Thursday, September 12, 2013


I had a dream where I was trying to type the Chinese word 变成 (biàn chéng) [translation: become] and it wouldn't come up when I typed it- I kept getting other characters instead. I tried so hard.

So that means I'm fluent, right? They say when you dream in another language, that means you're fluent.

I feel like I'm fluent. No, I don't understand everything people say. Sometimes I don't understand half of what people say. But whenever I need to go somewhere and ask for something, I no longer feel like "wow this is going to be hard because I'll have to think about how to say it in Chinese." So is that what fluent means?

Image source.

I've lived in China for 2 months now, and Chinese and English are all starting to run together. Somehow I'm able to keep track of which language I'm supposed to use with which people.

When I'm in class with my students? English. That's my job, teaching English. The classes have to be taught entirely in English, with maybe an individual word here or there translated into Chinese.

Talking to random strangers in public? Cashiers, taxi drivers, waiters, person nearest to the elevator buttons... Chinese, of course.

My family back in America? English. They don't know any Chinese.

My boyfriend... well, both of us speak both, so... whatever.

Chinese colleagues at my job? I try to use Chinese, but sometimes it's just easier to speak English. (But I've learned how to say "the copier is broken" in Chinese so... progress!) Most of the staff can speak English well.

Talking with students when they're just hanging out between classes? Well you know, my job is to help them with English, but it's kind of a more casual setting and it's easier to speak Chinese, so... maybe half and half.

And hanging out with students outside of the office- well, that's out in public so I just naturally speak Chinese. Even if they talk to me in English.

The other foreign teachers? Well some of them speak Chinese (not as well as me, haha) and some don't. So... if they can understand, I'll use some simple Chinese. But mostly English.

And the Chinese friends I've made here, unrelated to my job... well they all have their own English ability/ desire to practice English. With some friends, we talk only in Chinese. Some friends speak a little bit of English. And there's one guy I often talk to online, who speaks English really really well, so he types in English and I type in Chinese, unless I'm really tired and English is just easier.

And last but not least, my cat. I think he understands Chinese.


  1. That's a good feeling. I understand most of what people say now over where I was living. But I remember the first time they could start understanding me when I asked for stuff...good feeling. I still understand more than I speak, though. BTW, that's quite a feet for two months in a five tonal language (of course, for me the tones weren't the hardest part. The structure continues to blow me away).

  2. Yep. It's a good feeling. And it's no big deal- I've been studying Chinese for 3 years and could already speak it before I moved here 2 months ago... but wow, getting used to speaking it all the time is awesome.