Tag Archives: learning Chinese

I Want to Dream in Chinese!

Image published in the New York Times with book review of "Dreaming in Chinese." Click here to read the review!

So I think I’m hitting a wall with my Chinese: I practice and practice and practice, and yet still, when given the option to speak English, I take it.  And I think that if I keep this up, in time, I will merely be speaking English-with-a-little-Chinese, and not a-lot-of-Chinese-with-some-English-every-now-and-then to keep me sane.

So then this NY Times book review came along (thanks, Kim!), of a book called “Dreaming in Chinese,” by Deborah Fallows.  When I read this book review over the weekend, I was struck by the cultural connotations and expectations implicit in each language.  Also, I definitely want to read the book!  And as I did my grammar homework last night, I began to realize that I was reaching the cliff of literal translation– at a certain point, trying to get a direct translation of this phrase, pattern, or grammatical structure is going to obscure and inhibit the sense that I was trying to make by learning the language at all.  Today, we went over the grammar structures, and they began to feel more natural and smooth in conveying a universal meaning, even if we would choose much different English phrases to say equivalent things.

So I think I’m going to take the language plunge and jump off the cliff: go for immersion and speak only Mandarin for 2 weeks! Continue reading

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Ting Xie: Or, how I stopped worrying and learned to love Chinese characters

Ting Xie, Ting Xie, where for art thou Ting Xie?  Deny thy stroke order and refuse thy shape; or if thou wilt not, but be sworn my pinyin and I’ll no longer be a Chinese student.

Clearly, studying has gone to my head and loosened some screws. It has also tightened others– namely, the ones that help me remember the way to write Chinese characters, the same way every time, so that I can produce them on command when I hear them. And that is the essence of “Ting Xie” (聽寫), or in English, dictation (The literal translation is “listen, write”).

I have done a little dictation before in French, but this is a completely different ball game.  In my Chinese class, we write pinyin (romanized spelling of the pronunciation), tones (1 of 4, or none), and draw the characters.  I prepare by looking up every character’s stroke order, and then practicing each character 5-15 times, as well as writing and reading all of the possible sentences and phrases we might be tested on.

It is a fairly tedious way to study– however, inexplicably, it works.   Continue reading

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Weeks in Review in Photos: The Sacred and the Profane


In the last two weeks I have seen many parts of Taipei– the trappings of daily life and the beautiful natural resources and cultural offerings, such as Yangming Shan and Longshan Temple.

At both places, I was overwhelmed with the sense of being part of something much larger than me– the hundreds of years of spiritual history at Longshan Temple permeated the air as powerfully as the incense, and the vistas at Yangming Shan reminded me that Taiwan is also a country of diverse landscapes and breathtaking beauty, not just the backdrop for Taipei’s bustling cosmopolitan center. Continue reading

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Week in Review in Photos: The Fruit and the Commute

Hey there folks, it’s hard to believe another week has veritably flown by!  This week was marked by the start of my Chinese class at Zheng Da– which included mind-blowing panic about my ability to speak, understand, and learn this fine language–some delicious meals, a trip to the Taipei IKEA and other adventures with my roommate, interesting new people, intense bus rides, and in just the last 2 days, Fulbright Orientation!  The latter was particularly exciting because it felt like a real kick-off to the year. And there are some amazing people doing research grants, teaching assistantships, and faculty exchanges.

Anyway, the majority of this week’s photo highlights can really be summed up by two categories: eating cool new Taiwanese fruit, and commuting to class and back! Continue reading

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Zai Zheng Da (政治大學)


I’m now a student at the Chinese Language Center of National Chengchi University! Talk about a mouthful. But calling it “Zheng Da” helps—short for Zheng Zhi (政治 Chengchi) Da Xue (大學 University)–and makes me feel so in the know around the Taiwanese academic circuit. (There’s also Shi Da, Tai Da, among other major universities around the city.) Last week, I spent a few days on campus—doing the fun orientation stuff, the tedious bureaucratic stuff, and just walking around and getting comfortable there. My Chinese class for foreigners, located in the International Building on “upper campus,” starts later today.

As for Zheng Da, I love it! The campus is near the MRT stop called Taipei Zoo, which is in the southeast corner of Taipei, so it’s much more rural than the middle of the city. Continue reading

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Week in Review in Photos

Hello, dear blog readers!  As I write this, I have finished my first full week in Taiwan. So far, I have found Taipei to be wonderfully accessible, vibrant, and welcoming. This week, I successfully moved into an apartment in Taipei where I will stay for a year during my Chinese language class and research fellowship. I registered for my class that will begin on Monday.  I’ve even made some friends, and have pushed myself to speak, listen, observe, and experience the world past my comfort zone.

So here’s a little week in review in some favorite photos not yet posted: Top Five Things that Have Made Life in Taipei Easier and Fun. Continue reading

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Language DOES Shape How I Think… I think

Photo by eSonic, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

To continue in the thread of learning languages– this time without eating– I read this interesting claim in the New York Times Magazine this week: While your native language, or langue maternelle, does not inhibit one’s understanding of the world, it may, shape it in subtle ways.  As Guy Deutscher, author of the article “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?”, argues, “If different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.”

Is that so? Continue reading

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