May 10, 2012

I knew this day would come

My Chinese is so bad I knew this day would come. It came yesterday.

I sat at the kitchen table checking email and generally goofing off on the computer when Kanyon woke up from his nap. M’Lynn practiced her Chinese on Memrise when suddenly a word M’Lynn said sparked a dialogue Kanyon learned at school. He loudly and proudly said all the lines he remembered like turning on a toy when it gets new batteries.

“That’s so good, 高开年!” M’Lynn said using Kanyon’s Chinese name Gao Kainian.

“I learned it at school.” Kanyon replied.

“Great job, 高开年.” I chimed in testing the very limits of my Chinese speaking abilities.

“No Daddy, that’s not right. You need to say it sweeter.”

Sweeter? Seriously? My four-year-old kid corrected my Chinese! M’Lynn laughed so loud it was as if she got new batteries too. (And her batteries still work at the very mention of the topic.)

I tried again. “No.” M’Lynn tried, “Yes, like that.” Once again I spoke, “No, sweeter Daddy, like mommy.”

I knew this day would come, but it certainly came sooner than I expected. When I learn Chinese, I need/want positive reinforcement. I want to find success when I speak (i.e., be understood by those listening) and then I’m encouraged to speak more. When I speak but find no success, I’m quickly discouraged and want to throw it all away. Learning Chinese is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted.

Check out this infographic about learning languages. Spanish, French and Italian take 600 classroom hours (23 weeks) to achieve language proficiency.1 EASY.

Greek and Hebrew require 1100 hours (44 weeks). MEDIUM.

Chinese requires 2,200 hours to achieve language proficiency. IMPOSSIBLE HARD.

So when we visit America this summer after four years in China and you ask “Do you know Chinese?” I’ll let Kanyon do the talking.
1 Voxy. (2011, March 10). What are the hardest languages to learn? [Infographic]. Voxy Blog. Retrieved from


Jenny McClendon said...

Hang in there Jeremy!!! Remember, young minds catch things quicker!!! Not that I'm saying your are old or anything...........:-)

Unknown said...

He's like a sponge and is especially good and listening and repeating verbatim, tones and all. He's going to be fluent in no time. Me on the other hand...

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Remember the CG's in all comments. Thanks for checking in on the work in China!