Tuesday, September 25, 2012

my chinese so good!

Well my adventure in Taiwan is almost over so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about my handle of Chinese and if I've mastered it in the short time I've been here. Prior to coming to Taiwan I had tried to learn Chinese on my own using Rosetta Stone or just random language websites. You know because China is becoming a superpower so knowing Chinese can only help me succeed. Of course I only spent a significant amount of time on it when there wasn't any television shows to watch or I was just super bored and wanted to feel like I was being productive. The thing with learning Chinese on my own is that it is entirely dependent on my own motivation which wanes when I have distractions like TV and internet. My mom and dad were adamant that I learn Chinese while I was in Taiwan. Every time I video chatted with them they were asking me if I had enrolled in classes and such yet. I procrastinated because my work schedule only allowed me to take classes either super early in the morning or on the weekends. My parents were all for me going to class on the weekend but that was gonna happen over my dead body. Seriously weekends are for exploring the country not to go to class. Blah so after my parents incessant nagging I finally found a private Chinese teacher.
There were three other students (all English teachers) in my class, all from America. I already had the advantage with my Cantonese skills. Mwhahaa! I can't even comprehend trying to understand Chinese without any foundation or basis in it. If the teacher said something, it was easy for me to just draw on my Cantonese vocabulary to understand what was going on. No clue how the others did it. The only other student who was getting it studied a lot. Anyways the other two soon fell behind and then just dropped out because they either moved or couldn't comprehend it at all. That is when things got craptastic. Chinese vocabulary was getting harder and started to deviate from Cantonese more and more and since I don't study the other student was kicking my ass in class. I couldn't even pretend I was studying because every weekend I was going out and only opened my Chinese book for class. I especially hate translate this English sentence to Chinese. BOOO....

I don't know why but now when I need to say something in Chinese my brain doesn't try to think of it in Cantonese first. Ugh this is where my informal learning of Cantonese really hinders my Chinese learning. Since I learned colloquial Cantonese and not in a formal institute, I missed out on all the grammar and such, that when I speak Chinese I usually just speak in slang or in shortened sentences. My communication skills are great...with kids. I can have entire conversations with them! It is also because of my bilingualism that people say I speak Chinese with a Cantonese accent instead of an American one. I can totally pass off like I'm from Hong Kong.Whoop Whoop!

So did my Chinese get better because I took classes? My local friends tell me my Chinese has definitely improved and when I opened Rosetta Stone again I was hitting the tones more so that's good enough for me. It helps that I live in a country that only speaks Chinese but everyone I know speaks English so I never really get a chance to speak it. My speaking skills are atrocious. I can understand what people are saying but I wouldn't be able to respond to them. If the other person even questions what I'm saying I automatically go into failure shame mode and just revert back to English to prevent embarrassing myself more. :( Most times when I hear Chinese my mind just blanks out and I don't even pay attention I just utter "I don't understand." I'll prob have to enroll in classes or something when I get back into the states just so I don't lose what little Chinese skills I got. I think everyone I know speaks Cantonese but anyone who does speak Chinese want to practice?

Now don't think I'm such a lazy student that I barely did any work, I'm still Asian enough to put SOME effort into my Chinese. Since my classes don't cover writing and reading I've taken to doing that on my own. Looking at the dictionary/index at the back of my Chinese book and just writing it repeatedly over and over - so monotonous. Then I use my students to tell me how to write the correct stroke order and to test me. Haha great use of their English class time :P 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

a new favorite!!!

I'm obsessed with boba drinks or as they are called here pearl milk teas. I remember back in college I would spend $20+ a month buying them from the local boba store. Any occasion was a boba drinking occasion. Need a break from studying? Lets grab boba! Meeting up a friend? Let's get boba! Bored and nothing to do?? Let's walk, talk and get some boba! So coming to the country that invented this awesome drink was a chance for me to drink pearl milk tea every day. You think that for a $1 USD a cup and drink stands everywhere that I would be guzzling these nonstop throughout the day. I guess it being so accessible has made the boba drink lose its hold on me. Also because they really only have one flavor pearl milk tea. Any changes in flavor comes from changing teas like oolong and green. They don't have my beloved almond milk tea (guess that's an American invention) so its more motivation for me not to guzzle down those high caloric drinks everyday. However after a particularly hot day at work, and our office was ordering boba drinks to be DELIVERED to us, I discovered the awesomeness of ice cream black tea. Interesting fact: in Chinese black tea is actually called red tea because the name is based on the color of the tea after its been brewed while black tea is named after the color of the tea leaves after oxidation. I love the delivery service here where anything McDonald's to pearl milk tea stores can bring it right to your doorstep - if you order over a certain amount and all without paying an additional fee! People are warning me about reverse culture shock when I get back home and I can already imagine the horrors of having to tip people for lackluster service and having to walk down super dark streets with my keys in my hands - gotta be ready to stab muggers in the eyes with it.
I've had the chance to try the ice cream black tea from two popular drink store chains 50 Lan and Ching Shin Fu Chuan. I definately prefer the 50 Lan version more and lately it has been my drink of choice. I haven't had a regular old pearl milk tea for a long time now. The Ching Shin version had a sesame taste that wasn't bad but made me pause and think hmm odd flavor every now and then. At both these chains the ice cream black tea cost $45 NT for a large cup. You still get asked about the amount of ice and sugar syrup you want in each cup. There are different flavors of ice cream tea in that you can ask for different teas to be used - 50 Lan also does an ice cream milk tea that costs $50 NT. 50 Lan also offers mango ice cream while at Ching Shin the ice cream black tea wasn't an option on their menu but can still be made. To me this reminds me of an Asian version of the ice cream float and I hope I'll be able to find it in the States when I get back. That or make my own...