Today was an interesting one. It showed the conclusion of our two-week intensive oral and written mandarin training. We have learned so much about the language, writing, and culture and yet we have only scratched the surface. We were treated with four hours of examinations to test our understanding thus far; it was stressful! There was both an oral as well as a written portion. The entire class passed (it sounds like we would have passed either way) and we will be given certificates for our first level training completion. To be honest the examination was quite simple. It is bitter sweet; on the one side I really enjoyed the language lessons from Yan Ping, our excellent instructor. On the other side, it will be nice to jump into tourism mode and actually enjoy the country around us.

Yan Ping is probably our new class favorite teacher at this point (Dr. An Yaming only did three classes), and for good right; she is the most down to earth person we’ve met. She smiles constantly, loves movies, and is incredibly polite, and has boundless energy. The girls say she dresses adorable. Not only is she teaching us Chinese, but she is the manager of the ALL the exchange students on campus (there is a 17 floor building full of them), has organized our exchanges between other Chinese students and ourselves, as well as helped develop the entire trip itinerary up to this point. This girl works hard!

Our other teacher Du Fang does the second two-hour class, which entails written and more formal Chinese pronunciation. Du Fang is effective but has a bit less energy than Yan Ping. She calls your teeth ‘teach’ when describing how you are supposed to make a sound, which of course is now the word of choice for the rest of the trip; anything that we can relate to our ‘teach,’ we do :). Du Fang also explains probably three times a day how excellent her pronunciation is –she took an exam and passed it perfectly, don’t forget it — and so if we follow her example, we will speak perfect Chinese. This also is a bit of comic relief for the rest of the group, we remind each other how we will speak perfect Chinese because we are told every day how amazing Du Fang is. It’s an interesting teaching tactic :). To her credit, however, the pinyin pronunciation we have down to a tee now truly does enable us to teach – the real teach, not the teeth ‘teach’ – ourselves any Chinese word. I actually enjoyed both approaches, it’s a different part of the brain you have to use in order to develop a working vocabulary for language, so it’s been interesting working out what methods work and which ones don’t. Orally, I can remember nothing. Yan Ping could tell us every day the same 10 words and I couldn’t possibly remember. However, if I see the Hanzi (Chinese characters) a few times, it sticks. The exception is when we have to present a skit or something; I lock up like a Bellagio safe.

Our ‘graduation’ ceremony came and after receiving a small two-week course passed certification, we had a celebratory dinner and began packing for the rest of our trip.