Beijing - 3

For the first week in Beijing, we were taking a Chinese Language & Culture Experience course at Beijing Language and Culture University. Each day we would arrive at class for Chinese lessons and cultural activities.

This is were the lesson took place
The entrance to the University

Thankfully, there was air-con. When walking to and from the University (~ 10 minute walk), it was impossible not to build up a sweat.

In the mornings we learnt Chinese. Some people picked it up quickly, I did not. Aside from my terrible memory, the tones and pronunciation were tricky to master. There are 4 tones (5 if you include the word without a tone) which can completely change the meaning of a word. The tones are high, rising, falling-rising and falling.

An example of these tones and changing context of can be seen with the word ma:

  • mā = mother (high)
  • má = hemp (rising)
  • mǎ = horse (falling-rising)
  • mà = scold (falling)

The difference is subtle. It is easy to be misunderstood…

Some of the things we were learning

The Chinese language is very direct, to the point and literal . I think this makes it an easier language to learn compared to others as there are less grammatical rules to worry about. To say “are you thirsty” they say “Nǐ kě ma?” which literally means “You thirsty?”. To reply, “Wǒ hěn kě” is used which means “I am very thirsty”. The verb in the questions is nearly always used in the answer.

The Chinese lessons were not intense. In fact, every 50 minutes or so, we — and the rest of the university classes — had a break. This worked well and was a great way to ask the teacher (Weng Meng) about Chinese life and culture. For me, this was the best part of the lessons. We shared lots about English culture and gained some real insight into life of a local. Interestingly, she had never been to the UK despite being practically fluent! She taught us several popular Chinese songs which we would sing together, or individually if we were late…(these songs were accompanied with actions to make them even better)

The afternoons were based around a practical based activity. The first activity was Chinese painting.

Notice my Chinese name on the left
I’ll be taking orders when I’m home….

Here is my attempt at drawing bamboo and pandas. You’ve got to admit, they look good. I am not sure if it is the Huawei P9 camera (a cheeky bonus provided from Huawei for this trip) making them look good or the actual fact they are good — personally I think the latter (I also think Chinese art is very beginner friendly…).

Our painting teacher was very skilled but English was not as good. The technique with her brush was delicate and impressive. She demonstrated how to paint making it look effortless. However, this was not the case when we tried…

Our teacher in action

On Friday we have our ‘final exam’ and ‘Graduation’ — Hopefully the exam will be easy. Otherwise, I won’t be graduating.