It has now been twelve years since I took my first trip to China, felt left out of conversations by my colleagues, and started studying Mandarin when I returned home. I managed to cobble together study materials by myself before Chinesepod came along. Since then Cpod lessons have formed the core of my study regimen, although, I have been augmenting with 《上下五千年》for the past couple years.
I left the company that had offices in China, and occasionally sent me there on business trips, a few years ago. So, I no longer have any career related reason to study Chinese. In fact, what Chinese I learned was seldom helpful to my job when I was there. However, I still keep at it.
For the last three years, I have somehow finagled my wife into travelling with me to China for our vacations. We’ve hit all the big name tourist spots, and have moved on to exploring less advertised locations. For example, last trip we explored Yunnan. Some people comment that it is strange that while my wife is the one who looks Chinese, it is I who speak.
In tourist type conversations, I manage to order something to eat at restaurants, get cabs to take us where we want, and so on, but it is painfully obvious that my Chinese has many imperfections. I’ve cultivated a network of net friends and teachers who I have more involved conversations with, and can bluster through most topics, but often have to work around gaps in what I know how to say. It is usually more of a surprise to people that I can read and write than that I can speak. However, reactions vary from none at all, to not hearing what I’m saying, because it is not expected to be Chinese.
The occasional grey hairs, from when I started, have taken over my head and you’d have to look closely to find any hairs that are still their original color.
I’m still current on every Intermediate and above CPod lesson, but have been haphazard about listening to all of the new elementary lesson dialogs. Cpod seems to be changing, too. There is a long list of users and team members who have come and gone, features, too. However, the lesson content is still very contemporary Chinese, and interestingly written. So, I’m still a moth drawn to the light.
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