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24. My Experience of Learning Mandarin

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.

When I came to Taiwan, learning Chinese was one of my goals but I have never imaged that I actually could do it. Almost everybody who comes to Taiwan will definitely study Chinese formally but let me tell you my personal story about how I learned mandarin. I am not truly an “easy languages’ learner” but it has been a nice experience learning bit of this amazing idiom, very hard though... Let’s start:

Before I came to Taiwan I was in “0” about my Chinese ability, but luckily I met a Taiwanese friend who by that time, was living in Bolivia. She taught me some words such as “xie xie” or “chi fan”. I had a list of around 30 useful items that would help me to face my life in Asia at the beginning, but… when I arrived to Taiwan I realized that I had forgotten not only the pronunciation of those words but also the list that contained the 30 items, so I was in “0” again. The first two weeks of my stay I and my friends took a small course of Chinese prepared by the organization we belonged: International Cultural Youth Exchange - ICYE. Around 15 Taiwanese young people and 15 foreign guys were living together where we called our “orientation camp”. We had 4 hours a day of Chinese class in which we learned mainly the five tones of the words. I remember playing games and repeating and repeating and repeating the tones until we almost fall asleep. The professor was a very young girl who made the two weeks course extremely funny. She tried to teach us useful vocabulary like the colors or fruits but honestly, the only thing I can remember from that time was: “the tones” pretty good actually, because later I found just few difficulties to pronounce the words.

It has been almost a year so far, and it really feels nice to be able to communicate in a country where the language is not the same as mine. The very first experience of learning Mandarin was during the orientation course, the first week in Taiwan. Since I was a kid, I have seen Mandarin language like something unreachable, but when we got here we saw the reality when we met a lot of foreigners speaking fluent Chinese or others trying very hard to learn it.


These are kind of things that really motivated me to learn it and pay too much attention even after you see a lot of little sticks making words.
I think that my personal experience has been like many other cases, even if I’m still a beginner in mandarin, I can honestly say that now is easier for me to leave in Taiwan, since I already know some.

I am curious about other cultures and I always wanted to learn other languages and this is the reason why I start to learn Portuguese and Italian. My native language is French but I also speak English and Spanish. While I was visiting Greece I catch some words in Greek but I never had the time to continue with it. .

My first experience of learning Mandarin was in the ICDF orientation that we have last August when we just arrived to Taiwan. I was excited to learn this new language and I was hoping that I will soon be able to talk with the people here. Those five (5) days that the teacher teaches us the basic of Mandarin was really instructive and interesting. I was discovering the “pinyin”, the tones and the characters and another exotic language. When the course ended I couldn’t wait to go to my university to continue my learning.
The teacher that we have, Cha laoshi, explains to us the difference in the teaching method of Mandarin, the Bopomofo and the hanyu pinyin. She also tells us a little bit of the Taiwanese culture. I was enjoying this class a lot and she was telling me that my Mandarin pronunciation was good.

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.