Have You Ever Wanted to Learn a Foreign Language ?
Not sure where to begin? With a sea of web-based resources, who knows their beginning from their end? My journey to learn Japanese language started many years ago. Unable to physically immerse in language study for a lengthy period of time after studying at a Japanese University (Kansai Gaidai, Osaka), my return home meant returning to a job and managing family matters. Improving my language skills required taking every opportunity available, and some twists and turns in seeking resources (on-line courses, books, and study partners). I always seek to communicate and learn from native and non-native speakers. Although rewarding and a lot of fun, acquiring a foreign language can also be a slow and sometimes tedious journey and well worth the effort!
♠ It occurs to me that one of the most effective ways to learn a language is to learn the people who speak the target language. Mandarin Chinese is difficult to learn, I have managed to improve with time, and having knowledge of Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing) has helped a lot with reading. My Chinese friends and associates have been a the best source of encouragement, correction, and even challenge.
The most inspirational and reassuring experience as a language learner, teacher, or enthusiast is to “get up, get out, get moving” to discover the country and its people. Travel to the target country may not be an available option, but there are scores of books, electronic media, and resources, as close as your local library, internet websites, chambers of commerce, and even television (for example, National Geographic and Create T.V. travel shows)
As a student and teacher of language, who majored in Interanational Studies in college, I can recall the excitement of learning about Chinese Politics (and history), studying under the guide of Dr. John Copper, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN.
But until the Odyssey Unlimited China, Tibet, and Yangtze River Tour (a wedding anniversary trip with my husband), my book knowledge had not been challenged, nor did I have the full understanding and appreciation for the country and people until I experienced this small group tour (over a 17-day period of flights) taking us to Beijing, Chonqing, Lhasa Tibet, Three Gorges Dam, and a Yangtze River Boat Tour. Our jouney ended with a final flight to Shanghai for an extended four days. The tour was an opportunity to participate in the history, politics, and culture of China.
As difficult a time as I had breathing in Lhasa, it seemed all worth it when I was welcomed (as a mere bystander and tourist), invited to join the Tibetans in their morning dance in the mountains! We shared a rare moment where we spoke same language in dance. Somehow, I forgot about the the difficulty in breathing the Himalayan atmosphere. Tibetans are genetically adapted to the high altitude, I am not. Yet, like magic, as I danced, breathing was not problem at all.
Most importantly, the experience was a chance to speak, read, and write Chinese language and take advantage of every effort to communicate and be understood. Like me, there were a few Chinese, who desired to excercise their knowledge of English, which made for a dual-language exchange and harmonius communication.
Here, I share a few photos (and videos) from our China tour. However, photos nor video can express the experience of being immersed in the language and culture. My advice to the langauge learner and culture ethusiast, “love the langauge you’re in,” but if you are really into learning a new language; start by getting to know, try to learn, more about the people and their culture.