Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Started back with my old tutor. I have been putting off for several years, because one-to-one teaching is getting a little more costly now, and I figured the self-teaching system I have been developing should be adequate to get me by for now. But during the break, I happened to run into my old tutor from Sinoland on the street in Wudaokou, and it got me thinking about getting back to the classroom. The last time I studied with my tutor was back at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. I tried to go back and study with her in the fall of 2009, but she was too busy to take me, so I went to Tianying Xueyuan, which actually turned out to be a good choice, because this was right during the time I was leaving my job at Beihang, and I had more time than money. The cheap schools are not quite as time efficient as the more expensive schools, but if time is not a big issue, they are quite a bit cheaper, so that sorta makes up for it.

Anyway, as I said, I ran into my old tutor, and this got me started thinking about going back to school. Just a short time later, I ran into the director of Tianying Xueyuan at exactly the same spot in Wudaokou. Hmmm...maybe the Lord is trying to tell me something. But I didn't want to go to Tianying Xueyuan, becuase my previous teacher didn't work there anymore. So I went to Sinoland to see if I could meet my tutor. I walked into the office on the 20th floor of the Bank of China building, and the receptionist regonized me. She called back to my tutor, "Marx is here to see you." She happened to have an open time slot that worked for me, so I decided to go back to school for awhile. Once a week for two hours. I spoke with her briefly about what book we should use. I told her I still had the purple book we were using. She said, "Yes, I believe we were on Lesson Three." The lady has a ood memory. That was four years ago. Yesterday,as I was riding the suway, whom should I run into by my teacher from Tianying Xueyuan. The one who doesn't work there anymore. Turns out she married the French guy she was going with when I was her student back in fall of 2009 and Spring of 2010, and she is going to have a baby. She didn't major in teaching English to foreigners like my tutor did, but she did major in Chinese language and literature. Alos, she doesn't speak English, and she's quite talkative, and that's a pretty good combination if you have a little Mandarin under your belt, so that she doesn't need to talk down to you too much.

I have always been working toward the point where I can just teach myself, and not have to put that much into it. It's not that I don't like going to classes. I do, but if Chinese language study becomes my whole life, I could end up defeating the very purpose for which I am learning it. I have so many other things I need to studying. So I have tended to draw back a bit recently. Technically, it is impossible to stand perfectly still in your learning. So the only way to guarantee that you are not losing what you have learned, is to verifiy that you are moving forward (albeit ever so slightly) at a measurable pace. So I figured if I could be sure I was always learning something, I could relax my language study a bit and focus on other things.

But there's one problem. Since I am not a native speaker, I have to be careful about putting n American twist on my speech. The problem with living in Beijing is that I don't speak Chinese that much. I work with students who speak English and need to speak English. That's actually a good thing in a way, because if you put too much emphasis on speaking right away, you will tend to reinforce wrong speech patterns. People in Beijing are generally pretty good at figuring out what foreigners are trying to say, and most of the time they won't correct you. So the key is to spend a lot of time listening. But it's also good to have a teacher who is trained to recognize and correct wrong patterns of speech.

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