Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

After finishing up my last semester learning Chinese and starting a job, I’ve put Chinese to the side for the moment. Having become increasingly frustrated with how little I’ve learnt so far, I’ve decided to move onto Spanish for a while. Plus I have my own private Spanish tutor living with me which definitely helps!

I had a go at learning Spanish before, but I quickly realised that it was just too difficult to concentrate on two languages at the same time. But now I’ve really put more effort into learning the basics of Spanish, and so far I’m doing ok.

I’ve been using Duolingo, and overall it’s pretty good. There are some problems in how they teach it, but I’m getting the basics right and although I guess some answers, usually they are correct! So something is working!

In order to improve my pronunciation, I try and mimic the Spanish recordings until I get it right, this way I can sound more native like and also It’ll help me to practice speaking in Spanish.

What I need to do now is get my fiancé to speak Spanish to me all the time. The problem with that though is that because I’m only at a basic level, he really needs to dumb everything down. Maybe when my level is higher then he can do that with me. At the moment If I’ve any problems with grammar or what not, then I ask him and he tries to explain it to me.

But of course the Chinese grammar that I’ve learned creeps in sometimes.

For example, there was a sentence like ‘ I talk with my father’

So in my head I reverted back to my Chinese grammar and how I would say it in Chinese using the Chinese sentence structure: ‘I with my father talk’

So I start saying in Spanish “Yo con mi padre hablo”

My fiancé looks at me and says “No……Aisling that’s not right. Say it again.”

So I say again, wondering what’s wrong with my sentence.

“Aisling you are using the Chinese sentence structure. Just say it like you would in English!”

Ohhh….. I never even realised! I just naturally translated it into the way I would have said it in Chinese. Also, when he speaks to me in Spanish, I automatically think of the answer in Chinese, so it’ll take me a little while to get used to switching from Chinese mode to Spanish!

But anyway, I’m glad I started using Duolingo; it’s good for beginners and it gives a good foundation on the language.

Plus it’s free!

Aisling.

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Being Conned By A Taxi Man

Being Conned By A Taxi Man

I have been quite lucky in the fact that I haven’t been scammed; you hear in Beijing about people being scammed when they meet a student looking to ‘practice their English with you’ and you both go to a teahouse to drink tea. Then suddenly the bill comes and the tea is at an extortionate price. Obviously the ‘student’ and the teahouse are in this together, and they force the foreigner to pay.

This is quite a well known scam that most people going to Beijing should have heard about. But in Chengdu, I’ve never encountered a scam….

That was until 2 weeks ago…

When my boyfriends parents were here, we decided to go for some Beijing Duck. It’s a little far from our place, so we decided to hail a taxi to get there; costing 20元. About 4/5euro.

After our meal, we caught another taxi and away home we went. Every taxi has a meter, and usually it begins at 8元 and continues from that price.. I think it is based on every kilometre you drive… and it increases by 1yuan.

So naturally we presumed it would be around the 20元 mark. As we were driving, I happened to look at the metre…… 30元!!??

We were still not home… but it was already at this high price! I kept looking at it and the metre suddenly jumped another 2 yuan in a matter of 10 seconds.

‘That’s definitely not right’ I thought. It’s broken.

Then, to make things worse, I didn’t spot any information about the taxi man in the car. No card or details about him… You always see details of the driver on the dashboard. Definitely a dodgy taxi.

It was then when my boyfriend noticed the metre. He asked him why is it so expensive? And the taxi man didn’t reply.

Then, out of nowhere, he starts blabbering in Chinese to him. Huh…. throughout the whole ride home he never said a word…. and it was only until my boyfriend mentioned the price that he started talking.

He asked where we were from and how long have we lived in China. When we said 3 years… I’m pretty sure he copped on and thought ‘Oh no, these guys actually live here…. so they know rightly well that this metre is rigged…. well I can’t do anything about it now…’

So when we arrived home… the metre ended up at 45 元!!! What a ripoff!

He stopped the taxi and we immediately said that’s far too expensive… his reply was ‘You are foreigners!!’ 

And??? Just because we are foreigners doesn’t mean you have the right to rip us off. Obviously he doesn’t care about showing Chinese hospitality to ‘us foreigners’.

So we went back and forth with him about not paying and we settled it at 25元。 A much more satisfactory price.

I keep on wondering how he did it though; did he click a button when he saw us and thats when the metre changed? Or is the metre like that for everybody who uses it?

I didn’t know that type of thing existed. It looked like a normal taxi to us.

And apparently these fake taxis are becoming more and more common, as one student in our class said he got into 3 of these fake ones in the last year.

Thankfully we rarely take taxis, only taking them for the convenience of my boyfriends Mum and Dad being here.

But, it goes to show that these are about. In future, we will look at the dashboard and make sure there is correct information about the driver before we step into the car.

We certainly learned to be more cautious!

再见

爱玲

Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Because teaching here in China has now become ‘normal’ and well, not terribly exciting, I’ve kind of neglected to write more posts about it. But I’ll write an update about how it’s going.

At the moment I have about 10 groups who I teach. Although when I go back full time It will increase. Thankfully, everyone (apart from one group) are fantastic. My youngest are aged about 6/7 I think, while my oldest is 14. My youngest are learning phonics, so for me it’s quite an easy class, plus for them they enjoy it because they don’t have to actually learn English vocab and grammar, just how to say the words.

I’ve had one student for over 2 years now I think, and she moved with me to my new campus from my old one. Her English has improved really quickly! From 2 years ago to now I really do notice her improvement. Now I’m not saying that’s all because of me… but she’s the student I’ve had the longest, so I see the most improvement in her. She’s the one that keeps calling me ‘fat’ (huh and she’s the one that talks about food in class all the time) but overall she is a great student.

My not so great group is with two boys. The two boys that I used to have got split up, so now I teach them separately, but now the oldest boy has been paired with another boy…. and unfortunately the group isn’t so good anymore.

Now my old student ‘S’ has become much more disobedient! It really annoys me because I know that his behaviour used to be good, and I enjoyed teaching him and the other student. But since ‘T’ has joined, he has affected ‘S’s behaviour in class. It’s such a pity, because I know ‘S’ is a good student; I’ve seen it. But unfortunately this other boy is effectively ruining his learning in class.

If it continues I think I might tell ‘S’ that his behaviour isn’t good anymore… shame him a bit about this fact. I know he’s a good boy underneath it all.

But anyway, I’ve recently had a 21 year old studying with me for a few weeks. She is not resigning so I only have her a few more times. She is studying to do an English test, but the way it’s going, I don’t think she will pass. Her vocabulary just isn’t good enough, plus I feel like she isn’t very motivated. haha I can say the same for myself with Chinese sometimes!

In my opinion, it’s a shame that she isn’t resigning again, she really needs extra English classes to improve. I really can’t see her studying by herself.

But she is a nice and friendly student though, and I enjoy teaching her.

Company wise, it definitely need more improvements. Especially with Chinese PA’s… they are dropping like flies in our campus. The PA that has been with us the longest has just left as she hated her job, so I’m pretty sure every other PA has only been with us for a few months.

It’s coming to the stage where I don’t even try and remember their names, as most likely they will leave soon enough. It’s pretty sad though; the company treats teachers with good pay, holidays and two days off a week, whereas PA’s aren’t paid a lot, they only get 1 day off a week, and they have to put up with a lot of crap from parents AND from teachers complaining. So I’m really not surprised that so many quit.

Unless all the PA’s decide to revolt and protest, I don’t think much will change, especially if they don’t want to ‘lose face’, a strange Chinese phenomenon.

If you have never heard of this, have a look at the link below for some information about it!

‘Losing Face’ in China

再见

爱玲

Tackling Spanish

Tackling Spanish

For the past 1.5 years my head has been tortured with learning Chinese… now I’m not saying I don’t enjoy learning it, of course I do… just sometimes you need a break from all those thousands of characters once in a while!

Since meeting my boyfriend and visiting Mexico and his family, I’ve become more and more interested in learning Spanish. In Secondary school and Uni I chose to study French instead of Spanish, so I’ve literally had to start from the basics with Spanish. haha now that my French has completely disappeared, (not that there was much in the first place) I don’t think I’ll have any trouble mixing the two languages up!

I’ve started using an application called Anki, where it makes flashcards and what not for you… I’ve been using it for my Chinese also, but to be honest it’s very hard to use,for me anyway, it’s a bit too technical! I’ve ended up having to delete my whole Spanish deck of words and download it again, as I messed with the cards and didn’t know how to rectify it. So it does take some time to get used to and know how to use it properly.

In comparison to Chinese… I must say I remember the vocab much easier in Spanish. No characters to learn, no tones… just a straight up spanish word and thats it!

My pronunciation needs work on though, as I still pronounce letters like in English.. oh and the ‘r’ sound still annoys me.

And because my head is also in ‘Chinese mode’, whenever I see a Spanish phrase like ‘Does he want a t-shirt?’ and I need to think a second for the answer, instinctively the Chinese translation of it will enter my head.

But I have to say, when comparing the two languages.. I really do appreciate some things about Chinese. The grammar isn’t as tricky as say English or Spanish. There are no conjugations or gender specific words. The language is also a bit more concise.

What I also enjoy about Chinese are how words are literally translated:

fridge = ice box (bing  xiang/冰箱)

computer = electric brain (dian nao/ 电脑)

yogurt = sour milk (suan nai/酸奶)

And don’t get me started on the literal translations of animals!

dolphin = sea piglet (hai tun/海豚)

kangaroo= bag mouse (dai shu/ 袋鼠)

giraffe= long neck deer ( chang jing lu/ 长颈鹿)

These are just a few of the interesting translations!

I think every person studying Chinese gets a laugh when they find out the translation of different things in Chinese!

But anyway, back to Spanish!

As I’ve only been studying for about a week now, I know I’ve only barely touched the surface of this language. When I start to learn the grammar properly and the conjugations is when I might begin to tear my hair out!

Having had a week off from Uni, I’ve been studying more Spanish recently, so I’ll have to try and stick with it when Monday comes.

It’s nice though to be able to switch with the two languages…. I can have a break with Chinese but not feel bad, because I’ll be learning Spanish… I won’t feel lazy because I’m still technically learning!

So I suppose Chinese and Spanish has their own merits and why I like them!

再见

爱玲

The Way I Speak

Since moving away from home, teaching English and meeting my boyfriend… I have found out words and phrases that I’ve commonly used back home have slowly been disappearing….and instead, I’ve began to think in a more ‘American’ way.

First of all, the books that I teach my students with are full of American words like ‘trash can’. Then my boyfriend has also learned American English.  So these are both influences.

There are tonnes of words and phrases that people in Ireland use quite regularly, like ‘grand’ ‘shite’ ‘Mam instead of Mum/Mom, the phrase ‘I’m after (doing something)’. ‘Giving out (to someone)’ We also say ‘yous’ instead of ‘you all’.

Of course my students will definitely not understand me if I say any of these!

What’s worse is when I am with my boyfriend I start thinking American English. For us ‘pavement/ footpath’ is ‘sidewalk’… so in my head, when I see someone walking on the street, now I automatically think ‘Oh they should be walking on the sidewalk!’

Then I think ‘Oh no… FOOTPATH!! I MEANT FOOTPATH!’

Instead of saying ‘crisps’ for things like Lays…I sometimes say ‘chips’.

And during teaching, I’ve given up saying the word ‘sweets’ and just say ‘candy’ now… they don’t know the meaning of ‘sweets’, and they always forget when I tell them anyway.

And actually, the same goes for my boyfriend now!

Because we spend a lot of time together and he listens to me everyday….. he sometimes has blurted out ‘Mam’ instead of ‘Mom’, ‘tree’ instead of ‘three’ and now he is saying ‘crisps’ instead of ‘chips’!!

I’ve also noticed some phrases that I commonly use which he has picked up on… like ‘Did yeh?’ I’ve also think that he has lost some of the American pronunciation of some words like ‘matter’.

It’s strange how it all works!

For me, I suppose my speaking is changing because firstly, I don’t meet any other Irish people, so I’m not continuously hearing my own native accent. Second, I’m constantly aware of my voice and if for example I say in my native accent ‘brown’.. my students won’t understand me… so I have to change how I say some words so they understand.

Lastly, my boyfriend speaks American English, so I’ve become used to hearing certain words more than others from him.

haha whats worse though is that I feel my English speaking has gotten worse. I forget certain words in English and some of my grammar gets mixed up. I don’t know why.. but I think it’s to do with the fact that I am constantly listening to non-natives speaking grammatically wrong English… maybe some of that bad English gets stuck in my head!! Also there are words in English that I rarely use anymore. In Ireland I would hear them more often so I would remember them. But here… at work I hear the same English spoken over and over again.

Well, I HOPE those reasons are true… or else I have no idea why my English is getting worse.

It’s funny how your accent changes with different environments and who you are with. I just hope that when the time comes to head home to Ireland, my Irish words and phrases will come flooding back to me!

再见

爱玲

It’s a Foreigner Thing

Not only is learning Chinese difficult for me, but it can also be difficult for a native speaker having to listen to a non-native butcher their language!

During the week, one of our teachers decided to play a game with us. Having split the class into two teams, she each gave us a piece of paper with two Chinese words that we have learnt since the beginning of the semester. We each had to explain what our two words were, without actually saying them.

Our poor teacher! One of the students would be saying a sentence and we would have to quickly raise our hand if we knew the word they were referring to. Our teacher would look at us with astonishment and ask ‘How did you know that was the word???’ She didn’t have a clue what some of the students were saying, but us foreigners did!

For Chinese people, they have learnt Chinese through tones…. so a lot of times when foreigners say something, Chinese people just don’t understand us, simply because our tones aren’t good enough. They rely very heavily on tones to get the meaning across.

Whereas with us during class, we weren’t listening as much to the tones, but to the overall sentence and what they were trying to say.

We have one student from France, and he has a very strong accent when he speaks in Chinese. There are times when he says something and I listen and think ‘God it sounds as if he just spoke French just now’.  But when he said his sentence, the hands went straight up!

Our teacher, god love her…she didn’t have a clue what he said. We kept repeating ‘It’s a foreigner thing’. Each of us were speaking in Chinglish but we all managed to figure out what we were saying, and guess the correct word.

So I suppose that game made us realise that Chinese people won’t understand us a lot of times, but also how us foreigners can manage to get by with our Chinglish… even though it’s only to other foreigners! ha that is a lot of help!

I enjoyed the game though… and plus my team won!

再见

爱玲

 

 

My first week back studying.

So it’s been a week since returning to studying Mandarin. Compared to last semester a few things have changed. From the people who were in the previous semester and who are still in level 2 are about 8 including me. In level 1 there were 2 Korean girls and we presumed they were coming back, they did…. but skipped on to level 3. I’m thinking maybe they studied Mandarin during the summer and that is why they moved ahead. Then there is an older man doing level one again. Oh I don’t think I could learn the pronunciation of  ‘bo, mo, fo, le’ for a whole month!  One is enough!

During the week there have been dribs and drabs of new people, coming and going, trying out the different levels to see which one they are capable of. Some come and have very basic Chinese, then others come with a much higher level. However, for all students there is one problem….

Characters. 汉字。

This is why some people, who have a high level of Chinese, are seen in Level 1. Yes their Chinese is good and they can have a conversation, but when it comes to reading and writing Chinese, they have never studied this. In order to begin to learn the characters you would ideally need to start from the beginning and work upwards. This is what we did, fortunately I didn’t know any characters anyway so level 1 was perfect for me.

Now, in level 2, the character we learned from level 1 are now in our newest book. Thankfully we took the time to learn(most of these) so translating isn’t so difficult. There is one German lady who, during the beginning of the week was contemplating moving to level 1. Her oral Chinese is, I would say on my level, but she admitted that she didn’t know a lot of characters when we were in class. She decided to stick to level 2 and push on, learning the extra characters as she goes.

Someone that I work with has also joined our class, which was a big surprise to me! His Chinese is much better than mine, but he is in our level simply to learn the characters. See in level 3 there is no pinyin. From level 3 onwards the books contain all characters. So that is a big jump! He wants to study in a Chinese Uni but he needs to know characters. Thats why he is with us.

And unsurprisingly there are no other Irish people in my class, in fact today there were only 2 females in the class; myself and the German lady. So us women are very outnumbered!

So my first week was good; even on our first day we learnt something! Classes end the 26th of December, and in October we are going on a trip, presumably to jiuzhaigou! 九寨沟。 Although I was there before, I’ll definitely go back!

I can’t wait to find out what I will learn this semester!

再见!

Aisling.