Resolutions part deux – Chinese New Year Edition.
Sure, I can speak Mandarin, but I can’t speak it without sounding like a four year old toddler who’s still learning how to string sentences together that make sense. I took Spanish for years and it was a breeze, but I have never been able to grasp the language I was born into – I flunked out of Chinese school (to my parents’ utter dismay and horror) sophomore year of high school. Whenever I failed a test or was asked to read a passage from my text book that I could only stare blankly at, I had to fight the urge to proclaim, “I SWEAR I’M SMART IN SCHOOLS WHERE YOU SPEAK, READ AND WRITE IN ENGLISH! I’M IN HONORS CLASSES! FOR REAL!”
Last March, I went on a business trip to Zhongshan where our production factories are located. I was excited because I figured I could communicate with our China colleagues on a conversational level – culture shock didn’t seem to hit me as hard as the fact that I didn’t know the vocabulary needed to communicate photo shoot information and other miscellaneous fashion-related jargon. I flew to China thinking I was going to offer basic translation services for my caucasian coworkers, but then I realized I was the one who needed the translation services. Sad awakening.
As an attempt to learn Mandarin on a clean slate (after dropping out of Chinese School in high school), I tried taking a 101 class my first year of college. Unfortunately, I found the professor to be a callous human being who never hesitated to reprimand me whenever I was an accent off (which was quite frequently) or remind me that I speak with a heavy American accent. Shortly after the semester began, I dropped that class in fear of sending my GPA into the infinite abyss.
Inevitably, Mandarin had slipped away pretty quickly after so many years of being away from home. First I couldn’t read or write, now I can hardly speak. Not only this, but I’ve always been dismal at math and science (to my parents’ utter dismay and horror pt II) while my fellow Asian classmates typically excelled.. so I’m not 100% sure what kind of Chinese kid I am. Anyway, this year (of the dragon!), I’m going to start learning how to speak, read and write again. (No attempts to learn math and science, those are lost causes).
It’s time to learn how to read and write something aside from my own name, and to hold a conversation with one of my coworkers in China using great, big vocab words that make me sound brilliant. This year will just be a start – baby steps! I might borrow my brother-in-law’s Rosetta Stone before I sign up for classes – brush up a little so I don’t get called out for my American accent all over again. Mandarin isn’t something I can neglect anymore – not only because I can’t communicate as well as I used to with my parents, but also because China has been, currently still is, and will probably remain the country that is taking over the world. The fundamentals to succeeding in business (aside from your wits and connections): eat raw sushi, drink wine, and speak mandarin. IT’S JUST SO HARD!
But what can you do – life wouldn’t be much without challenges. :)
Happy Chinese New Year!