Friday April 4th 2014: only 7 weeks away from the “big night”. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I intend to present at in depth night. However, with “AprilMayJune” in the way, it is very difficult to predict how far I will get during my study of Mandarin. My goal is to be able to efficiently read text and confidently pronounce Chinese words and sounds. My mentor, Hannah Duan, mentioned that writing is much more difficult so it will be quite challenging. Nonetheless, I hope to have the opportunity to get that far in my studies and be able to write as well as read on in depth night.

Yesterday, I met with Hannah to continue learning from where we left off. Since she was on a family vacation in Puerto Vallarta, I didn’t get to meet with her last week. However, I continued to practice my pronunciation with the Chinese textbook she gave me on our first lesson. Yesterday, Hannah continued to walk me through more of the textbook. She taught me more complicated combinations of letters and sounds, including words with “zh” , “ch”, and “sh”. Believe me when I say this, those three combinations are real tongue twisters. Hannah told me that in order to correctly pronounce words with these letter combinations, I have to bring my tongue to the roof of my mouth and then pronounce the letters, following “pinyin” of course. You try it! Try saying a sentence while having your tongue at the roof of your mouth… Challenging isn’t it? In fact, Hannah told me that these word combinations are the most difficult for foreigners. A lot of practice is the only way to allow difficult sounds like “zh”, “ch”, and “sh” to fit comfortably in my mouth. Next week, we will continue to practice learning more difficult words while honing my skills on the basics, such as pinyin and the four tones. In addition, Hannah will begin introducing me to various texts and mini stories. The actual Chinese characters will come later.

Now, I will address a few of the questions Ms. Mulder stated in her blog:

What kinds of learning opportunities does the mentor provide to expose you to new learning?

Hannah introduces me to many textbooks and stories to expose me to new learning concepts. Near the beginning of my study, we were investigating textbooks to cover the basics of the language. Furthermore, Hannah is giving me workbooks to help practice writing “pinyin” out with the four tones. We are still going through textbooks for extra practice, however, Hannah is going to expose me to a lot of text and short stories in order for me to apply all the skills I have learned thus far. When I start exploring the Chinese characters, I am positive that I will be exposed to more textbooks and workbooks to help me learn the intricate yet gorgeous Chinese characters.

When you get together what do you talk about?

As mentioned earlier, Hannah is currently giving me a walkthrough on the pronunciation of pinyin, the four tones, and small words and phrases. During the lesson, we specifically talk about the pronunciation for the majority of the time. Hannah gives me strategies on pronouncing challenging words and phrases. She also talks about what the words I’m learning mean. This helps widen my vocabulary during my study. Since I speak Arabic, I can occasionally link words that resemble words I know in Arabic or even English! For example, the word tea in mandarin strongly resembles the word “tea” in Arabic, in pronunciation. In addition, the words for mom and dad also sound the same. Even though words like “mama” and “baba” are universal, my connections can show Hannah that I am paying attention and learning new words. I hope to learn a solid set of words by the end of my in-depth study.

What is going particularly well in your mentoring relationship right now?

Something that is going particularly well in our mentoring relationship, I feel, is how much we understand each other. Hannah understands the type of student I am and she does her best to direct her teaching in the way I learn. For example, Hannah has gotten to know that I am a quick learner, so she is constantly challenging me and introducing me to new concepts. I really appreciate that because that tells me that Hannah feels that I am making great progress and that I have real potential in effectively learning Mandarin at an introductory level. Hannah’s encouragement and support is what will motivate me to continue to work hard at my study and hopefully present an excellent performance on in-depth night.