大家好, 我是艾凱聖( Dàjiā hǎo, wǒ shì Ài kǎi shèng); “Hello everyone, My name is Ai Kai Sheng (my Chinese official name). I have needed to practice this sentence many times and writing it has not been an easy task either. Another good phrase is 你好嗎? (Nǐ hǎo ma)你好 “hello”; and adding 嗎? “How are you?” I believe this will be the first Chinese phrase I will never forget in my life. I remember my first Chinese Teacher saying that phrase during ICDF orientation when we first came to Taiwan. Now that phrase sounds so simple after repeating it several times. Another famous one is 謝謝 (Xièxiè) “thanks”. I have realized that I have said 謝謝 a lot; later I will explain why.

Before coming to Taiwan, I knew that Chinese (Mandarin) language was going to be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to learn in my life. One year later, I have had many experiences that support my previous theory. Originally, I was not aware of the four famous tones needed for a word to convey the right message in Chinese. It was hard for me to even try to pronounce a syllable with different tones. Again, one year later the tones have became a headache and after learning that sometimes a fifth one is also necessary, it made my Chinese learning experience even harder. In addition to this, the writing part is more difficult; especially when trying to understand the stroke order of the characters and their radicals (the affix of every word). The funny part in the writing portion is that, one day I learn the characters and the next day I forget the stroke order, the radical, and what is worst, the meaning! I have had limited available time to study Chinese due to the work load in our Institute of International Human Resource Development at NTNU; however it should not be an excuse for me not to spend more time learning Mandarin. By the way, Mandarin is becoming the most spoken language in the world (If you don’t believe me Google it!). This should be a valid reason for all ICDF students to work harder to learn as much as we can before leaving Taiwan.

The key in learning new languages is dedicating enough time to learn and live it just like what babies do when they start saying their first words. Its well know that the best way for adults to learn a new language is having the chance to travel a country where this language is widely spoken and learn it by living it. Having only one year left here in Taiwan, and being still at a scratcher level of Chinese, somehow frustrates me and scares me of losing the few words I have learned during the first year. I have had three Chinese teachers so far in some of the free courses I have taken. I have developed my listening skill and I can understand some words when people talk in the MRT, streets, bus, or when someone asks me simple baby-level questions. I have lost the fear of saying the few words I know. I learned how complicated the differences in tones are. I have tried my best to practice little by little the words in similar tones and after feeling confident about them, I have moved on to learn and use the same words with different tones (Which by the way have a whole different meaning). I have tried to get rid of my non-verbal communication skill for a while and ask for “炒飯” (Chǎofàn) “fried rice” when I go to the night market, ask for the price 多少 (Duōshǎo) “How much” when needed to buy something, or 再見 (Zàijiàn) when saying “Goodbye”. Probably my progress is not as good as I would it to be but I am willing to do my best in learning much more. Understanding the basics of Mandarin can make things easier for us to learn it on our own in the future.

As mentioned at the beginning, the word in Mandarin I have used the most in Taiwan has been 謝謝! because all Chinese teachers, Professors from my school, personnel from our Institute, classmates and all Taiwanese people in general have been supportive and have helped me a lot during my stay in Taiwan. They all have made things incredibly easier from what I thought it was going to be. To all of those that have been the light on the road making my life in Taiwan a pleasant experience, I can say one more time… 謝謝!!

Cesar Alas, El Salvador

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