I never expected learning Mandarin in my life, I always thought that it was too hard, too complicated. When I saw Chinese characters in the cover box of the products from China or Taiwan, I was scared thinking that I would never need to learn this kind of language, really too strange. However, learning a foreign language is not bad; it’s a good tool for learners.
So to be honest, I had never planned to come here to study; by the way I didn’t have any plans to learn Chinese in my mind. When Suddenly I got the opportunity from ICDF and my Government to come to Taiwan for two years, to do my Master degree and learn Chinese, I was really very worried. One month before coming, I received from my university one Chinese book by e-mail to start learning some basic concepts and common Chinese words. Some of my friends and my boss also asked me if I will have to learn Chinese in Taiwan. These words let me worry more. Because at the beginning, my English also was not good, I thought that I have to make a lot of efforts in my English language too. So after all, I decided to come and have experience in an Asian country, which is well recognized in my country because of the good relationship that existed between both governments. I started thinking that further studies will not only increase my knowledge but also gives an opportunity to me to learn other languages like Chinese which is becoming an important language in the world. Many people say that foreigners all over the world including America, Africa, and so on, are going to Taiwan and China to learn Chinese. Chinese is one of the languages used in the United Nations, FAO and other important International organizations. After thinking about these advantages, I decided to come to Taiwan.

Anyway, before starting to share my experience about learning mandarin in Taiwan, I want to acknowledge the ICDF staff for providing me the economic support to be studying in Taiwan, where I also have the opportunity to learn just a little mandarin. I also want to let you know that I am from Haiti, our official languages are French and Creole and I had learnt Spanish almost 10 years ago in Cuba where I got my first degree in Veterinary Medicine during a six year period. I don’t want to make any comparison between mandarin and Spanish, because there are too many differences between them. It’s like the sky and the land. For me, it was easier to learn Spanish than Chinese because most of the Spanish words are like French, and the pronunciation is almost the same. Both languages have their origin from Latin. For example, in French “Economie” in Spanish is “Economia”. They say “Science” in French and “ciencia” in Spanish and there are many more examples. The last one I would like to mention is “Plume” in French and “Pluma” in Spanish. That means “Bi” in Mandarin (with the third tone up I). As you can see in these few cases, in Mandarin all is totally different.

So to be honest, I didn’t expect that learning mandarin will be easy but actually when I started learning it, I realize that it was not really so much difficult. From my own point of view, only two aspects make it a little bit complicated: these are the “Chinese characters” and the “tones (First, second, third and fourth tone)”. Sometimes you need just a tone to differentiate some words in Chinese; sometimes it’s not easy for foreigners to do it without any difficulty. In my case for example, when I’ve learnt a word, later I find another one that sounds the same then I become confused. For instance “shu” meaning book and “shu” meaning also tree, the difference is only in the tone and the pronunciation. Another example might be “ma” without tone and “ma” with the third tone. The first one is used to ask question (for example: “Nin hao ma”? meaning “how are you” in English). So the second one means “horse” and there are many other examples.

The other aspect, I would like to mention here is about the Chinese character, I remember the first time I asked a Taiwanese friend about how to learn to write Chinese characters, the answer was simple: “it’s easy, because each Chinese word has a story, you only need to learn the word’s story first. So to learn many words means you have to learn many stories. In our Chinese class, we are really not learning the Chinese characters. That is why many foreigners just try to learn only how to speak without learning how to write characters. Because it is really difficult even for Taiwanese and overseas Chinese. Some of them said some characters they themselves don’t know how to write.

In my own experience of learning mandarin, I found not only the word story is important to know, but also the logic for all words. For example, I can take the character meaning “small” and “big”. The character seems a person who is standing up. The small one keeps the arms closely to the body, and the other one with the arms stretched out, maybe to show that he’s the biggest one. The characters used for river is portrayed as flowing water formed by the union of little streams.

To sum up, I think it’s very important and interesting to learn Chinese. It’s very important because actually a lot of information is available in Chinese. In addition, many Asian products are available in the world market. I am referring to some Medicine, aquaculture products, some software systems and so on. This makes Asia become a very important part of the world. Finally, it’s very interesting to learn Chinese because it is the best way to understand the Chinese culture.

MACENAT Ronal

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