This past week the company I’m with met together as a whole. Our entire company in one place. I say entire, which sounds like a lot, but there are about 20 of us … words can be deceiving. Anyway, our whole company was here, which was great because I was able to meet people working in various parts of China. Getting to know them, hear their stories, and spend the better part of a week with them was great. We had two different guest speakers at our meetings. Both were a wealth of knowledge on being in a foreign land for extended period of time. They both said things that made my mind race, big ideas start coming to the front of my mind, and really challenged me in a few areas.
One of the speakers, who has lived on China for 16 years, briefly mentioned language and communication. He talked about being effective communication, in the form of speaking the language. My heart dropped. I have come here wanting to teach my mother language and expecting to learn the language by day to day interaction and very little studying. It is a difficult task, learning a new language, no matter which route is taken. But it hit me hard, to be affective in anything here, be it buying vegetables, communicating with students who do not understand the directions clearly, or the guard of my building … to be effective, I have to be able to communicate. It doesn’t matter what it is I’m trying to communicate, I have to speak the language to do that.
So, I’ve started being “smarter” about how I learn the language. I downloaded an app for my iPad (the HSK 1 Vocabulary List) to go through in the evenings. Started using the language software I have on my computer, and have had since my goal of learning 1 word of each language represented in the office I used to work for – it was an international office (Before You Know It, http://www.byki.com). I made index cards of the pinyin of vocabulary and use my 30 minute commute to and from most places to practice reading and pronunciation.
Usually I set small goals to reach a larger goal. So my current goal is to take the HSK 1 test after being in China for 1 year. This is for the larger goal of effective communication. If I study a little each day, force myself to speak a little more Chinese every day, and work on learning the characters of the few things I already know (not hard to do when every one and every thing is in Chinese around me) I can eventually meet my goal of effective communication.
You can never 100% know everything about any language. It is impossible. But, it shouldn’t stop you, me, anyone from trying to be an effective communicator with those we are near.