The Push to Study Chinese Writing
I knew I was going to be ready for China when I got there. Well, I believed that anyway. I had already had months of study and was even praised by my lecturers for having fairly good pronunciation. Once I first set foot outside the airport in Nanjing, China, I realized I had merely learned the superficial aspects of this beast of a language, the Chinese language. Communication on even essentially the most basic topics was possible, but once I had to deal with more complex tasks, such as calling to get an internet connection hooked up, I faltered. But my saving grace came when I decided to learn to write Chinese. Pinyin for speaking just didn’t cut it. The most basic writing courses seemed to shoot my Chinese far above its current level. This realization drove my Chinese studies. I decided to continue learning writing above all else, as I had no time to waste.
So why writing? If you pay attention to the world around you, you’ll notice that even the most basic daily activities require some set of literacy. As the Chinese are increasingly becoming virtual in how they do things, more activities take place on line, from registering for classes to ordering a pizza. In China, living or working necessarily requires some writing ability. Being on a Chinese website and actually using it correctly requires us getting our fingers dirty and actually typing.
Before focusing on writing, while I was still not yet in China, I used to drive to and from work, a half an hour ride. I had 300 Chinese CDs in my car’s CD player. I listened and recited along as I drove. Though embarrassing, I rode while speaking to myself. This helped me learn to speak, but not to read or to learn to write Chinese. By eight months, I had a huge vocabulary but was illiterate. Before I left for China, I even recite all my mp3s like a parrot (e.g., 请问，到汽车站怎么走？) (Can you tell me the best way to the bus stop please.) After I got to China I realized too many people were there to help me with the important tasks. Though I could ask someone where the bus station is, I couldn’t read the list of destinations or ticket prices. I would have to wait in line until I could ask the people at the counter, who were often rude to the point to simply point to the list, assuming I could read.
If there were something like listening to mp3s in the car for learning to write, that would be great. But obviously there isn’t. So the point is: do not neglect your writing practice!