I had my first Chinese class yesterday. I was fairly nervous since I did not know anyone and did not know how hard the class was going to be. It turned out great. My classmates were all very kind to me, including me in their conversations. In regards to the class, I do not feel like it is going to be too difficult. The reading and the vocabulary were easy for me, but I could not keep up with everyone’s conversational speaking. All of my classmates have been in Chengdu for a while, so they can speak very well and even make jokes with one another in Chinese. I have definitely not reached that level yet. I think the coolest part of this class is learning with people from other countries. I have not learned where everyone is from yet, but of the students I know: three are from Bhutan, two are from France, one is from Uzbekistan, one is from Germany and one is from Texas. It is interesting to see how certain sounds in Chinese are more difficult to make depending on the primary language of the learner. For example, one of my classmates was trying to pronounce 确实, and it was hard for her to form the first sound because she originally speaks Spanish. As a teacher it will be important to keep in mind that certain subjects will be more difficult depending on the person’s cultural background. Everyone does not learn the same.
After class, we took a sort of field trip to the Tsingtao Brewery. It was very interesting. We got to take a tour of the factory and see how everything was made. Sadly, they were not making anything at the time so we did not get to see the equipment in action. The tour guide did give us information about the Tsingtao beer and then beer culture in general. I learned that there is no real beer culture in China, so people do not have connections or preferences in relation to their beers, so it has hurt the industry.
Today we learned a Taiji Dance that we will have to perform at the cultural festival. Thankfully it is a line dance, so there is a lot of repetition. It was difficult to master the dance because it was based off of Taiji, which has very slow movements. Once you memorized it, you just wanted to go quickly through it. You had to make sure you controlled your movements and that they were elegant. (I did not feel elegant.) But we will have to perform this in front of people so I am very nervous.
Later, we even found a talent show on campus and watched the performances which were amazing. There was singing, traditional dances, and even a skit. I was so excited we found it after we had gone out to dinner. I wish I knew more about the ethnic minorities of China so I could understand the culture of the dances…I also wish I knew more Chinese so I could have understood the skit. But that is what I am here for.