It’s been more than a year since my last Mandarin lesson and now that I am exposing myself to the language through Chinese/Taiwanese music and TV shows, I can say that my interest in the language is just growing. I’ve been trying to learn lots of new words and I also learned how to read some commonly used characters too. But then, I knew that studying by myself can only go so far, so last month I enrolled for a class in a school near our home. Everything’s going well so far and I’m really enjoying my classes!
The school offers Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Chinese classes and these courses are further divided into several levels. Since I haven’t tried their classes before, I wasn’t sure which level I should be in. They gave me an assessment test (which I think was a mock exam or simulation test for the HSK, or the Chinese Language Proficiency Test) and I was placed in Basic Chinese 4. But then, I still didn’t know how to read and write. I also felt like they had a more advanced curriculum which would make it difficult for me to catch up so in the end, I decided to enroll in Basic Chinese 2 to review my grammar and enhance my vocabulary.
It turns out that I made the right decision in choosing the level; Basic 2 was perfect for me since I get to review what I already learned and at the same time learn lots of new words and grammar rules. The class is heavily focused on conversational language and improving our pronunciation. It’s also a nice bonus that the teacher also offers cultural backgrounds of some terms in the language, and even teaches us the Taiwanese equivalent of some words. It’s really useful because I am traveling to Taiwan in a few months and I can’t wait to use the stuff I learned.
Although we’re still not learning how to read and write, the class materials have Chinese characters written on them along with the pinyin (the phonetic spelling of Chinese words using the Latin alphabet), which means that I can learn how to read on my own as early as now. I was a bit weirded out in the beginning though because we are being taught simplified characters, while I was more exposed to traditional characters due to my habit of watching Taiwanese dramas. Oh well, I am learning both forms, though I can only write simplified as of now.
I am really happy because I am making lots of progress and I am actually enjoying what I am doing. I hope I get to continue these classes and maybe someday I can travel and be able to talk to others in Mandarin!