Cactus intern Anne Blank tells us how she got on with her beginner’s Mandarin evening course in Brighton…
After taking a Spanish course in summer, I wasn’t really sure which course should be next. As I really love different languages and cultures, I thought I should learn something completely new. So I had a look on the Cactus website and the decision was easy: Mandarin!
I’d already heard different stories about the Chinese language and I was a bit scared, but mostly excited. It is such an unknown language for me (and I guess also for most European people).
As I didn’t want to go to my first lesson unprepared, I decided to do a little bit of research. After doing some research I was even more excited.
When I arrived at St.Giles College in Brighton, my teacher welcomed me with a friendly “Ni hao” (hello). At first we talked about the reasons why we decided to take this course and it was really interesting to hear other students’ answers. There were reasons like moving to China, travelling to China, having Chinese relatives or just being curious, as I was.
We were given an overview of the four different tones in Chinese, which constitute the most important part of the language. In the first two lessons, we learned to introduce ourselves. Finally I was able to say: “Níhăo. Wõ jiào Anne. Wõ laizi Dé gué. Hên gāo xing rénshi nin.” (Hello, my name is Anne. I’m from Germany. Nice to meet you!). I could also ask people what their name is and where they come from.
My teacher Jieshang is in one word: AMAZING! She really likes teaching and giving us an insight into her culture. She was always well prepared and made sure that we felt comfortable.
As I’ve already mentioned, pronunciation is a very important part of the Mandarin language, so we were given lots of speaking exercises to help us feel more confident with the different tones. We also watched different clips online and tried to understand as much as possible.
We also talked about the different customs in China. I learned about the meaning of the different colours, numbers and animals:
– Number 2 is a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying “good things come in pairs”. It is common to use double symbols in product brand names, such as double happiness, double coin and double elephants.
– Red, corresponding with fire, symbolises good fortune and joy. Red is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holidays and family gatherings. Red is strictly forbidden at funerals as it is a traditionally symbolic coluor of happiness.
We went on step by step with our book (which is a very good book) and learned more and more. I was really surprised that there is also a chapter where you start learning how to write the Chinese letters. It is more like painting, because you have to make sure that each line is “painted” correctly.
All in all I can say that the course was “hên hăo” (very good) and I really enjoyed it. I have the feeling that I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to learning more Mandarin.
Cactus runs evening and part-time language courses in schools across London and in cities nationwide. Courses are available in over 20 languages and on regular start dates throughout the year.