Seedtime Multilingual®

Love the Language You’re In – China Tour

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. 

Zhou Period Exhibits_2019-10-16 09.16.49

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 peopleTravel 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.


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Toni's Visit to China - PHOTO of Temple Roof

Toni wants you to notice the Chicken designs atop the roof in her photo. Is this significant in China architectural designs?




The top five apps that you should download before coming to China. You will need to either open your current phone plan to allow for international use or purchase a sim card when you arrive so that you can have internet access outside of Starbucks and the airport. You can usually get a sim card at the airport when you arrive or you can go to any phone store and get one. For someone coming for their first time with no use of the language and no one to help translate for you, I would suggest just getting it at the airport when you arrive.


Language Partners Wanted

Learning Chinese language as a hobby started a few years ago (much the same with learning Japanese, most recently Vietnamese and Spanish). In the beginning, the only words I could utter correctly were “Ni hao,” 你好.  The reading and writing and understanding the Hanyu 汉语were good due to my background in Japanese. But I continued to struggle with the Chinese tones. Thankfully, a few associates encouraged and inspired me to learn Mandarin Chinese. I was invited to join their lunch table during our workday lunch hour.  Lunch and conversation (they talked, I listened) was often followed by a stroll near our office building.  For this, I am truly grateful.  Special thanks to Lin Wu, Julia Zhu, Zhimin Liu, Ping Li, and Dr. Jeffrey Zhang. I also offer thanks for my dear friends, Fei Li, and San Wu, owners of the premier and authentic Chinese cuisine near Memphis, The Royal Panda Restaurant in Germantown, Tennessee. I further praise the on-line tutelage and instruction that I continue to receive from Liu Lihong. The success was revealed in my ability to communicate accurately (able to use both spoken and written Chinese) during my recent tours in China (Beijing, Xi’an, Lhasa Tibet, Chongqing, Dazu, and Shanghai).

To learn a foreign language, we must be willing to build relationships.  Maybe it is similar to developing a business partner. In other words, there should be a mutual exchange; therefore, partners. It is difficult sometimes working with people, yes?  Forming this partnership can compare to the business theory of Tuckman’s stages of group development “storming, norming, forming” (see Wikipedia). I believe that the very act of building a relationship (an honest one) involves ebb and flow, pull-and-tug, a struggle.  It eventually requires a commitment but also a kind of submission between participants. This dualism leaves me in a vulnerable state.  When I know vocabulary, can read and write, but unable to form an accurate sentence in the target language, without someone else’s help, this is an uncomfortable feeling. I have resolved that it is OKAY! This is the standard stuff of learning a foreign or second language.

I think this discomfort is one reason learners (especially older students) struggle with acquiring a foreign language. But having a friend, not just any friend, someone to partner with in your language journey will motivate you in your learning efforts. This kind of language partner is a helper. The person could be a native or nonnative teacher or simply someone that you meet by incident.  A language partner can improve the learner’s standing. Explain? Think of it this way, like a business partner, language partners must observe and listen. They are learning, too. Eventually, they will find a comfortable place (within themselves) for not only understanding words; but also, becoming more knowledgeable about the learner and more sociable.  In turn, I seek to do the same, finding comfort zones in learning the language and culture I seek to know. Language partner relationships build foundations to harmonious communications.

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