Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Character" Education

I have to be honest and say that for most of my first year of studying Chinese, I was completely clueless. It was all Greek to me! Haha! Seriously, I wondered if I was wasting a lot of time and money trying to learn a language that was far beyond my ability to learn and frankly, I was a little worried that it would never happen for me. By faith (and probably a little stubbornness) I just kept studying, listening, and believing that somehow, someway, it would all come together. Now that I have started my second year of language learning, I am happy to say that I really enjoy learning Mandarin, which is a big relief! I also love the opportunities it gives me to have deep level talks with my teachers. That is really a plus! Actually, Chinese characters makes a lot of sense in the way that they are formed-certainly a lot more sense than how English words are spelled or put together. For example, the Chinese word for home is Jia (written in Pinyin-the Romanized spelling of the character in Chinese) The top part (or radical) of the character represents the roof of a house. The lower part (or radical) of the character represents the pig which is found on the land where the house is. Put the two radicals together and it means “home.” It’s the place where your house and your livestock are. This makes reading and remembering characters easier. If you can learn the radical then you can figure out a lot about a characters and its meaning. Of course, I can remember and read a whole lot more than I can write, but understanding how characters are formed is helpful, and makes learning Chinese interesting, and kind of fun! Writing is a whole different story. Each character has a specific stroke order which must be done correctly, to form the character correctly. This is a very tedious process which takes hours and hours of practice. I know this is something that I really need to do to be proficient, but in the past I have been resistant to the idea. I tried it early on, but after several months of frustration I gave up. I decided that speaking was difficult enough, and although reading was within reach, writing was a totally unrealistic goal. Well, believe it or not I am slowly feeling prompted to change my mind on this. I think I was so overwhelmed my first year with transitioning to a new country, that the task of learning every facet of Chinese was daunting! I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the possibility of actually writing. I mean, come on! Success for me was speaking enough understandable Chinese to survive and get my everyday needs met! Phooey on whether or not it was pretty. A win was a win! Now I’m at the point where I realize that survival Chinese is not good enough! Yes, I can usually remember how to write my name in characters, but big deal! If I really want to be part of this culture and live here indefinitely, I need to embrace language to the fullest! No, I probably won’t be getting a Chinese character tatoo any time soon, but at least I will be able to read what is written on other peoples’ bodies! And if by chance I did decide to get one, I would get something meaningful, not something stupid that I couldn’t even read! So much of a culture is wrapped up in communicating both orally and in writing! Imagine what it would be like to live your life as a functional illiterate. That’s what it’s like for me right now! I can’t read a newspaper, a menu, street signs or a simple notice on my door. It’s really hard! Not only that, but think about what it would be like being illiterate in America. Think of all the things you would never know about American culture and American people if you couldn’t read the great books of literature like the Bible, the poets, and the historic accounts of how our nation was founded! Yes, I have been re-thinking this whole language idea. If I am here to love and serve the people of China, then I need to really show it in my language learning. For me, this is the true meaning of “Character” education! It will definitely develop my “character” as I literally learn to read and write Chinese characters and i am in the process of writing my own legacy here by the way I live my keep encouraging me to "Write on!"



Anonymous said...

I know you're a woman of great character! I continue to smile at all the great opportunities you're getting to encourage others as you journey thru this life adventure. Keep it up sis!

Barb said...

Love the analogy of applying Chinese character writing to developing personal character. BTW - speaking of Chinese characters that you don't know the meaning of, what is the Chinese character you have displayed?

Anonymous said...

You mean on the girls arm? It's "Wo" meaning I/Me/Mine and that would be stupid to put on your arm! Lindy

Barb said...

No, the character all by itself below it. What does that mean?