Mandarin: How I started.

I have just discovered another singer I actually fancy after rummaging through Youtube for songs that would probably suit my ears. And he’s 周興哲 Eric Chou.

That actually got me thinking that maybe, I should write a post about it. So here goes.

I am bilingual, fluent in Malay and English. I’d love to proudly proclaim myself as a trilingual, with the proficiency in Mandarin, but I guess I’m not at that level of fluency in the language yet to proclaim myself as such.

However, I can speak and understand Mandarin, moderately. Or maybe just the basics. I cannot read and write the Chinese characters though.

I remembered attending an interview for a job, where the interviewer actually conducted the interview session in Mandarin, considering the fact that I included Mandarin as my ‘possible’ medium of communication in my resume. Well, that was a great experience for me to be honest. Because truthfully, I dont speak the language on daily basis and I’m not a native speaker. I got that job though, but I chose to accept another offer. Not going to get in depth on it.

I did not study at a Chinese school or SJKC. I get this question every single time I showcase my ability in understanding the language. The only ‘legit’ Mandarin class I attended was for three consecutive semesters when I was taking my Degree, in our ‘Third Language’ class (which was not daily, more like once a week). And we studied how to write, read and speak in Mandarin, just the basics though (writing, listening and oral test). It did not help much as compared to those who study 6 years in a SJKC. But it did help, depending on the student’s willingness to learn.

Let’s just say I had it easier than most, because I was born in a mix-cultured family. I’ve been listening to people conversing in Mandarin and Hokkien ever since I was a kid. That definitely helped in my adaptability to the language and most probably was the major contributing factor to how I can easily understand and mimic the pronunciation of several basic Mandarin phrases. Besides that, in high school, I was placed in a class with the majority of students being Chinese and listening to their daily conversations help me catch up easily. Now that I’m working, I tried to listen to my colleagues conversations and they speak to me in Mandarin too, occasionally.

Oblivious to the fact that I can somehow use Mandarin to my advantage, I only started working on brushing up my communicative skill when I was 15, when I could have started way back when I was younger. I guess the starting point for all of it was listening to my high school seniors rendition of Jay Chou’s Cai Hong (Rainbow) in the school hall 8 years ago. I was literally smitten, to the point of no return as right there and then, I started listening to Mandarin pop songs daily till today. Some of my favorites are Jay Chou, Rainie Yang, JJ Lin, Wang Lee Hom, Fish Leong, Hu Xia, Hebe Tien and of course the all time favorite Wu Yue Tian (MAYDAY).

From listening to songs, I watch Taiwanese TV series and moved on to films such as You Are The Apple of My Eye and Our Times with the help of subtitles since I’m not an expert yet to understand the spoken words fully and clearly.

I’m still in the process of learning the language in depth. Taking things in my relaxed and inconsistent pace, songs are my biggest motivation so far. There is no other path to take except forward. And forward I shall go.

Here’s the song that has managed to capture my heart, just recently.

To those learning the language, I wish you all the best! Jia you to me and to all of us 🙂

CR: Another Country by Helene du Coudray, page 65/250.

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