My programmed moved us into our homestay this passed Wednesday. I met my host mom when she came to pick me up. She started to speak Chinese to me, only to realize I struggle a lot with understanding it. Halfway on our walk home we stopped to pick up her son. He is eight years old. As soon as he saw me he got happy and proceeded to talk to me in Chinese, only to come to the same conclusion as his mom.
Now he has decided that he is going to teach me Chinese after I come home from school. It is really cute because he brings out his textbook that teaches him English and uses it to teach me Chinese. His mom is teaching me as well. While we are eating breakfast she asks me to name the foods, and if I say something incorrectly in Chinese she corrects me.
However, we do still have a ton of communication problems due to the fact I only speak a little bit of Chinese, and she only speaks a little bit of English. This problem is mostly solved through the internet and apps. We just speak into the translating app or look up the word, or a picture of what we are trying to say, and so far that method works.
However, there was this one time she was asking me if I wanted to come with her and her son, I did not understand what she was saying so she used the app. It ended up translating to “Will you go with me and my son to chicken breast?”. When she looked at my facial expression in response to that she laughed.
We came to an understanding though, so technology still helps a lot. The struggle of trying to talk to my host family really helps improve my Chinese. It is also a more relaxing environment, compared to my classroom setting. I was talking to my host mom telling her about my family, and without even realizing it, I had had a whole conversation in Chinese with her.
Just from a few days in a different environment my mind has already started adjusting to the change. At first, I felt like a fish out of water, because even when I was speaking Chinese I was still receiving strange looks. At first, that was discouraging, but then I realized that if I get looks of confusion, I just need to keep trying.
Eventually an understanding will come, or they will resort to using a phone translator to speak English to me, but either way an effort was made. Not even my teachers speak English perfectly, but they get their point across. I realize that when dealing with communication the key thing to do is be understood, whether or not you say what you want to say perfectly is unimportant.
I believe that my Chinese will keep on improving and my ability to get my point across will eventually come. Being surrounded by the language 24/7 gives me no choice but to speak it, hear it, and learn it. I won’t say that this adjustment is easy because it is not, but struggling is a major part of learning, and I am getting quite the experience from struggling. :)