One of the many items on my bucket list is to be fluent in another language. I didn’t have the luck of being born in Europe where it seems like babies are born speaking a minimum of three languages. And even though I grew up in Miami, I was a stubborn teenager who didn’t take advantage of the wealth of culture and language around me. If I had the drive I have now, I would definitely be fluent in Spanish.
During college, my goal was to speak Japanese fluently. After studying for 4 years and living in Tokyo for a semester, I got sort of close. When I moved to San Francisco, away from my Japanese and Japanophile friends, I began forgetting the language day by day. I am still a little heartbroken about my lost ability.
I can’t really explain the origin of my desperate desire to be fluent in another language. Maybe it’s because I have always wanted to be a jetsetter and world traveler since I was 5. As a kid, anything outside of America drove me wild with fascination, especially Asian languages and cultures.
Deciding to Study Chinese
The nudge to study Chinese, after a year or so debating if I should, finally came during the holidays when my fiancé’s family and friends visited us in San Francisco. We were eating dinner, enjoying delicious Xi’an food, and everyone was having a very lively and funny conversation. The problem was that it was all in Mandarin and I didn’t understand a word.
I sat there thinking about how badly I wanted to be a part of the conversation and how now, living in San Francisco and dating a Chinese man (now engaged :D), was the perfect time to start.
I have been studying Chinese for over a year now (Mandarin to be specific) and can say basic sentences, express simple feelings, and understand a bit when spoken to very slowly haha. However, I am far far away from my goal of being fluent.
For anyone else wanting to learn Chinese, or any language for that matter, below are the resources I currently use. Hao hao xuexi!
Resources for Learning Chinese (or any language)
Everyone learns differently and it’s important to understand what works best for you. For me, I need a classroom environment with a native speaking teacher. I am not the type of person that can easily learn on my own and I also find having access to a native speaker to teach me the nuances in a language to be very important. I thrive very well in classrooms and found the best Chinese language school in San Francisco.
KaiXin Language School is a privately owned small Chinese school in downtown SF. Twice a week I go to class after work and get to learn from the best language teacher I’ve ever had and the coolest classmates you can imagine. Everyone studying at KaiXin language schools loves Chinese culture, good food, and traveling :D.
A Good Dictionary
My best friend while studying Japanese was probably my little dictionary I carried around at all times. My new best language partner is Pleco, a Chinese dictionary app. Pleco has a wide array of features including multiple dictionaries for purchase and a flash card feature for studying and practicing.
When I’m not in class, I like to listen to Chinese podcasts while on Muni or walking. My favorite Chinese podcast thus far has been Chinese Pod. They have a lot of content and lesson for whatever level you’re at.
A close second would be Pimsler Chinese lessons. While not a podcast, they are also great to listen to while walking or on the bus.
TV and Movies
I won’t lie, part of my interest in Asian languages comes from my joy of Asian dramas. Studying and learning a language is hard. So if you’re debating between what languages you’d like to learn, ask yourself which language would you prefer to watch tv or a movie in? Having that extra motivation will help you stick to it.
Watching movies and dramas in Chinese is also very helpful. The more Chinese I learn the more I start to understand while watching shows. Shows also teach you more casual words and sayings. My favorite site for Chinese shows and tv would be viki.com and dramafever.com.
I have not attended an immersion school before but it’s a recent addition to my bucket list. I’d love to have the opportunity to fast forward my studying by being able to attend a 2 month immersion program. I recently met someone who attended a Chinese immersion school for 8 weeks without ever studying Chinese beforehand and she was almost fluent afterwards. It’s definitely something to consider while learning a language.
I’ve been incredibly happy ever since I signed up for my first Chinese class. Studying other languages and getting one step closer to a life goal just makes me feel accomplished and delighted. I love linguistics. I am obsessed with different grammars, colloquialism, and how languages are an extension of culture. Studying Chinese just fills my soul with joy. There is nothing more satisfying than being immersed in another culture and being able to laugh along to a joke.
What language have you always wanted to study?