Originally, I hated learning that language.
I despised it.
I looked down on it.
I ridiculed it.
And I finally learned it (oh, and when it comes to Chinese, you never master it).
To make a long story short, I have been told to learn that language. I wanted to follow the trail of my tutor and do exactly as he did, which was going to Japan in order to learn Japanese. But my tutor who was an old-wise men replied to me:
“When I was young, 40 years-ago, it was something considerate and rational. However, Japan is now stuck in an economic dowturn for the last 20 years and assuredly, you might find yourself stuck in a position where nobody will be looking for your hard-worked fluency. Follow my advice: go to China and make their language yours.”
So I did the first thing that you have to understand about Asian culture: you shut up and then you start working. Working hard. And you don’t complain. Never complain.
I took some classes in university, but the difficulty was marshmallow-esque. Learning a few words there and there. A few characters on a mostly empty sheet of paper. It was clearly not sufficient enough and I was seeking for something more challenging. In fact, I don’t count those 3 university-level classes as “learning Chinese” and neither should you.
So, while I was doing my bachelor in Canada, I had the chance to do a student exchange program. Surprisingly, I landed in the most famous language university of Mainland China: 北京外国语大学 (běijīngwàiguóyǔdàxué) which could be described as a cross-over between Gossip Girls and your favorite Chinese TV reality show. There were pretty girls all over the place, tennis courts, diplomatic corp cars, pre-drink events, bar fights, 等等. Life over there was a constant party and I discovered a side of China that I never expected.
During that year, my Chinese fluency did improve, but it wasn’t enough. However, my exchange did resume and I had to go back home.
However, despite the fact that my body was physically back to Montreal, my mind was still in China. In fact, I was craving to go back to China. I spent (wasted) one year in Canada in order to finish my bachelor degree in international relationship and then, I immediately rushed back to China last September, with a full-scholarship in my pocket (life is sometimes very sweet).
This year, it has been a though year. I had to improve from HSK 3 to HSK 5 in one year. To give you an idea, this is approximately 2000 words and several hundreds of sentence patterns that I had to learn in one year. But gosh, what a thrill!
For the first months, I was obviously the weakest student in my class. To put it simply, I was weaker than pretty much everybody else. But I shut up and started working hard. Like real hard. Like harder than I ever worked in my life.
And it has paid off. In two days, I am about to pass my HSK 5. I have crammed my way through those 2000 words and my listening skills have developed exponentially. No matter if I pass or fail this exam, I know that I have truly won over the hardest year of my life since my major depression 8 years-ago.
In fact, I had:
– my first relationship and my first broke-up;
– my first travel from Beijing to Bangkok where I came back with a positive balance in my bank account;
– learned how to do humour in Chinese;
– found out what I wanted to do in my life;
– managed to find out how to break pretty most every Chinese administration rules;
– discovered a business partner and a friend while couchsurfing;
– recovered from a drug-induced depersonalization (and got rid of a false friend);
– and discovered that after all, this language gives me a purpose in life.
So yeah, this is what I think about Mandarin.
Probably the hardest language to learn.
Definitely the most frustrating one.
But also, the most rewarding one.