April 23, 2008

Learning something new

A few weeks ago, I went to a dinner get together with all the Chinese math grad students to celebrate the graduation/new job of Xu Yang (and some other people that I don't know so well). It was a cool experience - I was the only non Chinese speaker in the (large) group at the restaurant. Xu and I were talking about the differences in our various languages, and he encouraged me to learn Chinese, which is something that I had been thinking about for a while. It's not like I wouldn't have a ton of native speakers to get some practice with, and it would probably help me if I were to ever travel to China for conferences etc. (my advisor is Chinese and has many connections over there). Also, as I discovered from my year of Russian as an undergrad, I really enjoy learning new languages!

Not long after this, the semester started bearing down and I put this idea on the back burner. Of course, I'm still busy as hell, and will be in the future, so why not start soon? KLaw has learned several languages, and recommends a book by Barry Farber as a guide to learning a language on your own. Keith's own attempt at learning Chinese petered out after he learned 500 characters or so and got discouraged. He did recommend the book Chinese: An Essential Grammar, which is fairly inexpensive for a textbook to use as a grammar reference.

I'm not looking for miracles here, but it would be nice to be somewhat conversational by, say next summer. Here's hoping a fun ride!