Back to the Books

People think that I’m a lady of leisure now that my exams are over, but I’m here to tell you that that is not the case at all. When I cram, that’s all I do and that’s all I have time for. But when I’m freed of my scholastic duties, I have to deal with all the responsibilities that have been accumulating over the weeks and months. It’s been a week now since I finished my exams, and I have been cleaning, organising, ironing, cooking, archiving, recycling, shopping, reading, cross-stitching, catching up with friends and generally just doing all the housekeeping and admin. So today’s post is late by a day. You’ll live.

It’s fair to say that I have been loving post-exam life. I feel like I’ve retired. Yes, I’m busy, but I have time to do all the things I usually don’t have time for. It’s wonderful and while I absolutely love studying, the life I’m presently living is truly one of luxury for me. Not leisure – I don’t enjoy being at leisure for more than a few hours tops – but luxury all the same.

Since I do enjoy studying, I have taken up a few study projects for June, totally self-managed. I think it’s about time I drop the bomb to my readers: I’ll be going to China for the whole of July to teach English. I can’t even tell you how excited and nervous I am! So in June, I’ll be studying two things in preparation to my trip. The first thing is just going through some basics of TEFL – I have absolutely no formal training in teaching English, nor was any required in the job I got. I make no pretenses that I’m going to learn a great deal in just one month, but I think it would be nice (if nothing else) to have at least a glimpse of what I’m getting myself into. If it’s not clear to anyone reading my blog yet, I’m a planner. I prepare in advance. My worst nightmare is anything impromptu. In fact, in high school I had actual nightmares of surprise exams. So yeah, I like to be prepared.

The second (more exciting) thing I’ll be sort of skimming over in June is, of course, Chinese. But I have a dilemma here. Once in China, I’ll have the opportunity to take classes in either Mandarin or Cantonese. Now, Mandarin, it seems to me (and do correct me if I’m wrong), is the language that all foreign learners of Chinese are taught because it’s the more widespread of the two and considered to be Standard Chinese. So given these facts, it would appear that picking Mandarin is the thing to do. However. There’s a catch. The place I’m going is a Cantonese-speaking area.

So my question to myself and the whole world is, Do I pick Mandarin or Cantonese? The reason I’m asking this now is because I want, nay, need, to start prepping. The pros of Mandarin are that it’s more international (I guess?), more widely-spoken in China, access to study materials is easier, and it’s basically the standard form of Chinese that everyone learns. The cons are that I’m not going to a Mandarin-speaking place. The pros of Cantonese is that I’m going to a Cantonese-speaking place, it’s much more niche (a definite pro in my book, #ILearnElvishForFun), and because it’s so difficult to find study materials, I probably ought to take advantage of this opportunity to learn it. The cons are that out of the bigger cities, it’s only spoken in Hong Kong and Macau, so I’m not sure how useful it is in the grand scheme of things. But hey, when did I ever learn a language because it was useful? #ILearnElvishForFun

So I think I’m currently leaning towards Cantonese. I’m hoping that once I get a hold of the whole tone system and the overall structure of a Chinese language, maybe teaching myself Mandarin at a later date will be at least a little bit easier, and I’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of study material. And anyway, since I am going to a Cantonese-speaking locality, it would probably be nice to hear the language I’m learning spoken around me. Maybe even – dare I? – try to say a few words in Cantonese. Call me delusional, but I just might.

Chip in, state your position in this Mandarin-Cantonese dilemma of mine and feel free to share any tips or tricks for learning Chinese.


6 thoughts on “Back to the Books

  1. Wow, first of all, great news! Congrats to you, it’s going to be at the very least a memorable experience! You are leaning towards Cantonese and I would agree with you in the choice. I understand the fun of learning a relatively “niche” language when you are in the comfort of your country or in the safety of a region of which you have mastered the primary language. Yet, since you will be moving to a whole other country, with a culture and customs completely different from those you are familiar with, I think it’s pretty important to gain even the most basic fluency in the regional language, especially since you are going to teach students who talk primarily Cantonese…now, the question would be: is Mandarin a language that is thought in the place you are going to stay in -or, in other words, would they still understand you if you happen to address them in standard Chinese?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! As for a memorable experience, I’m sure it will be, but I hope for all the right reasons! :) Yep, learning Cantonese would make the most sense in this instance, because it’s the language of the region I’m going to. That way I just might get more out of my stay there. Your question is a good one, and the answer is that I quite simply don’t know. Wikipedia only tells me the official language of the place (which is Cantonese) but typing the question into Google helpfully informed me that Mandarin has been gaining ground. Even so, I’m not sure how much ground, and whether it’s worth the risk. Decisions, decisions!!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!


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