MandarinFromScratch greetings from Germany!

The first day of the orientation phase for the East Asian Studies department - that's me in the blue jacket enjoying a glass of Sekt under the word "SEMINAR" and basking in the glory of Olli's sign-holding skills... 🙂

After a long absence from my blog during my transition from San Diego back to Göttingen, I finally have the time and the right mindset to start writing again. I’ve come back to Germany to study Spanish Literature and Chinese Studies at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, the same university where I studied German Studies and Linguistics through UC Berkeley’s Study Abroad Program from 2005-2006. The eventual goal is to get a Master’s in Translation Studies from the University of Heidelberg with the working languages German, Spanish, and Chinese, but to that end I have to get my Spanish and Chinese up to the level of my German, and I thought the best way to do that would be by going back to school in Germany, where education is actually affordable…

Everybody keeps telling me I’m nuts for studying two languages at the same time, but in my case it’s not as hectic as it sounds because I tested into Spanish 6 (German-Spanish translation), which means I don’t have to do any of the language classes that are normally a part of the study program. The added benefit is that I have more time to dedicate to Mandarin, which I’ve been trying to listen to at every opportunity (between 1-3 hours per day is the goal) since the semester started on the 24th of October. When I’m at home in my room (like right now for example), I always have my ChinesePod, CSLPod, PopUpChinese, and ChinesePod101 podcasts running in the background, and when I leave the house I immediately put in my headphones to continue listening.

This is especially important now that I have 12 hours of Mandarin “class” every week, which includes grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, writing practice and a tutorial. Why? Because, absurdly and as I expected, they want you to start speaking from the very first day, not to mention “memorize” vocabulary and “practice” your pronunciation. Fortunately I’ve listened to almost 130 hours of Mandarin at this point so I’m already familiar with the vocabulary in all the 14 chapters of our book New Practical Chinese Reader 1, so I spend my time in class practicing writing the (traditional!) characters from the book that are already uploaded on and reading Remembering Traditional Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters (I bought the recently published German translation as an extra challenge), both of which I recommend to anyone who is really serious about their Chinese or Japanese studies.

I don’t mind so much that I’m expected to “practice speaking” in class because we only practice the dialogues from the book, which I’ve been listening to in addition to my podcasts on a daily basis, which means I can “hear” the correct pronunciation in my head when we’re repeating the dialogues, as opposed to others who have not had as much exposure. I can’t wait till we get to Chapter 7 and stop with the “phonetics practice” though, because I think it’s boring and a waste of time to “practice” saying different syllables and tones when you have no idea what, if anything, the words mean, nor, in most of the others case, have you had any real exposure to the language!

The Chinese Studies program includes a semester abroad in your 3rd year, and by then my goal is to have listened to over 1000 hours of Mandarin, which means a minimum of 1.5 hours per day over the next 2 years, hopefully reaching an HSK level of at least 4 by that time. I’ll keep you posted 😉