5 Tips To Learn Chinese

I am talking about Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) here. After almost two years of studying I can survive in basic situations in everyday life. I can maintain a relationship using only Chinese.  But still I am in the beginning of my journey which will never end. My goal is to finish a bachelor degree in Chinese language  in four years and be fluent at the time I  graduate.

These are the things that have benefited me during my language learning:

1. Speak, speak, speak. Your can master the written Chinese and still be unable to have a conversation. From the very beginning it is important to speak Chinese as often you can. Don’t worry about making mistakes because everyone makes them.

First one and a half years I studied Chinese in Finland. I was afraid to open my mouth outside the classroom even I had the chance to speak Chinese. I was worried I would sound stupid. But only stupid thing was to slow down my learning with my shyness. The problem got solved when I came to China and I had no other option than to speak it.

2. Use it every day. It can mean going to classes, speaking in Chinese with a friend, chatting in QQ, watching movies or just reading blogs. Just use Chinese daily because after a break it is difficult to start again.

I haven’t been studying for weeks now. It all started when I got in to the hospital and then continued when I came to Finland. But I have done something. Every day I speak Chinese over QQ or send a text message. It is not much, but it keeps me going during the lazy season.

3. Have a teacher. Learning by yourself is totally ok, but most of us need someone to kick our butt. It can be a proper teacher on your Chinese course or a Chinese student who is willing to be your tutor.

Right now I’m using Chinese but not learning anything new. It will change soon because I know that I have to do my exams after I go back to Guangzhou. I have my teachers who will notice and punish me if I don’t improve. They are also there for me to answer my questions and leading me on my journey.

4. Write by hand. If you want to master Chinese it includes being able to write the characters by hand. And you can  do that by practicing with pen and paper (or with electronic tablet and pen). Keep a journal where you shortly write about your day in Chinese. When your skills improve your stories will also become more complex.

I have noticed that there are many words I can write with my mobile or computer. But I can’t remember how to write them by hand. So it is back to basics. I need to write the character many times in order to remember it. And then write sentences to learn how to use it. It can be either depressing or supporting to see that also native Chinese speakers once in a while forget how to write a character.

5. Keep it fun. Even if you are highly motivated and totally in love with Chinese it can feel boring sometimes. (If not, you’re a lucky guy!) That is why it is important to study in different and creative ways. For example you can: watch a movie,  read comics, play Alias, listen to music, chat, go to local Chinese restaurant, try QQ or Chinese version of Facebook, learn to sing a song or go shopping. Just remember to do all this in Chinese.

I am in the process of making Chinese my major instead my hobby. Right now I am still an exchange student but only studying Chinese language. Next year I will apply to a BA program. This also means that it is not always fun to learn it. Sometimes I just don’t want to open the books. Surely many times I have to force my self to study because that’s what I have to and want to do. But sometimes I can be little bit lazy and watch a Chinese movie instead.

Also remember to keep your eyes towards the goal. What you want to achieve with Chinese?


My home is in Guangzhou now

I have been back to Finland for two weeks now and everything seems like the same. People are complaining about the weather and we have Karelian pasties every week after sauna. But is my home here or in Guangzhou?

Wikipedia says: “A home is a place of residence or refuge comfort. It is usually a place in which an individual or a family can rest and be able to store personal property.”

Surely my place of residence is in Guangzhou, but most of my stuff is still here in Finland. Maybe the biggest difference is that in China I have my own space and in Finland I need to close the bathroom’s door to get privacy.

I will always be Finnish and consider Finland as the best place to be, but right now I’m longing for my own little home in Guangzhou. When I go back after five weeks it won’t necessarily feel like a home right away. It needs furniture and decoration in order to transform from shabby room to my place.

Changes that takes place in my neighborhood worries me. They have built a huge wall around my village and I can only guess what else can happen before I go back. For some reason Chinese officials want to hide the normal living from the eyes of sport tourists. What will happen when fans of Asian Games and angry villagers meet?


One Hospital In Guangzhou And How I Ended up In There

Incredibly painful. It started on Sunday 27th when I accidentally spilled a bowl of hot water to my skin. I ran to the shower, opened the door of my room and started shouting in all the three languages I know. Three or four paramedics came but none of them wanted to come inside take a look. Why? Because I was naked. My classmate had to grab one of them by the arm and pull him inside.

Then I found out there wasn’t any medicine in the ambulance. At this point I was screaming and crying as never before. So my classmate had to go to the convenience store to buy seven large bottles of cold water. The paramedics didn’t seem to like that my classmates were pouring the water over me all the way to the hospital. Sure in this scale of burns there’s a risk of hypothermia when using too much cold water, but I felt there’s a risk of dying just because of the unbelievable pain I was feeling.

In the hospital they were kind enough to give me one injection and put me on a drop. Then they started asking money. Surely I didn’t have any. One of my classmates had pants but not shoes. The other one was luckily carrying her bank card and she paid the required 500 CNY (58 euros). Only after that the doctors and nurses started really treating me.

Maybe because of my pretty white skin, if you forget the burn, I got my own room and privacy. The first day cost about 2000 (230e) and days after that almost 1000 (116e) every day. I was on a drop all the time except when I was sleeping. They sprayed medicine to my skin every two or three hours. From the third day onwards I could walk few times a day but in a really odd way because my skin was too tight and hurting.

The nurses run the unit and the doctor came every morning to check the patients. Besides nurses there are these older women, we call them a’yi, who are there to help you to wash, use the toilet and that kind of things. If you have money to pay them. If not, and maybe in any case, it is better to have a friend or family member to help you. You get nothing for free. No water, food, toilet paper, nothing. Everyday they give you lots of receipts to show how much money you have used.

In a week they get my skin extra dry and smelly. I have never missed home so much. I havet never been that angry and hopeless. I left the hospital on Tuesday the 6th and I could barely walk outside to the taxi. It took me a long time to climb up the stairs to the fourth floor. And there I was, back to the campus without much advice or medicine from the doctor.

Yesterday I searched the net and got really worried about my skin burn. I decided to go to a western clinic, to speak with a doctor I could actually understand. (In the hospital I met one doctor who could speak little bit English.) At the clinic they were almost terrified because of the condition of my skin. They ordered me to get a proper shower (doctor in the hospital had forbidden this) and gave me three kinds of lotions to use many times a day. They were also amazed that I wasn’t eating any antibiotics yet.

I don’t have much trust to the Guangdong NO. 2 Provincial People’s Hospital and the experience left a doubt to enter any Chinese hospital again. What if someone doesn’t have any money? How close to death you have to be that they treat first and ask the money later?