When it comes to building relationships, we all go about it very differently.
For many of us, relationship happens through conversation. Do you remember the last really good conversation you had with someone? It’s no coincidence that that person is most likely someone you would consider a friend – either that or you’re really good at making conversation with strangers!
Having trouble making friends in China? Let me introduce you to the English corner!
I’m referring to a typically informal gathering where you’ll participate with anywhere from a handful to a hundred Chinese students, most of whom are eager to practice their English-speaking skills with you. Those whose English isn’t as strong will still join in the conversation, especially if they have a friend with good oral English skills.
Lest this all sound pretty straight-forward to you, let me warn you that there will likely be a few curve balls that get thrown your way. In order to help prepare you for the chaos that may ensue, I’ve compiled a list of five things that you should be aware of before diving into an English corner!
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.