It’s been hard keeping up my Chinese study habits since I started at the International School. All my interactions with the staff are in English, except for when I chat with the Mandarin teachers or go to the copy room. In my ELL specialist position I try not to rely on my Chinese, but it has definitely come in handy in rough situations, and it’s helping me get a new student adjusted this week. However, I’m not improving.
The Learning Plateau is real, and anyone who has tried to master a skill that contains many levels will tell you that it is a leviathan that can lull the learner into languid complacency, making even the steadfast of students lethargic.
Last summer I had a great strategy. I talked with three different college students from different parts of China for an hour each, nearly every week. It helped with my listening, and strengthened my ear for dialect. I bought a great book (one of perhaps a few dozen now) with everyday situations and plenty of idioms and vocabulary. I always had it nearby and resorted to it many times a day, soaking in new phrases. Xiao Ming and I stressed Mandarin for longer periods of time, and she helped me with the correct wording constantly. Even my buddy, Matt, a guy who’s been here for 10 years, offered a few compliments. I was improving.
Then August rolled around and I was in a new position.
In an effort to break through this plateau, I have been learning a word or two a day for the last month. In my planner each week, on the weekdays, I’ve been jotting down words of the day. These words are terms that relate to my job or to something I’ve needed to know how to say while helping a student. This has been going on a month come St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve listed my words for the past month below, but I’m curious….anyone have any suggestions for learning a new language when you’ve already got a very busy schedule?
Influence ying xiang 影响
I would rather…than… Wo ning yuan…ye bu…
I’ve noticed… Wo zhu yi dao… 注意到
Religion zong jiao 宗教
Theory yuan li 原理
Community she qu 社区
Extinct mie jue 灭绝
Consequences/Results huo guo 后果
Compromise zhe zhong / tuo xie 折中/ 妥协
To put ones head in the noose jiang tai gong diao yu, yuan zhe shang gou (there’s a whole story that goes with this idom).
Simply, or to emphasize jianzhi 简直
Instructions shuo ming 说明
Example li ti/zi 例子
Experiment shi yan 实验
Never cong lai bu…
Variables bian liang (bian hua wu chang= fickle) 变量
Eloquent shan bian 善辩
Context yu jing / shang xia wen 语境 / 上下文
Background bei jing 背景
Pride jiao ao (worth being proud of zhi de jiao ao) 骄傲
Human rights ren quan 人权
Improve/lengthen jia qiang 加强