Thursday, April 15, 2010

I finally submitted my application to the Summer Language Institute. Now I guess I just wait. I don't know if I should be nervous or not -- if it's one of those programs that you apply for, but that everyone is admitted to. Seriously though, I hope I get in because my backup plans are significantly less satisfactory.

Some people probably think I'm crazy -- putting myself through all this to study Chinese when I no longer 'have to'. I guess maybe I am, but I really like it. Even though I sometimes complain about it or don't study as much as I probably should, Chinese really captivates me.

I have a bizarre sort of connection with Chinese, or, rather, my family does.

My mom was a Chinese major in college (she went to Georgetown) and she studied abroad in Taiwan for a year. This back when study abroad was not nearly as common as it is now, especially for an entire year and especially in a place like Taiwan. My mom lived in the dormitories and took classes and made some great friends. One such friend basically became part of my mom's family and for many years afterward she and her husband (and later their children) can be seen in family photos. Two summers ago this friend was going to be in the DC area for a conference. We picked her up from the airport. The last time they had seen each other was when my mother was pregnant with me, but they were chatting like two old friends who see each other on a daily basis within minutes. It was kind of amazing and I hope my friends and I are like that. I hope we stay close, even if we're nowhere near each other physically.

So that's Chinese connection number 1. Chinese connection number 2:

Once my mom and her sisters were a little older, my grandmother started taking cooking lessons. Chinese cooking lessons. And then she started teaching. For some unknown reason the idea of my white, Jewish, Polish grandmother teaching Chinese cooking was not particularly strange growing up. I guess it still doesn't quite strike me as strange. Quirky maybe? I kind of just find it funny. In the greater context of my life and family, it is nowhere near the weirdest thing.

Those are the real connections, but there's sort of one more.

I'm obsessed with Firefly and Serenity. I won't go into a great amount of detail (right now), but basically Firefly is a TV show that FOX canceled way before its time and Serenity is the movie that was made based on the series. In this 'verse (as it's called) the two world powers -- the US and China -- come together to create a universe-wide governing body - the Alliance. We don't like the Alliance, but that isn't the point right now. The point is, in this 'verse, everyone from your high society companion, to your illiterate farmer speaks both English and Chinese.

Chinese has pretty much nothing to do with why I love the show/movie (and to be honest, the actors' Chinese rarely sounds like the actual language). I love it for the characters and story line and many other reasons that I might list in a future 'Why FOX sucks and cancels awesome TV shows'-type post. That being said, once the idea of learning Chinese crept into my head the thought that I could finally know what they're saying on Firefly was a neat little perk.

What's really weird is that despite the two (real) ties that I have to Chinese language/culture, I came to the decision that I wanted to study Chinese on my own. It wasn't an option at my first college, and while the idea of someday learning Chinese was lurking somewhere in the shadows of my mind, I didn't really think about it until I got to BMC. During customs week I went around to all the different department tables and learned about the classes I could take and the subjects in which I could major. I actually ended up at the East Asian studies table because I was talking to a linguistics professor who also teaches for the Chinese department. I don't totally remember how things happened, but I left TGH that day knowing that I was going to take Chinese.

So there you have it. My rambling, often tangential explanation for my love of Chinese. I realize it doesn't really explain anything, but I tried. I seriously do encourage anyone to try and learn. It's difficult and time consuming and it'll drive you crazy sometimes, but it's so interesting that that only matters for so long.

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