Going West by Mark Powers

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ich bin Amerikaner

"Ich bin Amerikaner" means "I am American" in German. I love to say that, it sounds so cool. I feel like Arnold Swarchenegger when I say it. From the couple of books I bought on the German language and the flash cards, I have started learning German.

I have discovered its so much easier to start reading German than Japanese or Chinese mainly because reading a new word doesn't require memorizing a whole new Chinese character. The grammar is more complicated in German though. Chinese and Japanese grammar is much easier. Its funny, because Chinese uses the same word for "He", "She", and "It", everything is a "ta". That is easy to remember. Chinese has no feminine or masculine grammatical conjugations. In German, everything has a feminine or masculine tense or formal and informal one. But at least I can start reading right away. I just need to learn how to pronounce them correctly.

I think in today's world it must be easier to learn a language. There is so much material on the Internet available to start learning and applying your language skills. For learning Chinese, my favorite website is http://www.chinesepod.com/. I can also easily read the original story of Hansel and Gretel written in German on another website.

The only thing that holds me back from learning more and faster is my own energy level. Sometimes I am just to plain too lazy to pick up the flash cards and learn something. But once I get going, I usually will enjoy it. Also, I don't want to forget one language while learning another, so its important to try and review.

Singapore TV has a Chinese channel that I watch often. But sometimes I will just read the English subtitles rather than focus on listening to what is said. I suppose that really is not helpful except for getting used to the sound and rhythm of Chinese speakers.

When watching TV in a foreign language, not only do you have to listen and pay attention to what is said, figuring out what words were said, you also have to figure out what was the meaning of what they just said. That takes concentration.

One interesting thing is I feel I have overcome the various accent differences in Chinese. For example, Americans in New York and Atlanta both speak English, but may have different accents. Chinese speakers from different areas are the same. Just like I can understand what a New Englander or Southerner from the US says in English, I feel like I can pick up what a Chinese speaker says no matter where he or she is from, as long as they use Standard Chinese words. In some parts of China they use almost completely different languages, like Cantonese in Guangdong province, or Hokkien in Fujian Province. Those same people when speaking Standard Chinese usually have an local accent. This difference, I feel I have overcome. When I first started learning Chinese, the vast variety of accents confused me. My experience going to a university to learn Standard Chinese helped me recognize what standard pronunciation is supposed to be like. Its funny when Chinese people tell me my accent is very standard, compared to Chinese people from provinces who grow up with strong local accents.

I really look forward to going to China again in the future. And maybe, someday, I will be able to make use of learning German and even go to Europe.


Blogger pong said...

Hmm, i ve read ur two articles in Chinese, u shcoked me! ur chinese is very good! almost perfect! cause i m also a foreign language learner besides English, i understand how a long time will be taken into the study..
hope u will continue making progress in Chinese learning and best wishes! hehe~~

February 15, 2009 11:17 PM  

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