8 Sep

“Someone once said that learning Chinese is “a five-year lesson in humility”. I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.”  —- David Moser

Every time that someone has said, “oh, your Chinese must be so good”, I’ve cringed. Prevaricated. Tried to deflect what seemed like honest praise. It’s not modesty.

Yes, I know Chinese. Some Chinese. In that “pidgin-language” sort of way. Yes, I can get around, order dinner, and hold conversation on a limited number of topics. But there’s a lot I don’t know. It’s frankly embarrassing, seeing as I’ve given it five years of my life. (Four in college and one in high school.) I am routinely blanking on basic words, and have developed a pathological fear of speaking Chinese in public in recent years. I fluster easily over basic stuff and give off the impression that I’m mildly retarded.

There’s a beautiful essay out there on the interwebs called “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard”. I love that man with the passion of a thousand suns. Go read it, if you have fifteen minutes to kill.  It’s a very good look at learning second languages and Chinese in general from someone still in the trenches.

All of this is a round-about way of my explaining why today sucked. I got a phone call from one of my teachers. (Jiang laoshi is good people, even if her directions suck.) It was impressed on me that I should show up at a certain building around 3pm to meet another of my professors. Sort of. I got the gist, but not the crucial bits of information, like which teacher and which building.

I spent two hours walking around a tiny area, looking in vain for one building. Eventually, in defeat, I returned to my dorm, whereupon Jiang laoshi called again, saying, I will *walk* you to the building in question.

I had passed it five times not realizing that the “Jiang shui lou”, River Water building, was in fact “Zang xue lou”, Tibetan Research Building. (This is not as dumb as a mistake as it seems. Our campus is called the Wang Jiang campus, and we’re right next to a freaking river.)

I lost face again today. I lost my temper several times in my Quixotic search, and frankly, had a major case of Fraud Syndrome.

(Fraud Syndrome is the seventh-grade low-self-esteem equivalent for scholars. Basically, “why am I here, there are better people out there more qualified for this job/scholarship/position, I am useless, I am not as good as they think I am, etc. Fun times.)

Today, I did not acquit myself well. I’m tired of that feeling.


2 Responses to “Fraud”

  1. Karen Luksich September 9, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Hey it happens to the best of us. It will get better. I think your dad had a good idea, exchange tutoring with another student. Think positive, admit you need help and move forward.
    Love and hugs,

  2. Dani September 13, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    I had that same feeling in Spain. You will get through it. You have to have those moments in order to learn. You have taken on so much and have been an inspiration to me because of it. Seriously. Just take the language one day at a time. I know you can do it. :)

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