Okay, anyhow; Chinese language learning is quite tough. But, in some ways, I’m glad I haven’t given up. I just wanted to discuss my motivation, which really comes from a strong passion toward the Chinese language.
One of my biggest goals is to be able to work in China, or to be able to travel in China after graduating college. It comes from the fact that, growing up in the United States, I’ve become really sheltered that I am willing to put in hours of reading and listening to be able to develop an ability to listen to the Chinese language.
In some ways, this has become my biggest focus, sometimes even more than my transportation and urban planning interests. While I occasionally hop onto Korean when I need a break from Chinese, I’ve developed a love for the language that is insatiable, trying to bump into a lot of vocabulary as possible.
For example, I watched Au Revoir Taipei today and learned the character 房间 (fang2jian1), or room; I learned the character for look,找 (zhao3)，and saw it in the context 他找你，or He is looking for you. I also learned the characters for borrow, 借 (jie4), and reading books (读书, du2shu1). The first character, 读，is a combination of the radicals for word, earth, and head, which implies that reading is a combination of taking in knowledge of the world around you? I’ve learned 进去，(which means to enter, jin4qu4). The first character is a combination of the radicals road and well.
Anyhow, it’s the beauty of the language, the desire to learn more, which keeps me going, so that someday, I will have the proper vocabulary (and grammar) to be able to comprehend and communicate with other Chinese in China.
I think this book, Tuttle: Learning Chinese Characters, has been very successful in igniting my Chinese character word building.
Used in conjunction with listening and watching Chinese movies, dramas, and other forms of medium, Learning Chinese Characters is a book I always carry around with me. I open this book practically every two/three hours when I need a break from my work, and I need an excuse to learn Chinese vocabulary. This has to be in conjunction with Chinese media (I never use flash cards to learn Chinese, as I find this takes too much effort to make) .
I must mention, as a disclaimer, that I am at an advantage. After reading this book, I noticed that I knew a lot of the characters up to Chapter 8 or Chapter 10. Because I am a Cantonese speaker, and my parents always watched Mandarin television, I have the extra advantage of being able to recognize these characters before-hand, so it makes it easier for me to remember these characters. In other words, my means of remembering these characters are constant exposure to Chinese medium, as well as noticing that Chinese characters are basically a combination of previous characters/radicals.
Another form of motivation I use is — if I decide to go into the planning profession in China — I try my best to get urban planning literature in Chinese. Hopefully, these books have pictures to help guide what the heck I am exactly reading; if I recognize a character, I try to write it down on the side, noting that I saw it.
Anyhow, going outside my comfort zone:
It’s quite difficult to make time for me to learn Chinese; I have obligations and commitments to pursue. The way I see it is that, it is scary to devote a huge amount of time into learning a language, but I feel that the challenge is worth pursuing because the benefits outweigh the risks:
I learn how to communicate with other people from different cultures; I learn discipline, motivation, study habits, retention methods. I learn to follow my heart, and work my butt off; getting outside of my comfort zone is the purpose of life and learning new things. Learning Chinese teaches me not to be content in life, and allows me to always seek knowledge.