My landlord pulled a fast one. At least, I think he did. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when your dealing with a complex issue using a second language.
All the different areas of life use different types of language. I could know how to order food, but not understand how to buy pants. These are like “language pockets” of the mind. Some people have many pockets, like a serious winter jacket. Other’s only a few.
I guess my Chinese isn’t at a high enough level where I really need to worry about specific areas. I would say though that these kinds of specializations form themselves based on the things that you are doing everyday.
I, for example, know a lot of words about simple office supplies, education, and study abroad programs. I also know about food.
A lot of foreigners have a significant other that is a Chinese national. Maybe they have a really good Chinese friend. I don’t. I have Chinese friends, sure, but not people that I want to constantly ask to help me talk with my landlord or order water.
That’s good. It means that I get to use the language more. I don’t have the “lexical crutch” of always asking my girlfriend to take the phone and translate.
Of course that means I run into trouble more. Even if my language is OK, there is always the cultural layer. Sometimes it’s just that I don’t understand the Chinese way of doing things. But, once again, this is a good thing. The more that I realize I don’t understand, the more I actually learn.
In concrete language terms I learn a lot by being my own first point of contact with the “system” in China. For example, just today I learned the word 押金, ya1jin1, or deposit. Other words for things like landlord, real estate agent, and police have also come to me this way.
I love it. It’s the way you really learn a language.
I am also doing a bit of self study. Most days of the week I try to write ten new words, their pinyin, and three different sentences using the word. Then I test my memory of the words. (Always using characters, of course.) Finally I write the words down again.
When I first started this method a couple of weeks ago I saw immediate improvement. I think that was because I took a gap of about two months between then and my HSK level four.
I took it because it felt like I was just burned out on the whole studying thing. But after a while your mind starts to wander and you wonder what you are doing in a foreign country if you are not studying the language. So, I abandoned my dream of becoming a tortured novelist (for the time being), and I returned to copying down characters in my free time.
Now after about three weeks of it, I am starting to feel the old fatigue. The kind of feeling which happens when you just start to go through the motions and you lose out on all of that beauty from before. I don’t know. At least that’s how it feels to me sometimes.
I guess the point of all this is to say that, for me, learning a language is multifaceted. The most important thing is to practice the four core skills, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The more diversity I get in these areas, the more I am going to learn.
Now, if could just learn how to gauge the trustworthiness of a real estate company I would be golden.