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The 300 Chinese character challenge?

When I look through my blog posts, I realize that I have way too many posts about the frustrations living in this amazing although perplexing country.

Of course, I had the initial “culture shocks” but slowly, I started to understand the local Chinese culture and got to know some nice mainland Chinese.

The most interesting of the local Chinese people I have gotten to know better are the humblest and nicest of all working folks: the building maintenance manager, the postman, the green grocer and his wife, the cleaning lady, the dustman, the sundry shop owner, the supermarket staff, the bus driver and others I see in my daily life.

Many of them still think that I’m Korean and many of them never cease to praise me for my amazing ability to learn how to speak Chinese. Little do they know how little I know!

One morning, I was having a chat with one of the building maintenance guys and the conversation went to learning Chinese. He praised me for being able to converse in Chinese although I’d only been here a short while. B

I told him I still have a lot to learn.

For instance, I can’t read the newspaper. I can’t even read the signs around me. That’s why I am quite paranoid about electricity and water cuts because I didn’t realize that notices had been posted in front of the apartment. Yikes! I thought it’s just another ad :S

I asked if it’s true one would need to know at least 500 Chinese characters before one can read the newspaper? He said no, knowing 300 characters would be good enough. With 150 Chinese characters, one can already read many things or at least try to guess.

When I mentioned that my kid can read a few Chinese characters, he said that I could probably best him because I was an adult and I was consciously learning Mandarin while the kids are taught to memorise the Chinese characters, at an average of 100 characters a year?

Hmm..in 5 years’ time when they are about to start middle school, Chinese children would have mastered 500 Chinese characters. Pretty scary, right?

So…my New Year’s resolution (or Chinese New Year’s resolution hahaha) would be to learn 300 Chinese characters by the time the year is over.

It’s a tough challenge and I don’t think I’ll be that hard on myself to achieve 300 characters…

I’ll do my best and as best as my old memory bank can do. Wish me luck!

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  • alohamolly 21 January, 2011, 8:42 am

    Me..me..so coincidence, my New Year resolution this year is to improve my vocab. in chinese too…at least good enough to assist my child when she starts her primary education in a chinese school in another 2 yrs’ time.

    Let’s keep cheering n each other posted of our progress!

    Cheers!

  • a-moms-diary 22 January, 2011, 3:51 pm

    I’m learning Chinese with Yiu Yiu too. Half the words she learned in kindy last year are new to me so I learn along when I coach her during homework or practise ting xie with her 🙂

  • Kit 24 January, 2011, 7:57 pm

    alohamolly – Wow, at least you will be assisting your child. Me? After the initial few pages, I have given up even though he will yell at me, “You know! How come you don’t know?!”

    I feel so pressured. After I explained to him that I didn’t learn Chinese in my school and I also didn’t have his nice Chinese teacher, he accepted it. Phew!

    Now, he says that he will teach me Chinese. Can you imagine a little kid teaching his old mother how to pronounce Chinese? LOL

    Since I have such a good little “teacher”, I think that I should do my own homework online.

    Nice to know someone else will also be on this learning journey. Yes, let’s encourage each other along the way. I hope that you will post what you’re learning too because I will definitely come over to your blog 😉

  • Kit 24 January, 2011, 8:01 pm

    A Mom’s Diary – Another Chinese-speaking Mom! I was hoping to encourage other “bananas” and I’m getting 2 Chinese-speaking Moms instead?

    I’m curious: Why are half the words she’s learning new to you? I know I’m seeing a lot of the same, old words in English when I coach the kid in his homework.

    “Ting xie” is “listen and write” is I’m guessing: dictation! Thanks for inspiring the next post 😀

  • a-moms-diary 20 February, 2011, 2:20 am

    I went to a Kebangsaan school so only learnt Chinese in POL classes so my Chinese is really half-baked 🙂 The Chinese that Yiu Yiu is learning in kindy these days are rather advanced by my standards.

  • Kit 20 February, 2011, 8:03 pm

    A Mom’s Diary – At least you paid attention in the POL class! I think I only wrote my own version of pin yin above each character so that I could read aloud. I still remember Xiao Ming LOL

  • Poster 6 May, 2011, 9:24 pm

    don’t take the 300 characters from any chinese school book (written by chinese ppl or, beware, beijing university press). you will not be able to read anything. not even the signs on the streets you see everywhere. i know, because after 3 semester at university and about 900 characters down i couldn’t read a thing. not even the 请小心月台空隙 get a foreign book!

  • Tiger Mom 2 September, 2011, 10:26 pm

    Poster – Sorry I missed out this comment. You are so right about those 300 characters books! Wish I’d known this earlier because I bought a few for myself and the kids but they are now lying in the drawer…

    I’ve decided to learn Chinese my own way LOL Let’s hope that’s more fruitful 😉