad in my book.