Step Out the Front Door

Good evening! I’ve been busy this week desperately clinging to each bit of language learning advice out there (and there is a lot) and one thing keeps coming through – talk to someone.

That’s for other people comes the voice inside my head. You’re fine staying here in your pyjamas without going out into the big wide world.

I find a compromise. Stepping out the front door might be a step too far for now, so the Play Store (other mobile app stores are available) is happy to deliver me hundreds of apps for pairing me up with a real Chinese person (shock). I log onto HelloTalk (again, other language exchange apps are available) and timidly type a message to my new friend. 你好!

I have a sinking feeling that whoever this unfortunate Chinese person is going to be, their English is going to be a lot better than my shaky Chinese, which thanks to a few more phrases now has expanded to include ‘how are you’ and ‘what’s your name’.

I know. The complexity is astounding me too.

I discover that it’s midnight in China, so I won’t get a reply for a few hours. The time distance could be a problem – I hadn’t thought of that.

So I’ll leave it here for today, and update this again tomorrow when I get (fingers crossed!) a reply.

Good evening! I’m very excited to report not one, not two, but six Chinese people willing to talk to another dumb British person. I try out my 你好 and a few heavily Google translated phrases and our conversation quickly dips into English. I discover that at midnight, a 15 year old boy is still expected to be doing homework. I reply (defeated, in English for now) that I finished school three hours before him and have at most an hour of homework tonight. He replies ‘This is Chinese school. Talk later’


Like, after midnight?

Do Chinese teenagers sleep?

My one sheet of Biology homework is starting to look very modest in the corner, and suddenly I feel ashamed at every groan I’ve had at anything to do with school. Google is happy to tell me that Chinese school is nearly twelve hours long and most lessons are teachers standing and talking.

This is a very different world.

I also discover that most Chinese children learn English from primary school (or equivalent) so my less-than-fluent Chinese is excusable, as I’ve only been learning for a few weeks through the internet. I think I’ll wrap it up here for this week and brush up on my grammar so hopefully (or hopefully not) conversations can happen someday in Chinese…!

Things I’ve learned this week:

  • There are enough people in China for six to want to talk to you
  • Chinese school is crazy
  • I really need to learn some more words


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