High school was easy. Except Spanish. That was a disaster.
College was a bit harder. Especially Greek. With tons of effort, it was merely a near disaster.
Then came Hebrew. Let’s not even talk about that.
So, when I announced to the world at age 29 that I was quitting my job and enrolling in full-time language school in China, many people thought I had lost my mind.
By that time, I had lived in China for 2 years teaching English. As impossible as I knew learning a foreign language to be, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I was in my fourth semester as an English teacher in China and I had only learned two things:
- How to count to 8. (Not ten. 8.)
- How to order Kung Pao chicken to go. 宫保鸡丁打包！
But I noticed: My students were learning English, in some cases quite successfully, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Not the least of which was living in a non-English-speaking country.
So I thought: If I am requiring them to learn English in China, why am I unwilling to do the easier thing, and learn Chinese in China?
There were two obstacles: Time and environment. So I quit my job and escaped from the all-consuming English-education environment.
I began a 1-year program at a school in northern China, but quickly found it to be mostly English and completely a joke. So I transferred over to the bachelor degree program, where it was 100% Chinese and 100% not funny. At least not for the first year, anyway.
Since I had no idea what was going on in class, for the first few months I had to daily grab an English-speaking classmate to ask if any homework had been assigned. I eventually did catch up, and graduated in 2011. I returned to the U.S. a year later.
Since I’m now a full-time videographer, as well as a dad of two small children, there’s little time for continuing with Chinese study. But I’m going to cram bits and pieces here and there, and write about it here.