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Studying Chinese (one month)

It is now roughly a month since I started to study Chinese at the university here in town and since many ask about how it is going, I thought some sort of status report would be a nice, or at least convenient, idea. Probably, I will keep up with this and report whenever something of interest happens, but this first post will consist of some collected reflections from the first month.

First of all, I enjoy my studies immensely, and even if I suspected as much beforehand, it is very comforting to know that it turned out like that in practice too. My results have been corresponding to my enthusiasm and I have a flawless record so far (three minor exams of which I have received the result from two). Of course, I will not be able to keep up with that indefinitely, but I am certainly aiming for perfection and not just passing the courses. I study Chinese because I want to learn the language, not because I need the points.

I have also discovered (it really ought not to be a surprise, but it is) that I have not got much of a difficulty learning languages. Of course, Chinese is a hard language to master, but I feel that characters stick in my mind fairly easily and pronunciation is clear at least in theory, even though I need much more practice. If you do not know very much about Chinese, I would like to recommend this excellent flash video to give you a brief introduction.

The backside of all this is that I am rather lazy. The extra time I earn by learning quickly, I should spend on learning more, not on doing other stuff (like working, diving or role-playing). Building vocabulary is probably the most important thing when studying a language as a beginner, so investing another hour each day in that would probably be a good idea.

Studying languages full time is rather different from studying anything else full time. In other subjects, one can often lump the study hours together and clear large sections of a course in one go. This is not true for languages. Rather, one has to distribute the hours evenly (including weekends and evenings), going over the same material many times. Also, a chapter is never finished, because continuous repetition is needed to reach beyond superficial knowledge of the subject matter. Learning languages is about honing skills and building on what you already know and everything one does is dependent on what one has done previously. This requires a different kind of discipline, but it suits my personality fairly well and I enjoy a sparse schedule and much opportunity to plan my own studying.

To conclude this somewhat rambling post, I will summarise by saying that I love studying Chinese and that I look forward to the opportunity to learn as much as possible during the coming year.


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