Here’s a snippet of my college Chinese class description: “This course is designed for truly interested and dedicated students only. You need patience, resilience, and discipline…”. Of all those traits, I only had one – being truly interested. Kind of… You see, back in high school, I didn’t have to work hard to stay on top of my grades. I slacked off and skipped classes religiously. Most things I learned were outside of school, like online courses or youtube videos. I didn’t have a structured way of learning.
When I was hit by the massive, continuous workload at college, it hurt. Hard. I have Chinese every day and I have to do my homework every day. Not to mention weekly oral and written quizzes — which were easy at first when I only had to know things like “你好” or “我姓王” — that got harder and harder. A language class is cumulative, you have to constantly ride the wave. If you lose your balance and fall off, you will drown. Drowning equals failing. Nobody wants that.
Changing My Approach
So I had to switch from a relaxed approach to doing something Chinese-related every day. I hated it at first. Writing and memorizing characters was tedious. Speaking was even harder. To speak Chinese, you have to juggle the sentence structure, the tones for each syllable and remember the meaning of every word. If you don’t have a routine, good luck trying to get used to this.
The Importance Of Peer Support
Due to the small number of students learning Chinese and because it was so hard, my classmates and I bonded fast. It was kind of like a club. We practiced often before quizzes and gave each other moral support.
As the first semester was coming to an end, I felt that little by little I was becoming better. My speech was becoming faster and my writing more precise. For our final exam, we had to perform a skit in Chinese. That was when I realized that I had actually made progress. Getting from stuttering trying to say my name in Chinese to performing a 5-minute skit is not too shabby. By constantly putting in the effort you can tackle anything. Just like a river: slowly but surely grinding its way into rock. You have to let time do the trick.
What About Now?
Now, I’m still a newbie. I’ve hit a painful plateau that is hard to break out of. When this happens you have to put things into perspective. Progress is only revealed in hindsight. So, again, PATIENCE. Now, I’m trying to spice it up by diversifying the means by which I learn. Complete immersion is the name of the game. A future post is going to cover that. Hope to see you next time!