As I wrote about half a year ago, I started studying Chinese. To tell you the truth, that has been going kind of slow. “Slow” is really just an average though; I’ve studied grammar and the characters (hanzi) quite a lot, i.e. the areas that appeal to me the most, but not vocabulary and pronunciation very much.
That doesn’t really work out well for Chinese, though. I think the main reason for that is that – compared to Japanese – pronunciation is very difficult. I don’t know about you but I can’t remember a word that I can’t pronounce. Or rather I can remember it as a (hanzi) character, but I can’t connect that to a sound, which makes it semi useless. Of course it would be possible to learn Chinese completely as a written language without ever learning how to pronounce things, but besides that being sub-optimal (it would certainly be very valuable for a deaf person, for instance, though) I also think it would take even longer than it takes to learn Chinese while learning both reading/writing and listening/speaking at the same time (for a non-deaf person).
So what I’m trying to say is that I finally realized that me going all in on hanzi and all out on pronouncing the damned thing was not going to work (obviously!), which is where Chinese Future comes in.
Chinese Future happens to be the portending name of a Chinese language school conveniently located between my office and my home, slightly cheaper than the competitor across the road, and with a name that I think really captures the essence of why learning Chinese is not only a fun activity but also highly rational for anyone with a remaining life expectancy of over 20 years – in a very non-subtle manner!
So yeah, I signed up as a customer-student there and had my first lesson yesterday. It seems like in Japan everyone’s going to language schools all the time – it’s really the hip thing to do. No one ever seems to learn any language though. In practice that usually means Japanese people going to “learn” English at one of the English conversation “school” chains, which never seems to produce any result. Considering not being able to speak any foreign language being a point of pride for many Japanese individuals, that is hardly surprising.
So color me full of skepticism (as always!) when I went there. But the first lesson is free, after all, so not much to lose anyway. The following 8 lessons are just 3,000 yen a piece – a considerable amount, but not too large to give it a shot. So well, that is my plan at the moment: Try those (in total) nine lessons and see whether or not language conversation school is really the thing for me. I’ve already got some good conclusions from the first lesson, which I’ll summarize in the next blog post. Stay tuned.