Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quick update

Hey all. I just wanted to drop a line because things are good. I just found out that I got accepted to NYU for law school and Jake is coming on Wednesday. Merry Christmas to all! :).

I am waiting for Columbia, and I am lightly debating applying to Stanford still. That said, most likely, next year I am in New York at either Columbia or NYU.


I will try a real post soon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I really hate this cafe

This cafe is terrible for me. I reek of cigarettes when I leave it.

Anyway, I love lots of people in America, so I thought I would drag myself here to bang out some non sequitors.

I have started working with a private teacher. So far so good. However, having one teacher bearing down on me can be intense, as my listening is not used to fast constant Chinese. I realize that is why Rie got good at understanding fast, she had a native speaker blitzing her with the language.

I also am seeing things from my kids perspective even better. We are now at ever closer language levels (as my kids have somewhat decent English). We all need to be able to understand, should be expected to understand, yet often don't.

I really see why they don't have any idea what I am talking about for about half an hour, and then it seems like they grew up in America (not literally). The first half an hour of my class was terrifying. I was doubting not just my Chinese, but my capability to learn. But I dealt.

I need some way of launching my mind into Chinese. One of the great weaknesses of my Spanish was that it became an extension of my English. I learned the language by basically continually adding words to my English vocabulary, and then just using the Spanish ones when I "spoke Spanish." My grammar was decent because I enjoyed grammar, but I could never really improve my accent. And, something I am strikingly ashamed of, I have never really been able to understand fast Spanish, or Spanish television programs.

With Chinese, a few words have been added to my daily lexicon for that little thing so beloved here, Chingrish, but not nearly as drastically. One reason I think is that I have to speak English for three hours a day at least. If I throw in a Ni3 Hao3, something I often use in English speech, my kids would murder me for breaking my harshestly enforced rule.

Furthermore, Chinese grammar is so drastically different from English or Spanish grammar, and moreover, poorly explained. With Spanish, I learned every rule, and learned it well. Really grammar was the center of my studies. As such, even the most complex English sentences I could filter into Spanish slowly. But with Chinese, my grammar learning has been sporatic and oddly ordered.

This seems to be somewhat of a given with learning Chinese. For one, the language does not have a long history being taught to foreigners. Second, and I think more importantly, its a bitch to teach. If one is learning real Chinese, not just spoken, where do you start? Writing the characters? Words? What grammar rules? Tones? There are so many givens, that you can't worry about grammar until you are writing, and you can't really write until you know at least some grammar.

As such, I am basically trying to create a Chinese section of my brain. A part of my brain that really speaks Chinese, and relies on its grammar largely from instinct rather than translation or a rules barrage. Its actually working pretty well, at least I think so, we will see.

I am a little home sick, being that I will miss Christmas, but Jake is coming, which is going to be beyond any adjectives that comes to mind. Furthermore, the weather has become on par with Oregan fall (though with more sunny days mixed in), so its not like I am in a lonely winter wonder land.

Despite the many trees, the occasional lights, and the barrage of Christmas music, it just does not feel like Christmas.

Zai4 jien4.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A blog entry

The other day I wrote a long, long blog entry. Some thirty minutes of content, but it met a grizzly demise, I am not sure how or why, but I think my posting got mugged in a dark alley adjecent to the internet. Where petty thugs wait to do evil, unspeakable, things to innocent posts.

I actually then deleated it, as my Chinese, ironically based on the content of this post, was not good enough to read what I was doing.

You might notice a different tempo, a new sort of style to my post. Furthermore, sheer deprevaties done upon the English language, notably spelling. Things that will make my mom wake up at night with tears in her eyes.

That is to say, my computer is broken, and thus went my spell checker.

I could use another spell checker, but that seems some what like adultry.

So for now, I am typing on my school's computer. My last entry was created in a smoke filled internet cafe, a room that would be a great text book example of musky, yet at the same time, exceeds the term by bounds.

I have a lot of things to post about, but I am deterimed to write about just one.

I will rewrite much of the last post, Chinese.

I like Chinese a lot, especially writing it. I assumed as my character knowledge grew, I would come to agree to the writers that so passionatly put down Chinese's accessibility (like that NY Times writer and the Prof whose names are not coming to me). Yet really, I could not more disagree.

Chinese is one, not inaccessible. I have been learning for five months, on and off at that, and I can at least chit chat. Sometimes I have no idea whats going on, which was not the case with Spanish, but I also had far more time to study Spanish.

The characters are filled with repition. A character that used to scare the heck out of me was 錢 (qian2 or money) - for some reason on a computer screen it seemed rather scary. Now I write it often, partially because its really just three things that I write often. Most of Chinese is just constructions of stuff that you have already learned.

I actually have only been focusing on writing for two weeks, but I have almost caught up to my classmates who have been writing for five months (in other words, I have learned all the characters that the book has taught in that time). Mind you I had been reading them for some time, but it still goes to my point.

It is what makes Chinese beautiful and worth learning.

Chinese is no more inaccessible than science is. Some people are good at it, some people, not as good at it. Some people like it, some people don't. I really do like, I really actually love it.

As far as speaking (which I like, but not nearly as much), the tones are supposed to be the hard part, but they too are not that difficult. Any competent English speaker can say the tones. Most can memorize the tones with words. Hearing them becomes more and more natural just listening (mind you, maybe I will take all of this back in another six months). For me, the hard part is saying them in context. Saying them with fluency. But that too is coming naturally.

I recommend that you at least learn a few characters. Its interesting to really consider it a lanaguage. Don't just write what you see, but look at each part.

Anyway, I have a lot of posts to put up here, and hopefully I will have the time to go to an Internet cafe and type them out.