The “Why Am I Here” Talk

This week has been crazy rough for Chinese studies. The vocabulary isn’t sticking in my head, and much worse there are moments where every single word and sentence pattern I should know slips from my mind at the worst conceivable times. Normally, I don’t like letting on that I have issues when it comes to studying and retaining, but this is a blog about musings and should also therefore be something that points to growth on the behalf of the writer. My method of study is really weak, I tend to just aggressively attack whatever material I have for absolutely way too long stretches of time. I do sprints, not marathons. It’s not a good way to go about it because it lacks any sense of pace. I’ve also managed to kill the fun out of studying and developing a new language. What standards am I working against? I am at ICLP to learn and develop the skills to learn and speak Chinese, yet I feel as if I have broken, shattered my brain into a thousand pieces and in the process am left wondering why I decided on Chinese. It seems like a stupid question now, I do it because I find joy in it, yet like I said before I put a hold on the fun bus and have no idea how to turn off the parking brake and get myself back down the road. As I walked home from school I just felt all this frustration well up inside me. If you can picture it, you have all these thoughts and desires to share with the world around you, but imagine not being able to communicate even a basic thought, an idea. That’s where I’m at. It’s a shame because I am in the perfect place to train. The only thing that is keeping me from flourishing in Chinese is myself.

Have you ever wanted to loosen up on your own standards but found that the process of trying to loosen only caused you to clamp up even worse? It’s a matter I’ve been struggling with big time. It seems like it would be easy to say, okay I am going to speak Chinese, yet it has not come to me as easily as I assumed it would. Tones have been ridiculously hard and my one-on-one class has become a battlefield where I am constantly misfiring and speaking language in sputters. I normally don’t touch on religious matters on this space because it has a much more focused slant, but I felt and still feel called to study Chinese. If my Christian slant has ruffled feathers, oh well, I’m not going to deny my own right to believe. Bah focus on topic!! My mind’s just flooded with all this new material without a good way of accessing it. It comes down to, okay yes this is an intensive environment, but what can I do to file and access all of the newly gained information? Speaking has been difficult since now I am constantly aware that 9 times out of 10 I have the wrong tone, which is a huge, huge deal in speaking Chinese. When trying to speak I have a tendency to speak it as if it were English and add emphasis on certain words, thus taking its proper tone away. What can I do to internalize tones? It’s a difficult puzzle that I have yet to even begin to crack. Any thoughts?

As to my sudden why am I here crisis, I am not particularly worried about that. I believe it happens to anyone who hits a brick wall in their studies. You look back, having thought you made great progress, and are forced to ask concerning what you achieved. The fact is, I want to speak Chinese, learn more about and research the historical events within China, and of course make new friends in my travels. It’s what I have to work with right now. I intend on holding on to that. So what can I do to lighten up on myself and break down the mental barriers? Thoughts?

While writing this, I can hear people in an apartment right across from mine fighting. It’s weird I can actually understand what the man is yelling about. Wow…maybe there is hope for me after all.


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