04/24/11

Finnish parliamentary election a slight disappointment

Photo by Daniel Mohr

Finland had the parliamentary election a week ago and it have been all over the news. I don’t mean just national papers, but also abroad. The third biggest party is now the True Finns and even I am truly a Finnish person, I can’t agree with some of the party’s values.

I believe in multicultural and tolerant Finland. From what I have read True Finns  are too conservative and narrow-minded for me. They want strict limits on humanitarian immigration and object gender-neutral marriage. Last Monday, just after counting the votes, my Facebook News Feed was full of status updates from my friends who also weren’t too happy with the results.

My friend living in Malta wrote that things still aren’t as bad as in Malta where they are still negotiating should divorce be made legal or not. And I continued, that it sure is much better than in China where the only choice is the Communist Party.

Sure there are benefits of having just a one party to rule. It’s fast and easy to make decisions when no one is objecting. Finnish people are sometimes complaining about our parliamentarians, because they just talk and nothing happens. But the downside of having just one party, one opinion, is that things  can also go terribly wrong very fast.

I do believe that nothing too damaging is going to happen in Finland for the next four years. True Finns got a huge victory in the election, but they are not alone in the parliament. It does feel like a step in the wrong direction, but right now it is too early to say what will eventually happen.

I must add that I don’t follow politics too closely. There is a lot that I don’t know and therefore I’m not the best person to introduce Finnish governance and politics to you. But this post is an opinion of an ordinary Finnish person, opinion that many of my friends share.

Finnish people living abroad are able to vote at Finland’s embassies and consulates around the world. I also did my civic duty earlier this month, but unfortunately my candidate didn’t get enough votes. I hope he will try again in the next election four years later.

But before that there is presidential election next year.

04/20/11

Trying to grade my Chinese

One of my favourite blogs Confused LaoWai wrote about his Chinese proficiency according to Lingomi’s PRG scorecard for Mandarin Chinese. Looks like Neil is doing very well! Even though my Chinese isn’t quite there yet and it’s hard to rate one’s own progress, I wanted to try too.

Writing Characters

I have learned about 500 characters with Skritter now, but maybe have forgotten something and haven’t added something I already know. Maybe my writing by hand is somewhere between level 3 (250 characters) and level 4 (500). With computer I think my level is 4.

Reading Characters

I have read Graded Chinese Reader 1 with 2000 characters and started book 2 with 3000 characters. There are words that I don’t know and I have to check new words from the margins, but I can get the overall meaning. So maybe level 5 with 1200 characters is the closest one.

Chinese Vocabulary

This one is also really hard to estimate, but I guess that level 5 with 1500 words is the closest one. Getting this far with grading my self, I have to say it is difficult! I feel like I am giving my self too good marks, but on the other hand I don’t want to underestimate myself either.

Chinese Grammar

How is it even possible to grade? I guess I am intermediate 1 or 2 (level 3 or 4), but I don’t really know what those levels mean. Last November at old HSK Elementary-Intermediate exam I got 49 points (out of 100) from grammar section.

Spoken Chinese

Maybe level 4 with “can get around and do daily things” describes my spoken Chinese quite well. When talking with my Chinese boyfriend I’m probably already at level 5 (“can begin to express complex ideas and thoughts”), but he have learned to understand me very well.

Chinese Listening

Steven at Lingomi has lots of questions marks in his listening scorecard (for levels from 4 to 7). Level 3 says “has a good grasp of tones and tonal differences” and level 8 “fluent listening”. I can enjoy easy Chinese movies (我知女人心) and dating TV shows (称心如意 and 我们约会吧). I don’t understand  everything they say but I get the basic idea and like watching them. Should that be level 4 or 5?

Conclusion

I don’t really have any idea did I just grade my self fairly or was I too strickt or probably too kind. Maybe I should ask my teacher to grade me? Or maybe my HSK results can tell more about my skills: Listening 52, Grammar 49, Reading 42 and Characters 51. Notice that it was old version of HSK that I took last November and I got Elementary B (level 4). Right now I am waiting for the results from my last Sunday’s HSK (also old one).

 

04/9/11

Why did I come to Cantonese Guangzhou to study Mandarin Chinese?

 

2015 Update: Four years after this blog post a lot has changed, but I’m still learning Mandarin in Guangzhou! Besides studying a master’s degree in teaching Chinese, I have started to tutor foreigners wishing to make their life easier by learning the basics in Chinese, and more! Guangzhou is a great place to live and ever better when you have the language skills to communicate with the locals.

Many foreigners don’t like Guangzhou. Many Chinese learners think there is no point to study Mandarin Chinese in Cantonese Guangzhou. It does make more sense to study Cantonese in Guangzhou (which I’m doing by the way), but Guangzhou isn’t a bad city to study Mandarin either.

I can answer in a simple way that in the first place I came to the south because my university back in Finland has an agreement with Guangzhou University and therefore it was easy and free to come to study here. First I planned to stay in Guangzhou for six months and then go to Beijing to do a Bachelor degree. But something happened and I am still here by the Pearl River.

My boyfriend happened. I fell in love with him. But that is only half of the story. I fell in love with someone else too, with Guangzhou. I guess there is a little bit of rebel in me. It is kind of cool to date Chinese migrant worker who doesn’t speak English. It is also kind of cool to like Guangzhou because most of the laowai’s are hating it.

Everyone now knows how southern my Chinese accent is (you can listen to it yourself!), but living in Guangzhou and studying Putonghua isn’t a bad match. People here do have a strong accent and I do hear a lot of Cantonese everyday, but they also speak the official language. I guess in a year I’ve met only few people who didn’t speak Mandarin and those were all small grandmas. (Don’t take it in a wrong way, I do like elderly people and can communicate with them well with a calculator!)

I have teachers from around the China and in the campus I am hearing quite good Putonghua all the time. My best Chinese friend is from Shanghai and her accent is really standard. We don’t speak any erhua here, but I don’t see any reason why my Chinese wouldn’t improve here as fast as it would in Beijing. Actually people don’t know much English down here which is great for my studies.

Guangzhou might be a crazy place and sometimes I wonder how student of humanities ended up in Guangzhou where the most important thing is to make money and make it fast. I would also like to point out that I have been living in China just for a year and it is a short time. But right now I like it in here and have no plans to move north.

I have one question for you in return. Why didn’t you come to Guangzhou?