Monday, April 22, 2013

Wo Hui Shuo Yi Dian Dian Zhongwen!

That means, "I can speak a little bit of Chinese!" Back when I still lived in Shanghai, I used to modestly respond in this way when curious cab drivers, students, and miscellaneous people on the street asked if I could speak their language. However, the truth of the matter was that I really could speak more than just a little bit of Chinese; actually, my Chinese was quite good! This is thanks to a decent foundation from independent study between college and joining my current job, followed by ten months of intensive Chinese training before my posting to Shanghai. Then, as a visa officer in Shanghai, I used my language abilities to interview up to 200 visa applicants each day! Hard to forget Chinese with all that talking going on daily.

Unfortunately, since moving to Botswana, my Chinese has rapidly gone downhill. There is quite a large Chinese population here, but up until recently I haven't had much opportunity to get to know any of them and scrub some of the mold off my language skills. Nowadays I really can speak only a little bit of Chinese!

Recently though I've found an opportunity to maintain my Chinese, which I am quite excited about. Scott is taking evening language classes at the Confucius Institute (a Chinese educational import that is present at universities in most countries around the world) and so I jumped at the chance to attend his Chinese language corner with the rest of the CI students a couple of weeks ago. At the language corner, his teacher and I had a nice time visiting, and she agreed to become my language partner (yay). So now she and I meet once a week or so and she puts up with me while I try to dust off the cobwebs and remember all the vocabulary I used to know. It's quite fun, and I didn't even realize how much I missed speaking Chinese... or how much I'd forgotten! I've been surprised at how much is flooding back into my brain after just a couple of sessions. It's all still in there, just needs to be revived.

She and I (petite Chinese woman and very tall blonde) get some odd looks while we are walking around UB laughing and speaking in Chinese together, but oh well!  And, after our lessons, I always get hungry for Chinese food and end up missing Shanghai just a little bit. :)

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