I now remember why I was glad to leave school. Studying is murder on the brain! I don't remember feeling this way back in college, but after two days of language school my brain feels ready to explode out my ears. Of course, this isn't really anything like college. I'm the only student in the class, my teacher is speaking Chinese 99.9% of the time, and every single question and activity is directed straight at me. Four straight hours of that with a 20 minute break in the middle could understandably make one's head hurt. Other than the whole brain thing, I'm enjoying the school here. We have some nice rooms in a nice area of town, and the classrooms are one floor up, a short one minute walk from my room. So far most of my time has been filled with homework, but I finished earlier today than I did yesterday so maybe soon I'll have some sort of routine involving getting out more. My homework consists of studying vocabulary, reviewing the previous lesson, previewing the next one, copying Chinese characters over and over again, and (the most difficult part) keeping a daily journal only in Chinese. It's very tough since I can't write most of the characters from memory and have to continually refer to the dictionary or computer for help.
Zhu Lan, my teacher, says that after 4 weeks of study I should be ready to pass the 2nd level of the HSK exam. The HSK is the national Chinese proficiency exam for people studying Chinese. I'd like to eventually take the exam so I can be officially certified in Chinese. That kind of certificate would come in handy in the future. There are 3 levels to the HSK and I haven't even taken the first one yet. My teacher claims I could pass the beginner exam, though, so she's set a goal of preparing me for the intermediate exam. I'm not quite as confident about it as she is, but I really have no idea how hard the exam is to begin with. I'll hopefully be able to take the first part of the exam in Wuhan in April. I think that's the next time it's offered.
Before I close out and head to bed, I'll leave you with a bit of humor. Well, it seems humorous to me. As English teachers here, we always are chuckling at our students and the things that they write and say because it's always so simple and basic. We wonder why the students don't put more into what they write! I now know. It's because using a foreign language in an environment where the teacher never switches to your own language is really really hard if you've never experienced it before. So what I've found is that my journal entries so far have been exactly like some of the things my students write. So here's my entry from today. Translated back into English, of course.
"On Tuesday I went to my Chinese class for the second time. After class I ate lunch. I had beef noodles. After that my two friends and I watched a DVD, Band of Brothers. We all had homework to do so I went back to my place to do my homework. At 6:00 we ate dinner. After we finished eating, William and I listened to ChinesePod.com. I haven't studied in 4 years so my head really hurt! After finally finishing my homework I went to bed."