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July 25, 2020

Learning Chinese in 1 Year: Is It Enough?

           Learning new language is one of my favorite things. As an Indonesian that live outside Jakarta (and some areas in Sumatra), I've been introduced with at least two languages as a child, Javanese as local language, and Indonesian as national language. I've been learning Arabic too since I was 7 years, because my religion need me to learn it to understand everything about Islam. English has always been mandatory subject since middle school. I've been self-learning some Portuguese. Then of course I have to mention this: six months of Russian course last year, but still really far from even for having courage to start talking. What I want to say is learning new language is not something new to me.

         The last thing is Chinese. To be honest, not in million years that I thought I will learn this language. This is because my master program will be taught in Chinese, so this if kind of forced. That's what I thought before. Now that I've learned it for one years, I kind of like it. It is interesting language. Some parts are easier than other languages, some parts are way harder. I've been enjoying my time learning this language for one year. However, is it enough? This is my thought about it.

The book I used during the first semester.

           I studied Chinese at The International School of Tongji University for two semesters. The first semester I learned 4 subjects: Elementary Chinese, Oral Chinese, Listening Comprehension, and Chinese Character. I can say that after 1 semester, my Chinese ability is still far away from perfect. I still remember that when I and my friend were ordering the cakes for our class' garden party, I still need to call my laoshi (read: teacher) to say that we will take the cakes the day after. At least, I can speak basic and simple sentence like 我去超市买东西 (I go to supermarket buy things), order the food on canteen even with my hand points here and there with my mouth says 这个 (this) and 那个 (that), and knowing some histories about how some character is formed like 上 (up) and 下 (down) based on the sun over and below the horizon. At that time, I still have a hard time pronouncing some hard pronunciations, like 'zh', 'ch', 'z', 'c', 'q', 'j', 'x', and distinguishing the tones, especially the second and the third tone. And, damn, I even have to look up to dictionary how to pronounce number 6 until 9. Yes, I'm bad at these. The grammar part, I'm really good though. This helped me a lot, because the second semester focuses on grammar.

           The second semester I fixed a lot of things. My pronunciations are getting better, my tones are really good, and, of course, I can count 1 until 10 now! The most difficult part is (are) the grammar(s). Thankfully, as I said before, grammar is not my weakest. So, I understand them. Starting with 了,就,才, some complements like complement of result, duration, direction, and potentiality, until how to make passive sentence. It boosted my confidence to start talking. Will be easily forgotten though, so need some review and practice from time to time. What I like the most about second semester is how I improved my writing skill. I can write an essay about some topics using particular grammar. My vocabulary is still limited, though. I learned a lot of them, but I always forget right after that. Again, need more review and practice. Most important thing is I can pass HSK 4 this semester. Something I need for my master program requirement.

One of essay I made. This one is about my daily activites.

         So, is it enough to learn Chinese in a year? I'd say: yes or no. It depends on the goals. If it just for everyday life, i think it's enough. You can start conversation with Chinese people, you can do bargain at supermarket, you can order food at the restaurant, you can read important information on the street, and you can understand some announcements at the metro station. For studying master program? I'd say need more time. You still need to know specific word from your study program, still need to understand how to discuss on specific topic, still need to practice how to choose some words and how to use it: is it polite to say the word with, let's say, your professor. The list goes on. So, back to your need. Regardless your goal, learning Chinese is interesting.


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