The First Step

So here I find myself, with a bold goal and a blog to match, sitting down on a Monday in September trying to work out how on earth this is ever going to be possible. I have a modest (or not so modest) stack of notebooks next to me, their gleaming white pages looking expectantly up at me – “What are you waiting for?”

Something to write?

I ignore that, and start trying to write. 你好 is my goal for now, the first brick in my Great Wall. It’s just drawing, isn’t it? Like a picture?

Without much luck, the first page of my notebooks are soon defiled by the scribblings of a Chinese toddler. Typing the neat 你好 here suddenly is annoying – how come a computer can create neat little characters whilst I’m sitting here desperately trying to draw it?

I type into Google ‘drawing Chinese characters’ in the hope of some direction, and to my relief, endless websites are telling me that neat little characters are rarely found in any Chinese writing, and that there is a specific order to the strokes.

Well this is new. Apparently the little lines (strokes) all have to be done in a specific order, so writing characters is done by muscle memory rather than the familiar feeling of frustration from school art lessons, trying to replicate the stupid vase and lemons.

Calligraphy is a well-respected art in China, and no wonder – I’d be a lot more inspired to draw pretty drawings of 会 than the ugly roman symbols known as ‘letters’.

Hope restored, I return to my notebook and my 你好 quest. It takes me five minutes of painstaking effort, but finally I have something which looks almost like the characters staring out at me in Google images, with pretty red lines showing yet another stupid westerner how to write their ancient, beautiful language.

I think that’s enough for this week. Now I’ve conquered 你好, everything else should be easy, right?

Possibly not, but I’ll leave more fiddly characters until next week.

Things I’ve learnt this week:

  • Chinese toddlers are a lot smarter than they get credit for
  • Even words are an art form in China
  • I need to work a lot harder at this

Thanks for reading! If liked this, sign up for email updates on this blog from the front page. ‘Talking Gymnastics’ will be published in the week beginning October 3rd, 2016


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