An unfortunate hiatus and an encouraging exchange – Week 46

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I am currently hiking in the Andes. Prior to that, I spent about 10 days traveling and working very intensely, during which I was unable to watch any Mandarin. Since I lost my cell phone, on which I had some video I planned to watch in my tent in the evenings, all told I will have taken a hiatus from my Mandarin experiment of about 20 days!

This type of interruption is definitely not good. I already watch so little Mandarin daily, and going three weeks without any contact with the language means I will certainly lose some momentum and fail to consolidate a lot of what I’ve learned.

However, I expect that in the latter half of December and early January I will be able to watch a lot of Chinese and make up lost ground.

Before starting my trek—during my conference here in Cusco—I was speaking to a colleague from Peru and mentioned my experiment. She told me that she had studied Mandarin for four years and achieved some fluency. She then proceeded to ask me a question in Mandarin. And here’s the amazing thing: I actually understood what she said and was able to answer!

Granted, it was a simple question. She asked me what my name was. I had never heard that question before, but I understood it because of the words “ni”, “shema” and “mingze”. My answer was probably completely wrong in terms of grammar and pronunciation, but she understood and did not correct me (nor should you, my readers, since that is not allowed in my experiment). I said something like, “Wo de mingze Victor.”

I didn’t let her teach me anything and we immediately went back to speaking Spanish. But having been able to communicate at all—even this simplest of exchanges—was very encouraging. Actually, it made my night!

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