My Chinese classes have recently become a lot harder. We have been focusing on more nuances of grammar, which I guess is good, because it means I am advancing, but it is also more difficult and confusing. For example, in my last class, we looked at gǎi 改, huàn 换, and biànhuà 变化. They are all loosely translated as ‘change’, though there are differences in their usage. The first two are verbs and the last is a noun. This, in itself, is a challenge for me. I perhaps should not say this, given my job, but sometimes I have difficulty thinking of examples of words as nouns. The class usually involves me learning a new word and then my teacher asking me to give an example and use it in a sentence. I am usually okay with verbs, but it is difficult for me to think of an example using ‘change’ as a noun in English, and then translating it into Chinese for my teacher. I know what a noun is, but when I am under pressure and trying to think of an example, I sometimes struggle….
My teacher is very patient and understanding, but it can be frustrating not being able to use it in a sentence. Other times, the words are natural and I can associate it with an English word, or at least I understand its use and meaning.
I also recently paid for more additional classes, as my classes were about to run out in early June. This means I can keep attending class over the summer when I am back in the UK (the classes can be done through the school’s website), and continue when I return to Beijing at the end of the summer break. I hope that I will be able to have an addition day of classes when I come back (I have two classes per week right now – they are back-to-back classes, with a break in-between).
At the end of each class, I usually get a print out of my notes from the class. This is useful because I can practice it outside class, but the notes are all online as well, so if I lose the paper or it does not print out for whatever reason, I can still access to it. The notes always used to include the hanzi – the Chinese characters – and the pinyin – the romanised version. Now, however, mostly we no longer use the pinyin, only the hanzi. This is an additional challenge, as it means I do not always know what the characters are. But actually it is not so difficult if I recognise the characters. I also used to write what each word and each sentence meant. Now, I only write the meanings of words or phrases I do not know, rather than translating every sentence. This cuts back on time at the end of the class, but also helps with the character understanding and remembering.
Listening is by far my weakest skill. Often in class we will now not watch videos but instead just listen to them, and I will have to describe what has happened, then we will analyse the listening bit by bit. This is quite difficult for me because I have difficulty distinguishing some words that are said, and also I forget big chunks of what was said, so I can only analyse a little bit, before my teacher replays the recording (sometimes several times) for me to hear. I have also started to write down what is said, so I can refer back to it. This helps, though it is too quick for me to write down everything. Still, I think, little by little, things are improving.