A Chinese learning student sharing his experience about learning Chinese language

Here is his experieces of learning Chinese🙈🙈

I am AYUBU TEWELE(王晓乐), a student at University of Dar es Salaam, and going to pursue Bachelor of Arts with Education (BA with Education) in China. I officially started to learn Chinese language as an elective course (optional course) on January 2016 at Confucius Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam, I’ve always loved learning Chinese language, being student at University of Dar es Salaam gave me the opportunity of learning Mandarin, a totally different language from my mother language with a fascinating handwriting, a different grammar and a pronunciation that I had never spoken.
Learning Mandarin was more like a challenge to me, because people and my relatives told me that it was too hard, and learning Chinese will have a negative effect on my major since Chinese was not my major. But I never believe them, lucky me! Because now I can speak, however, from that time I lost my friends, I didn’t like to be with people who make me feel inferior and loose hope. Nothing is better than facing challenges on my own, having a tough time, and slowly, steadily overcoming that challenge, but personally I don’t think Mandarin is too hard to learn. I think it’s all about the way we look at it… if we think it’s too hard, it will be, I really haven’t had that much time studying Chinese, but I can say that some of my experiences are unique.

The first thing that we were interested in this course was a Chinese name. I was given 小乐based on the meaning rather than the phonetics. When I started learning Chinese, I took a bunch of classes. I took tests, made flash cards, memorized lists of vocab words, and wrote characters. After a year, I realized how slowly I was learning and decided to go my own way. Initially the writing exercises of characters used to be formidable, but after a few classes of character stroke order basic rules and radicals, there was a giant leap, from ‘clueless scribblings that have no start or end or any direction’ to ‘some sensible characters’.

After a few Chinese sentences were taught, I felt that Chinese grammar is very easy: there are no plural, no subject verb agreements, no tense, not many cases or prepositions or postpositions, statements can easily be changed to interrogative ones, etc. There is only rich collection of nouns for countries, sports, and other devices. The only thing was to learn new words, Chinese pronunciations, characters and how to use them, in remember at that time I had no computer only my mobile phone, I had to go through YouTube classes, download mobile phones application such as Pleco, a Chinese dictionary, Stritter and Learn Pinyin

After I get through all the dialogues in a book, get new books from my Chinese friends, a slightly harder one. In my down time I watched TV, started with children’s TV shows online and cartoons. But spent the entire time listening and reading the subtitles (Chinese TV shows almost always have subtitles). And use WeChat (China’s major messaging app). I had Chinese friends and I added them on WeChat. They definitely use WeChat. Talked to them all the time. They were very interested in learning about where I come from and my perspective on the world. And I forced myself to type in Chinese. It was incredibly slow at first, and I had to look up every other word. That was fine to me. It was hard because of pressure from my major. And there was a time where I thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But after few weeks I started to improve quickly, because my brain wanted to make communication easier for me.

The beauty of the written language was one of the things that drew me in early on. I was relieved to find that the thousands of unique characters were based only on radicals, which seemed hard to learn at the beginning but took no more than a month to master. After learning the radicals, it became pretty easy to learn new words. Even though I never studied Chinese elsewhere, I am still fascinated by the look of the characters. I still delight in deciphering characters that I see unexpectedly in movies and in my daily life here in Tanzania.
I knew that in order to learn language well, culture is very important to understand. And in order to get full immersed in love with Chinese language, I have been studying Chinese language along with Chinese culture and participated in various cultural events. I have learned how to make Chinese foods like dumplings and Chinese tea, learning how to use chopsticks and now I can use them perfectly, learning calligraphy, learning Chinese paper cutting, Chinese Kungfu, Taiji, Chinese lion dance and dragon dance and becoming the first Tanzania university student to learn and perform dragon and lion dances.
I have been participating in different Chinese events and festivals with my teachers, my classmates and my Chinese friends. Most of these festivals took place on important dates in the Chinese lunar calendar, such as Chinese Spring Festival or Chinese New Year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 whereby many activities are held to celebrate the festival, such as dragon dances, setting off firecrackers, making dumplings, etc. And I was lucky enough to be one among those people who got chance to perform in New Year Festival at Mnazi Mmoja Dar es Salaam in 2017 and Mwalimu Nyerere Conversion Center in 2018. And the festival in 2017 and 2018 were held by important Tanzania government officials. Other festivals are the Lantern Festival, the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival.

I won different competitions while studying Chinese language, like on August 2017 I had an opportunity to participate in the World Chinese Bridge Competition in China for two weeks, a trip that was sponsored by Confucius Institute headquarters (Hanban-China). This was my first trip to China and abroad. The same applied in 2018, I won Chinese Bridge Competition for university students in Tanzania. And in 2016 December I participated in singing competition for college school in Dodoma, Chinese writing character competition, using chopstick competition. Also, in 2018, I was one of the students from University of Dar es Salaam to be awarded by Chinese Embassy in Tanzania as best Chinese learning students.
I participated in different Chinese events such as a TAZARA tour on October, 2017, organized by Chinese Embassy in Tanzania. We visited Selous Game Reserve, travelled and went there through TAZARA railway, also watched several times Chinese traditional opera such as Beijing opera and Qinqiang opera whereby incorporated various art forms, such as music, song dance, martial arts, and acrobatics, as well as literary art forms to become traditional Chinese opera. Another event was Chinese painting at University of Dar es Salaam, watching Chinese movie every Friday with my teachers and classmates at University of Dar es salaam, taking interview with different Chinese television like CCTV and XINHUA NEWS AGENCY. Also, I got chance to teach Swahili to Chinese people living in Tanzania as an assistant teacher at University of Dar es Salaam. Moreover, I sung TAZARA Song with my colleague in an event organized by Confucius institute at the University of Dar es salaam.
I see many advantages in having learned Mandarin, because being able to speak it gave me freedom, confidence and the ability to move around, and let me eat different foods, have more experiences, and to get to know the people from China in a different way because the language gap disappeared (at least at some level). Speak Mandarin also gave me a very useful weapon, because it allowed me to know what is happening around me, to keep me informed, to know what the people were saying when they were not speaking English in front of me. Also, Chinese helped me to change my life, towards the end of my course I started looking around for a proper job and quickly found one. I have been working with Chinese companies while studying, this helped me to know more and love Chinese culture from them. Also, I have acted as bridge between job seekers and owners of companies, since many Chinese people ask me to help them to find local people to work with them. Luckily, this year I got full Confucius Institute scholarship to go to China for further study, learning Chinese language for one year at Zhejiang Normal University,
I’m still learning new Chinese words every day, and I am always super excited to learn these things. Every time I watch a Chinese movie, or read a Chinese book, I am always glad that I invested the time to learn Chinese, because now I can have such an appreciation for the content that other people would completely miss. When I talk with normal Chinese people, I am so thankful that I put in the effort to learn Chinese. Chinese is fun and one of the coolest things I think a foreigner can do. It’ll open a lot of opportunities in the future and allow me to accommodate others who may not be as confident in their English.
In conclusion, learning Chinese isn’t hard, but it’s more like flying a spaceship just above the atmosphere, where gravity is always pulling you down. The experience teaches me to love putting in huge amounts of effort to grasp multiple factors at the same time. Everything becomes easier only after getting used to plodding through many little hardships.