I came to Taiwan on a lucky august 23th of 2009; I came here full of wishes, dreams to become true and with the hunger of seen that there were more beyond the borders of my country… beyond the borders of America.

I've always loved learning languages, so the opportunity of coming to Taiwan, besides allowing me to study my master, also gave me the opportunity of learning Mandarin, a totally different language from my mother language with a fascinating handwriting, a different grammar and a pronunciation that I had never spoken and ever since I got the notice that I had to write the 24th issue of the Taiwan/ICDF TICA Newsletter I wanted to share my experience of learning Mandarin with all of you.

Learning Mandarin is more like a challenge to me, and I love challenges. People told me that it was too hard, almost impossible to learn in such a short time, you’ll see… I never believe them, lucky me! Because now I can speak and read it; of course there’s still a lot to learn, but personally I don’t think Mandarin is too hard to learn, the same people told me with German and I did learn it.

I think it’s all about the way we look at it… if we think it’s too hard it will be. At the beginning, when I first came to Taiwan, everything sounded the same to me, it was really difficult to tell the differences between the sounds and even more to hear the difference between the tones, but then I choose to change my mind and everything change.

On the other hand, learning Mandarin for me is not just a matter of getting the language; it has also a lot to do with getting the culture, open the mind to the way that people thinks and express themselves here (which is far way different from the way that people do where I come from), so at the end, one just not learn to write and read in a new way but also to speak and think in a very different way.

I see many advantages in having learned Mandarin, because being able to speak it gave me freedom, confidence and the ability to move around; hence, to see more, visit more places, eat different food, have more experiences, and to get to know the people from Taiwan in a different way because the language gap disappeared (at least at some level). Speak Mandaring also gave me a very useful weapon, because it allowed me to know what was happening around me, to keep me informed, to know what the people were saying when they were not speaking English in front of me, or to know when they were making fun of me, or making fun of the places I come from or making fun of my mother language, which is “Spanish”.

I have to say that I was at my old dorm when I got the mail telling me that I had to write this letter, I was resting a little bit after class, checking my mail and enjoying the peaceful that my old dorm use to give me, because it was my favorite place to be (beside Hospital, of course), I remember that the first thing that came into my head was something that Helen Keller once said:

“Blindness separates a person from things, but deafness separates him from people."
Now I have to ask you: how different is deafness from "not being able" to understand a language? I think, maybe this is not that much different from being deaf, because this also separates people from people, from a culture, isolates them and keep them apart... I've been asked to write my experience of "learning Mandarin", and the way how I can summarize it is this: at the beginning I was deaf, now, at least I can hear somewhat “sound”.

 

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