Speaking Spanish & Speaking Chinese

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I’ve lived in 2 non English speaking countries so far, and there’s one big difference that I’ve noticed between the two.

This is: In China, people don’t expect foreigners to speak Chinese, whereas in Mexico they absolutely expect you to be able to converse in Spanish.

In day to day living, this is very noticeable when I’m out and about in Mexico.

In a clothes shop: China

Say for example when I go into a clothes shop in China, the workers will timidly come up to me and say “Welcome” in Chinese. Usually I would just reply a simple “I’m just looking” in Chinese. That’s really the only communication that would happen between us. Then for paying, they usually wouldn’t say anything either, just the price of something. So you don’t interact too much with the employees because firstly you probably can’t say much other than basic Chinese, and secondly, the employees usually think that I can’t speak Chinese very well so they don’t try to converse.

In a clothes shop: Mexico

In Mexico, you walk in the the employee comes over and says “yoakekkgnnsiishghghehekdknb”. It’s gibberish to me because they talk too fast. My husband told me that they are usually asking “Is there anything you are looking for in particular?” So then, when I go and pay they might ask MORE things, to which I don’t understand. Maybe they might have a promotion on and they are telling you about it. But of course all I hear is gibberish! Because I’m not Mexican looking, to them I’m either a foreigner who’s learning Spanish or maybe I was born here but from a non-mexican family.

In a shop: China

In Chengdu there are these shops called ‘Hongqi’, and they are everywhere! They sell household things, food, rice…usual things you would find in a shop! I’ve been to these places loads of times, and not once has the employee at the counter asked me anything. They just scanned the item and I paid. That was it. No communication whatsoever!

In a shop: Mexico

Here it’s another story altogether! I (still) haven’t bought anything in the small shops here because usually my husband is with me and he pays. ‘7eleven’ and ‘Oxxo’ are the shops that are very common here. So when we enter and pay, the employee at the counter asks “Do you want to top up your phone?”… “We have a discount on these items today.” Although my husband pays, they will most likely also say the same to me, because to them that there’s no doubt that I can understand them.

In Starbucks: China

Yet again, there’s usually no more communication other than me ordering my drink and paying. And actually most of the staff in Starbucks speak English so you can even just order in English!

In Starbucks: Mexico

We went to Starbucks once and my husband said to listen to what he orders and then I can order it next time. So he orders and the lady asks him “Do you want regular milk or slim milk?’…..”The beans are slightly different because of the time of the year, is that ok?”.

So…..as usual a different experience than in China! I know these questions are good for your listening and speaking practice, but I really just want to go, order my drink in simple Spanish, and thats it. I don’t know what the vocab is for ‘Full fat milk’ or ‘slim milk’, and neither do I understand ‘beans’, so if my husband wasn’t there with me, then I definitely would have been caught out!

So with these different attitudes on languages, I’ve also noticed how Mexican people don’t congratulate me when I say “Hola” to someone. They don’t go “WOW! YOUR SPANISH IS SO GOOD!” No, they don’t do this because they expect me to know the language. To them, it’s not an impossible task for me to learn it.

In China, when I say “nihao”, they will say “WOW! YOUR CHINESE IS SO GOOD!”. To them they don’t expect me to speak the language, so when I say hello in Chinese and the pronunciation is better than average they will be absolutely shocked! Maybe that’s all I can say, but my Chinese is just sooo good to them.

I’m not saying either one is wrong, it’s just I’ve become used to not interacting much with Chinese people, and then coming to a country where they will absolutely talk to me like any other Mexican person just takes some getting used to. I’ve learned more in Spanish in 3 months then learning Chinese in 2 years, so that really says something.

So, one day I know I’ll be able to order things and I’ll be able to answer back in Spanish… I will be able to understand!

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Aisling

 

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When Things Bother Me

To be honest I don’t really know what to write in this post. Things have been bothering me lately, and I don’t know what to do. My wedding is coming up and that’s added pressure. I had wanted my wedding day to be a relaxed affair, and not like a ‘normal’ wedding. That’s what I first planned. We were going to have it in our garden in Mexico, turning the swimming pool into a dance area. We were looking at prices for lights, dj, food…. but then we realised that 50 people just won’t fit in the garden, so we had to change plans.

So now I’m having this ‘normal’ wedding like everyone else in a venue; a reception, a toast….. and although I hope it will be a good day… it’s not exactly what I wanted for my wedding. I don’t like being centre of attention, so having a typical wedding day isn’t something I would choose.

I was even looking looking at dresses that weren’t even typical wedding dresses. But then once we moved it to the venue and I realised that yes it’s a full blown thing, then I kind of HAD to resort to getting a typical white wedding dress.

I’m looking forward to the day and then I’m not. I just hope that all will be ok. So that and just other things are stressing me out. Sometimes I feel it was the wrong decision to move to Mexico. And sometimes I am very unhappy with the situation I’m in. Maybe should we have stayed in China? I don’t know. I miss it a lot. I really do, it was my home for 5 years, and I mourn my old life a lot.

It just feels I’m stuck in limbo yet again. This time I’m studying Spanish, and yet again I just can’t see much progress in it. Also I can’t work because if I do get a job then I’ll have to say “Well thanks for the job offer but just to let you know I can’t work for at least 3 weeks in a few months time”. That certainly won’t look good. So both of us can’t look for jobs because we have our wedding.

So this and other things that are happening are just bothering me and making me unhappy, and I don’t know what to do.

Aisling.

What’s the plan for 2019?

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Well, I don’t know 100% yet….. I’ve been thinking of a few goals that I want to achieve, so I hope I actually do achieve them.

-Learn Spanish. Next year is all about Spanish for me. Study Study Study. For me, this is the main goal of mine. I really want to be able to tick this one off!

-Exercise more. With my wedding only a few months away, I just want to look better and feel better in myself. I just want to be healthier.

–Find a job I like. I don’t even really know what I want to do in my life, even being aged 28. But I just want something that I’ll enjoy doing. I don’t want to wake up and begrudgingly have to go to a job that I don’t like.

-Save money. First I need a job, then I want to save some money. We have been spending our money on travelling rather than saving for the future. Which…. I really don’t think will help us much when we’re older. (and having no savings to actually live)

Of course I still wants LOADS more things, but I think for me these are the important things that I want to achieve. I’ve no idea what will happen next year for us; will we stay in Mexico? Move to Ireland/ Spain…even France could be an option for us. Yeah It’s great to have the option of moving to all these places, and I know that maybe if you have a child or have a stable job that you love, then it’s hard to just ‘move up and go’. But at the same time I would like to have that ‘this is where I’m going to live indefinitely’ feeling. I want to come home to my own house, watch television on my own tv, and have my own bedroom. I don’t particularly enjoy living out of a suitcase either.

Plus I’m 28 and I just feel like it’s time to start thinking of settling down.

So, we’ll see how 2019 turns out!

Aisling

 

 

Loving The VIP Cinema

We don’t usually go to the cinema very often, mainly due to the fact that many of the films don’t appeal to us, but because I was feeling down the past few days, we decided to go to the cinema to cheer me up. We wanted to see the new Wreck it Ralph film, but unfortunately it was only in Spanish. We kept looking and we found that the new Fantastic Beasts film was out, and in English, so we decided to go to that one!

We noticed however that this was only being shown in the VIP cinema, but we decided to go anyway, and experience it!

So we arrive and the VIP cinema was apart from the main one, and the employees had fancy suits on them and everything just looked expensive and fancy! We pay and then we look around the sitting area; theres a bar with beer, fancy seats, and it was just very posh compared to the normal cinema. We went ahead and bought popcorn, two drinks, nachos and cheese in the normal cinema, and then walked to the VIP which was right beside it. We didn’t know it at the time but if we had bought the food and drink in the VIP area, it would have been more expensive, so lucky us! We go into our room and I was shocked with the seats! They are huge! They are all grouped in two, so you can sit beside your friend etc.

We found our seats and I was surprised at how fancy it was. There was a light beside us, a moveable glass table to put things on, the seats can recline so much and you can relax with your feet up. There’s even a place to charge your phone! The middle part of the two seats can move out of the way so it becomes a sofa. It was so cool.

Then we see that there is a menu and you can press a small button and a waiter comes and takes your order from the menu they provide. They have all sorts; burgers, sushi, salads, desserts, beer. We didn’t order anything else but other people did while watching the film. The waiter would quietly come, take the order, then reappear with the food on a tray.

The seats were also really really comfy! I just loved the experience. These tickets were pretty much double the price of the normal cinema, but we don’t expect to do this much. Maybe once or twice a year maybe? I don’t think we have any of this in Ireland. (From what I know anyway, maybe in Dublin there might be).

But anyway, I really enjoyed the experience. The film was terrible by the way! If you love films that are supposed to be full of action but are instead just minutes and minutes of dialogue and about 4 actions scenes, then this is the film for you! I was actually pretty bored watching it, so I wouldn’t really recommend it, but…. being a VIP was good!

Aisling

Learning Spanish in Mexico: My Study Routine

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I’ve been in Mexico since October and I’ve tried to keep studying my Spanish and talking in Spanish as much as I can. But it’s hard sometimes!

Usually my daily routine goes like this:

In the morning I’d usually do 2 wheels from Duolingo. It’s not too taxing for me in the morning and I like seeing how my wheels change colour when I’ve studied them. I’m going down my tree turning every wheel one colour, so the whole tree will be green/blue….. Then I go back up to the top and start turning them another colour. It depends on the theme/ grammar point in each wheel, but usually 2 wheels will take me between 30-45 minutes to complete. (Especially the harder ones which are lower on the tree, also if I keep getting them wrong).

I also sometimes read some Duolingo Stories, but these are really when I’m in the mood. I don’t feel like they help me much for studying, but some stories are interesting to read. 

Then we usually have lunch and I try and speak Spanish, but usually I just eat in silence because I’m not particularly talkative even in English! But this is a good time for some listening practice, as my fiancé and his parents LOVE to talk, so that’s good for my listening! I know I need to work on this though, so I’ll try and make an extra effort in speaking during this time. 

I find that after lunch is the most difficult time to study. I’m tired (maybe due to lunch) and just want to take a nap really! So I end up usually just procrastinating during the hours of 2pm-4pm. So again, another thing I need to improve on. 

Later on in the afternoon I sort of get my energy back up again and I start studying grammar. I have one book called ‘Collins, easy learning; Spanish Grammar & Practice’ and it teaches basic spanish grammar. What I like to do is read every thing that I’ve studied before in the book, and then start a new grammar point. I try and understand it and then do some written exercises which are in the book. I get my fiancé to go through them and explain to me if I got something wrong. 

I have another easier book to use which I switch back and forth. This one is a classroom based book with dialogues and what not. 

It’s starting to get dark outside now and I move onto something else. I’ve set each day of the week (bar 1) where I learn 10 new words . So maybe on Monday I look at my calendar and see I have to learn nouns, so I learn 10 nouns for that day. I have 5 things to learn; nouns, adjectives, verbs, tenses and tense conjugations. So first I will learn my nouns, then I will review everything that I’ve learned from these 5 categories. For example,  I’ve lots of nouns that I’ve already learned so I go back to the beginning and re-read them all. Sometimes It’s boring but I realised I remember pretty much all of them just by reading them everyday. 

The same goes for adjectives and what not.  I think maybe I could push to 20 words per day, so I think I might slowly increase my new vocab. At the beginning I was learning 30 words everyday and by the end, having to learn so many made me dread that time of day! So now 10 is very easy for me. 

So all that takes me a while to do, but It really does help me. I’m not stressing myself if I forget an adjective or tense, because I know I’ll review them tomorrow and the next day, so they will stick one day!

After this, I might dabble a bit with some listening practice by watching YouTube videos. I usually do this sporadically during the day. 

Then, I have a list of questions in Spanish on my computer and I have to write an answer and learn them off by heart. The latest one I learned was ‘Que hiciste ayer?’ …’What did you do yesterday?’. So I try and write it in spanish, and then my fiancé comes and corrects the mistakes. It’s great having him nearby to fix all of my errors! After that I try and learn every sentence off by heart, until I know the whole answer. Sometimes It’s difficult as I’m using tenses that I’ve haven’t studied yet, but I don’t want simple answers, I want answers that are complicated and so I learn new vocab and tenses. 

Sometime during the evening I try and spend an hour speaking with my fiancé about a topic in Spanish. I’m grateful he takes the time out to help me with my spanish, as he’s busy doing his own things. 

I might also use another book which is an Irish exam paper. There are two levels, higher and ordinary,  with higher level being more difficult. In it there are exam papers that student’s do for their Leaving Cert to get into University. Every practice exam paper has stories to read and then questions to answer underneath. I enjoy doing this and I can notice they are getting easier to read, especially when I remember reading them while I was in China! 

Finally, I like to read at night so I downloaded some free spanish kindle books to read. I really enjoy reading so this isn’t a chore for me at all, unless it’s super difficult! I’ve watched some tv shows in Spanish with the family but I lose interest after a while because I just don’t understand anything. Watching a film in Spanish that I’ve already seen before in English helps though, as I already know what it’s about so it’s not as bad. Plus sometimes a programme/film will be in English with Spanish subtitles, which I would rather not watch! 

So anyway, theres my day of learning Spanish. I try and speak Spanish throughout the day but I know I need to stick in extra speaking time, but it’s difficult as I’m not a lover of talking. I know I’d improve faster if I spoke more, so I’ll try and make an extra effort with that. 

Aisling

Preparing For Our Wedding

So, wedding stuff…… lights, flowers, music, alcohol, food, dress….. oh and that list goes on and on and on. . . 

With our wedding a few months away, we’re now on the clock to get everything sorted for it, and let’s just say, I’m very happy that we only have to go through this once! It’s only one day, but there’s so much planning and preparation that goes with it, I don’t think I could do it all again! This is the time when you need a wedding planner. (If only I had like tonnes of money to be able to get one) 

I still don’t have my dress, and one that I liked was too expensive. Now I have no real idea what wedding dresses cost as we haven’t really shopped around, but let’s just say it’ll be hard to find a cheap one! And what was planned as a small ‘party’ in our garden has turned into having it in an event venue with toasts, ceremonies and everything else that comes with weddings! I kept saying to myself, and others around me “It’s not really a wedding at all, it’s more like a party”. I was trying to make myself think that “it’s just a party, only a party, nothing crazy like a proper wedding, definitely not…….it’s just a small party”. But no, it’s not ‘just a party’ anymore, which scares me! 

I really don’t like being centre of attention, and a whole day being about me (and my fiancé of course) scares the living daylights out of me! Thankfully it won’t be a huge wedding, maybe with around 50 guests. I can handle that number. 

I suppose I just have to think ‘everyone getting married goes through this’. Everybody. I’m sure there’s not one bride or groom that won’t be nervous, stressed and secretly terrified about their big day, so that comforts me a little. 

But anyway, the next few months will be focused on the big day, and it’s hard not to think about anything else. When you are tight with money, you need to be careful with your budget, how much everything costs…blah blah blah. 

Oh, and I’ve learned…… photographers are EXPENSIVE!!!! I never knew how expensive they were. That’s another thing that we need to think about. I read a few years ago that one thing you shouldn’t skip on is having a professional photographer at your wedding. Yes they are expensive but they take much much better photos than anyone else at the wedding. Plus you’ll always have memories of the day by having beautiful photos. So it’s expensive but I think it’s necessary (unless you want blurred photos taken by your drunk relative as your memories)

Thankfully we are having it in Mexico, a country that is known to be cheap, so hopefully that will help our budget. We are just trying to have a cheap but nice wedding day. I know it’s an important day but I don’t want to blow loads of money on just one day. Cheap doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad wedding. Plus with both of us not working isn’t helping, it’s not nice having our money slowly but surely disappearing, with no way to replenish it. 

With regards to our honeymoon, we haven’t really talked about it. We’ll most likely visit somewhere nice in Mexico. First get the big day out of the way, and then we’ll talk about the honeymoon. 

The countdown is on! 

Aisling

Worrying

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So with my latest posts, I was talking about how I enrolled in a Spanish course in a university here. My second time going was a bad experience, you can read about it here: No, It Didn’t Go Well

We decided to go and meet the teacher and explain to her that the level is too high. So, it turns out that the other two students that were in the class have been studying a year at the university, so they use Spanish every day because their course is in Spanish. So that is why their level is so good! I’m guessing on their free mornings they come to have class just to strengthen their Spanish. So I was worrying and wondering how I was stuck in with them when they were supposed to be ‘basic’ like me. Unfortunately the teacher never told me this, so I couldn’t understand why they were in my class. Apparently theres only two levels available to take, so they just came to the lower class. Maybe they have class before or after so 10am was the only time to go.

The teacher said that I can continue going and just observe the class, so I can improve my listening at least.

So the day after I had class and I just couldn’t go in. I just sort of had an anxiety panic attack. I just didn’t want to go in and have to sit there while the the others are blabbering away and me not being able to understand anything. I just hate that feeling.

On Wednesday I arrived to class and chat chat chat was all I heard. Again I couldn’t understand much. She asked me some questions and I ‘tried’ to answer, but when the others are talking I just can’t understand. Yesterday I went in again and there were 4 male students, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand about 80% of the class. Honestly. It was very difficult for me. They were laughing and joking about something and I just sat at the side just doing nothing. I couldn’t participate or anything.

So I came out of class a little down again, thinking ‘Is this what I have to deal with 5 days a week? I have to worry every morning about going in to class which I shouldn’t have to worry about. Every class I’m anxious that she’ll ask me something and I don’t understand. Maybe they’ll be chatting about a topic and the teacher will ask me “So Aisling, what do you think about climate change? and I’ll be sitting there like an eejit because I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, never mind giving my opinion on something more advanced than talking about myself’.

These are the things I think about. And I know it’s stupid. I know I should just go in there and try. But I can’t try because I can’t participate. I don’t understand anything they say, so I can’t even try to say something.

So for this week I went in 2 days, today (Friday) I woke up and just said to myself “Nope….not going in today”. And I didn’t. And do you know what? I feel absolutely great today! I’m not worried or anxious about the class. I’m not annoyed at what I didn’t understand. I’m not sad after it and thinking “Oh I said that wrong, I should have said this…” I feel wonderful today.

Anyway, that’s my dilema! Either go to class and struggle, but know that I’m getting something out of it (god knows what because at the moment I feel like the only thing I’m getting out of it is stress). Or I could just not go and be happier, but then feel annoyed that I’m not going and at least trying. It’s a tricky one!

I don’t want to feel like I’m giving up. I really don’t. But the class is just so difficult for me. If it was the level that I’m at and I just didn’t go, then yeah I would be giving up. But this situation is different, so it’s harder.

I’ve also started seeing a therapist for my anxiety. I’ve wanted to go while in China but it was expensive. So I talked about how the class went to him and why I worry a lot. So we’ll see how that goes!

But anyway, today I feel happy and worry-free. So that’s good.

Aisling