When people ask us “Why exactly Mandarin?”
This is the question I get asked the most, by friends and family. They ask me out of curiosity, admiration, some times skepticism, towards a path that needs determination and a great motivation.
My answer to this question is simple…
I have always loved foreign languages, especially those with different alphabets, or no alphabet at all, that reflect a completely different mindset. I love having access to the way of thinking of people who are so different from us and being able to fully understand and live their culture.
I still remember when I started studying Mandarin…
When everything was exciting (it actually still is), everything yet new and to be learned: the characters were simple familiar stylized shapes, and the sounds were a little difficult to pronounce but still limited enough to be easily assimilated.
But all of us, sooner or later, get to the point where we ask ourselves…
“Why am I doing this?“. This is an essential moment, that happens to nearly every student of Mandarin and needs to be handled carefully. That right there is the moment when we make it clear to ourself whether or not we are really motivated, whether or not we want to go on or drop it. Luckily enough, in my case that is the time when I first got to China, where everything I had ever learned in theory was finally real, where the dialogues “at the market“, “at the bank“, “at the post office“ I had studied were becoming live experiences and this time I was the main character!
China, this unknown country, where I realised that the priviledge of speaking its language can get you to a mysterious, even secret world “from the front door”. At that point my choice was to dive in those new habits, experiencing them: leaning on my own heels while waiting for the bus, colorful outfits of materials inconceivable in my country, fighting to get on a means of transport, wild online and offline shopping, being absorbed in stories by wise Beijing cab drivers, the indispensable hot water always with me…After embracing this country as a whole, with its virtues and flaws, its wonders and its contradictions, I felt welcome, well-liked and listened to, and I understood that, as usual, attitude changes our experiences.
That the language I was studying was only a means to get in touch with people that are totally different from me in history,lifestyle, mentality and values! This fulfilling feeling still follows me now that I know China much better, and I never stop learning….
Why Mandarin? Cause once China becomes a part of yourself, it will never leave you!
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