Asians are everywhere. Sometimes it seems like we’re taking over the world.
But just because we’re Asian doesn’t make us all alike. Lots of us are descendants of immigrants who came to Western countries to start a new life. And so our culture is often vastly different from that of our parents or our grandparents.
Convenience is something we all enjoy.
Instant noodles. High-speed wireless internet. Short commuting distances. We like all of these things because they make our lives a little bit easier.
Though we might not realize it, this pursuit of convenience is deeply engrained in all of us. So much, in fact, that we will often base our decisions on whether or not it is “convenient” for us. Why do we love convenience so much?
In many of our life endeavors, we will often face this thing we call the wall. For long-distance runners, this is that moment when they’re so tired that they feel like they need to slow down or stop running altogether. Writers experience this wall in the form of “writer’s block” where they feel like they’ve lost the ability to create.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/JPott
I hit a wall earlier this week. But it wasn’t the wall I expected.
Have you ever started a long-term endeavor and then completely lost track of how and when you started? This is how I feel about my Chinese studies. Sometimes it seems like I’ve been going at it for about a year, while other times it seems like I just started yesterday.
Whatever the case may be, I’m convinced that learning a new language is one of the most rewarding processes you’ll ever go through. It’s difficult. It’s exhausting. But it’s not something you will ever regret.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/TheJuniorPartner
I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve learned already. And I’m not just talking about the Chinese language. Sometimes the true lesson isn’t what you learn in class, but what you learn in-between classes. That’s definitely been the case for me.
Here are six lessons that I’ve learned after six weeks of language learning:
I love playing games. Board games, real-time strategy computer games, video games…oh yeah, and sports, too.
Those who have played any sort of game with me know that I can be a pretty competitive person. I particularly enjoy the thrill of playing strategy games (e.g. Agricola, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, Starcraft, etc).
The only downside about being competitive is that I generally hate losing.
Being married has a funny way of helping you see your blind spots, and for me my overly competitive spirit was one of them. My wife and I even had to stop playing games with each other for a time since we’re both pretty competitive. Thankfully, we’re now able to enjoy the occasional game with each other, such as Tiny Wings or Ticket to Ride. (I highly recommend both!)
Along the way, I’ve learned a handful of things about winning and losing.
I don’t know about you, but for me that’s just a nicer way of saying, “That’s weird.”
There are so many things I see here that I generally throw into the “weird” category. Like the way taxi drivers drive at breakneck speeds, zipping in and around other cars without so much as a honk or turn signal. Or when three (or more) people try getting onto a bus at the exact same time. Or the way locals all tend to stop and stare at a car accident but do nothing to help.
It’s almost instinctual – to regard something as bizarre because it doesn’t align with any of my beliefs or experiences. My immediate response is often to accuse their actions or beliefs as being silly or dumb. In the moment, I believe they are at fault. They are clearly doing it wrong.
But what I’m forgetting in these instances is that I am the foreigner.
I’ll admit it. Studying a new language is hard.
During high school I spent about three years studying French. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take my classes more seriously. I can probably count with both my hands the number of things I can remember how to say en Français.
If you asked me why I didn’t study very hard, I’d say it was due to the fact that I had only had one specific motivation – to further my career. Where I grew up, speaking French was almost a requisite to get a decent job.
Now that I live in 中国 , I have plenty of reasons to learn the language.
Here’s one reason. I like food. Because the food here is so cheap, we eat out a lot. And I like knowing what I am about to order.
Yesterday evening, my wife and I went out for dinner to check out one of the 炒面 (stir fried noodles) shops that a friend recommended to us. Upon arrival, the restaurant owner asked us what we wanted to eat. There were about 30 items on the menu, and I recognized maybe 2 or 3 of them. So in my broken Mandarin, I attempted to order one of the few dishes that I could read: 番茄鸡蛋炒面 (fried noodles with egg and tomato).
Now my food ended being rather 好吃 (delicious). But for me it was the joy of understanding what I was about to order and successfully receiving what I wanted that was just as rewarding as the taste of my meal.
There are many more rewards that you will encounter upon learning another language! Here are 3 reasons why you should learn a new language.