learning the language

I love languages. Always have; probably always will. Although I think my aptitude for learning has decreased slightly since my infant days of rapid brain development, I still find the pursuit of acquiring language an engaging and exciting endeavor.

We have Chinese class once a week here. It’s not really enough, but being surrounded by and immersed in the language has helped as well.

Back home, before I ever tried to learn Mandarin, I would watch a lot of Chinese films. Jackie Chan was a featured name on our movie shelves. My family would always watch with subtitles (dubbed, ugh). Chinese in those days just sounded like a bunch of nonsense and “sh” sounds. I couldn’t pick it apart at all. Once I got interested in linguistics, I learned to recognize certain languages easily. The Romance languages parceled themselves out easily in my brain, probably as they are fairly similar to English.

But Chinese wasn’t like that until I came to Taiwan. Because I’ve been learning it, and because I’m living surrounded by it, the words have coalesced into distinct parts. Even though I know probably less than 300 words, I can tell what is a word and what is a phrase. My brain feels like it’s on the cusp of understanding everything, like if I could just find the key and turn it, everything would make sense.

It’s becoming clearer every day, and most of the time, with a combination of context, facial expressions, and gestures, I can get the gist of what’s being said. It’s fantastic and satisfying. Even the characters are making more sense.

So here’s to language acquisition, and the pursuit of understanding!

Tidbit: yesterday we had our tutoring session. It was the goat lesson. See, the character “mei,” which means beautiful, and which makes up the first part of “America” (meiguo), is comprised of two characters: “goat” and “big.” So a big goat is beautiful (obviously, right?), and America is the “big goat” or “beautiful” country. Hmmm….



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