Name: JesusisLord Nwadiuko
Location of Study: Beijing, China
Program of Study: China Summer Language Program in Beijing
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures
A brief personal bio:
I am a sophomore at Notre Dame in Chinese and Pre-Health studies. I hail from the vibrant city of New York and will study in the wonderful city of Beijing.
Here are somethings you should know about me :
1.) I love God! He’s probably my favorite person to talk about and plays a gigantic role in my life. (He’s a gigantic guy! It sort of makes sense.)
2.) I love conversations. (I start them with strangers all the time.) Verbally communication is probably my favorite component of language.
3.) I love Chinese food a lot and I mean it. Platters of good Chinese food don’t stand a chance around me.
4.) Finally, I love to travel. By God’s grace, this trip will be my fifth trip out of the country and my second one to China. ( The last time I was in China, I stayed in the southwestern city of Chengdu for about a year.)
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
This program is particularly important for me because I am pursuing a Chinese major. A summer Chinese program allows me to stay on track. Furthermore, I desire a career that deals with Chinese health structures and/or medicine in China. Because of the Pre-Health component of my degree, I am not able to go to China during the school year. Summer is the only time of the year that I can go and this summer presents the best opportunity for me to go. God willing, immersion will enrich my understanding of the culture and grow my language abilities.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
My language program, the Beijing- Notre Dame Chinese Summer program, expects students to at least “recognize about 1,200 characters, write about 1,000 characters, and know common Chinese culture and social customs” upon completion of their Level Two track. Also, listed among their expectations is the ability to “hold a fairly sustained conversation in Chinese and write fine compositions.” Because I have been to China before and had absorbed a lot without having the structure that I have now, I can only imagine that these expectations are not only feasible but also realistic estimates. I hope to exceed these expectations with God’s grace and believe that I will.
I, also, hope to connect with healthcare NGOs and non-profits that are based in Beijing. I have researched Chinese healthcare structure from across the sea. Now, I have the opportunity to personally get an insider’s view from political advocates, researchers and (hopefully) hands-on service. Last, but not least, I want to know what it is like to worship Jesus in Beijing. I have heard about many passionate Chinese Christians and would like to live life alongside some if the opportunity presents itself.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- God willing, at the end of the summer, I will be able to hold a conversation in intermediate Mandarin at length on topics ranging from Chinese home-life to Chinese politics.
- God willing, at the end of the summer, I will be able to read through full-length Chinese news articles and essays and understand main arguments and predominant details or sub-arguments.
- God willing, at the end of the summer, I will be able to recognize over 1200 characters and write at least 1000 characters.
- God willing, at the end of the summer, I will be able to identify and understand the role of many, if not most, of the key institutions involved in researching and structuring healthcare in China.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
In order to hit the ground running, I plan to review Chinese lessons from my past two semesters. This review will largely entail the memorization of definitions and grammar structures. My preparation will also include the practice of writing characters and radicals. Because I aim to learn about Chinese healthcare, I plan to research and contact public-health organizations before I arrive in Beijing. God willing, early communication will enable me to build relationships at the start of my time in the city. Finally, I plan to connect with Notre Dame classmates who live in Beijing. My peers will teach me how to navigate city transportation, understand city layout and culture, and find local churches with which I can build relationships. These lessons will aid quick assimilation.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
The Great Wall of Chinese
“不到长城非好汉。”“You ain’t a man until you reach the Great Wall,” or so the Chinese saying goes. Since I’ve been searching for a rite of passage into manhood – which we lack in America – I think climbing the Great Wall will do. (Don’t worry, parents. I’m kidding.) But I understand why the saying is what it is: climbing the Great Wall is no walk in the park. My classmates and I climbed the Sanmatai section of the wall. Some areas are surprisingly flat while others consist of what seems like a million steps up. For some reason we decided not take a lift to the top. I guess even the women wanted to show their “manliness.” That being said, however tiring it was to start from the bottom and climb up to the tenth tower, the view and excitement of being on top of one of the seven wonders was worth it.
This is my first week in Beijing. Apart from becoming a “real man,” eating a Beijing duck (not the whole thing), and sucking in good ole’ Beijing smog (all part of the experience), I also started Chinese classes in Peking university. The university is one of China’s best and while classes are great, they are grueling. We start bright and early, 8 am, to learn, chant, and write Chinese for the next four hours. After eating lunch, we put our Chinese to the test by speaking with our teachers for at least a half-hour, uno-v-uno. (Wrong language, I know.) The teachers often correct our tones and pronunciation strictly. Then, we have office hours from 7-9 pm. These study hours count for extra-credit and we need all the help we can get. Often, by the time I hit the sack, I am exhausted and stressed knowing that I have to wake up early the next morning to finish my homework and prepare for the next lesson before the cycle begins again. Some times you feel you have it all together and at other times you feel your language ability is next to that of a baby’s. The trick so far is to keep going. Chinese to me is a lot like the Great Wall. Some lessons are easier than others while others require more effort to master. At the end of one chapter, my elation due to learning is equally paced by my amazement- and often dismay- at the sheer amount of work that lies of ahead of me. The ultimate goal is fluency. However, it is my hope that at the end this program, having reached “my tenth tower” on the great wall of Chinese, I joyfully can look over how far I have come and use it as fuel to continue.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
How to Speak Pipa (怎么用琵琶说话)
The Pipa (琵琶) is a beautiful traditional Chinese instrument and I went to a pipa concert this weekend. It was advertised as a traditional music concert. I knew that Chinese musical composition would be different than the classical style of Beethoven and Mozart that I was accustomed to. So, I was interested. However, I never expected it to be so hard to understand. At a certain point in the concert, one of the pipa soloists sat in front the crowd and began to play. As I listened to the progression of the song, I felt increasingly confused. The song was fast and then slow; peaceful and then harsh. At times I felt the progressions could have been recorded in the next hit pop album. But immediately following those moments came sounds not much different than nails on a chalkboard. I didn’t get it. Was the song supposed to be about love, war, or a breakup? She finished the song and I joined the crowd in applause. I didn’t understand the music but recognized the quality of the musician.
Recently, studying Chinese has been as confusing as listening to the Pipa. Chinese is tonal (四声). In Mandarin, you can say the same word five different ways and find it has five different meanings. Over the past week, I have struggled to keep my tones in order. I learn a word, its character, its meaning, and its tone. If I do not know the tone, I do not know the word. However, I often forget the tone. To make matters worse, I am a very expressive person and often speak with emotion. With English, doing so is fine. With Chinese, emotions mess up my tones and grammar. An example is: in English, if I want to emphasis a point, my tones naturally punctuate the key word. However, in Chinese, if that key word has a different tone, I had better keep that tone or my “what’s your plan” (打算) can come out as “do you have garlic.” (大蒜) and my point will be lost on the listener. Usually, a blank look on the listener’s face is a signal that my tones have gone awry.
In Chinese, there are high notes where I want low notes and pauses where I want to connections. The Chinese way of thought is completely different from the Western way and it is apparent in their language. I came to China for this reason to be immersed in the Chinese way of life. Daily, I hear the language in class, church, and the gym and daily, I find I am learning how to speak Pipa.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
A Sip of the Culture (学文化，喝一杯)
This week Beijing’s weather stepped up its game to a scorching high of 102℉! Because my teachers could not back down from the sun’s challenge, they too brought the heat. The 后果 (consequence) was that we, students, got fried both in the classroom and out. Midterm examinations were given out this week. On a student’s calendar, midterms week is probably marked with underlines, exclamation marks, and question marks. (For example, an entry may be: “WHY???!!!”) It is one of the hardest weeks of the term. This week my class had homework, two essays, an oral report, and a test covering over 210 new characters. (I just counted.) We were a little overwhelmed.
To cool off, the class went to a famous teahouse, called Laoshe Teahouse (老舍茶馆) and watched the Beijing Opera (京剧). There was dancing, fighting, singing and the likes. However, my favorite part of the trip was before the show, in the Laoshe teashop. The shop attendant introduced to me hand crafted teapots and cups. Some were so expensive I probably could have bought two or three normal sets for the price of one teapot. In Chinese, I would say，”由此看来， 中国人对喝茶很讲究.” (By this token we can tell Chinese people are very picky about tea.) Some tea bags are worth thousands of Chinese Yuan – certain worth thousands of dollars – and various teapots are only used for one type of tea. The teacups were so small that if they had not been extravagantly made, I probably would have mistaken them for kiddie play-sets! (Very expensive play-sets.)
Overall, the trip afforded me the opportunity to take a break and learn more about Chinese culture.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
A Culture of Bikes and Cars (自行车和汽车文化）
If I had a quarter for every moment I have thought, “Man, I wish I had a 自行车 (bike) right now,” I might have a couple of dollars in change. Of course, a dollar is about 6.2 Chinese Yuan here, which would buy me a Gatorade for the fifteen-minute walk I take to and from class. However, my situation just changed! My roommate after moving out last Saturday gave me his bicycle for free! Now, I join the millions (no joke, it is probably millions) of bike riders in Beijing. Last week, in class we learned about the bike culture. It used to be that (probably less than 25 years ago) Beijing was considered a bicycle city. Millions of bike riders took to the 大街小巷 (streets) everyday. Bikes were an affordable and convenient mode of transportation. 小偷(thieves) often had their picks of bikes to steal and everyone only hoped it was not his own. Depending on location, finding places to 锁好 (lock) a bike could either be impossible or extremely easy.
There has been an interesting change in the culture recently. Now, because the city and China’s economy have developed so much, there are millions of cars on the road everyday. Many of these cars are 进口的(imported). Luxury cars, such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW, populate the roads. Toyota, Land Cruiser, and, oddly enough, Buick are also establishing car dealerships within the city along with many other foreign brands. Interestingly, it is not just the 亿万富翁 (billionaires) who buy cars, normal people with decent jobs also invest in these brands.
There are wonderful advantages that come with cars: mobility, time efficiency, and comfort. However, there are unseen changes as well. One could imagine father-and-son, friend-and-friend, or neighbor-and-neighbor conversations as they pass each other on bikes or rode side-by-side. Some of these exchanges were unplanned but afforded great opportunities to build community. I am sure “早上好,” “吃饭了吗,” or similar greetings were common between travelers. Today, it is not impossible to see similar interactions but it is certainly much harder to encounter them. Many residents travel with metal walls sealing them off from the world outside. There are not these types of experiences any longer.
As a westerner, I often think that advancement or “progression” is always good. But now, I would suggest that there are certain aspects of community and life that industrialization diminishes or injures. Not all development is bad. It is not all good either. All communities should carefully consider the effects of advancement and what it can mean for their relationships collectively. As for me, I will keep my bike (not much of a choice, really) and join the millions that still ride in Beijing.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Corruption and Hukou (政治腐败和户口)
Before I came here, Beijing, I spent sometime in Chengdu, a beautiful city in Southwest China. There I made Chinese friends, one of whom would be traveling to the States for graduate study. He had said he would stop in Beijing for a couple of days before he flew to Chicago. Finally, this Thursday he came to Beijing. The whole afternoon and evening, I spoke with him in Mandarin and I could tell my improvement has been tremendous. When we first met in Chengdu, I was not able to speak as extensively in Chinese as I did this Thursday. We even spoke about corruption and religion with his old high-school friend. Senior officials have reportedly been kicked out of the highest rungs of government because of discovered corruption. My friends and I sat around dinner discussing how corruption bleeds into many areas of life. One area we spoke about was religion. My friend, Ian, and I are Christian and his schoolmate was Buddhist. When we chatted about our beliefs and how it affects our lives, the two noted that certain officials and even monks join China’s most popular religion, Buddhism, to make money. It seemed they could make money from famous religious sites. Similar instances of corruption have been in the news lately. The president of China, Xi Jinping, and the Chinese government have cracked down on these types of actions.
Another issue Ian and his friend spoke about was the Hukou (registration system). A few weeks ago, my roommate had explained a little of what the system meant. In America, if we want to move to another city, we get up and move. (#ThatWasEasy) In China, we would have to line up early in the morning, like my roommate did a couple weeks ago, wait in line, present our application and pray that the government would grant us permission to move to a city, like Beijing. So, Ian, like my roommate, had to move his Hukou from the city where his college was and place it on the “Ministry of Education” before he left the country to study abroad. This system keeps track of the 1.37 billion people in China and restricts overpopulation in cities. However, just Beijing’s population of 31 million people alone will show any visitor that sometimes the system doesn’t work well. In fact, 200 million in-country migrants have entered big cities in search for work, but without moving their Hukou. As a result, they and their families suffer lack of housing, schooling, and health insurance. These two problems of corruption and overpopulation show that China is still developing its governing techniques.
Having this type of conversation made me incredibly excited. I would not have been able to dig into to these very important and relevant issues before these six weeks. Now, I only have two more weeks to go!
Reflective Journal Entry 7:
Studying Chinese 101 （学中文101）
Studying for Chinese tests is pretty dry for me. It generally consists of going through a list and memorizing characters by writing it over and over. Recently, however, I discovered that not only was this method inefficient but it was also often ineffective. This week, with little time to study and many vocabulary words to commit to memory, I tried a new method. It was using flashcards. I had never used flash cards to study Chinese. But this week the vocabulary words were too many and I felt behind-schedule. So, I adopted a hybrid of sorts: I used flash cards and then wrote the most challenging characters multiple times. It was not a ground breaking change, but I think it helped me sort out which ones I knew and which ones I was least familiar with by scrambling the order of my vocabulary words. I also determined that I learn a character better when I have had some type of pre-exposure to the word and its definition through everyday life conversation. Relying on some type of pre-exposure is a bad way to study Chinese because there are words that are only written or used in formal contexts. However, it has been the most notable way I have learned.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have also noticed the importance of reviewing past lessons. But, unfortunately, it is because I scarcely do it myself. I generally easily access the words and patterns that I have gone back to review if I reviewed them with the aims to grow the depth of my daily conversations. I get more out of each lesson that way. Again, this understanding is not a novel discovery. Teachers probably encourage their students every term to study this way. However, it was never important until I realized that I recognized a lot of characters but had forgotten their meanings. So, in a nutshell, it is back to the basics for me.
Flashcards + personal review + use = SUCCESS!
Reflective Journal Entry 8:
“And lastly, I want to give my thanks to everyone,” I said, leaning over the podium. Careful to pronounce each tone correctly, I continued my speech, “I first want to thank God, for giving me this type of experience and opportunity. I definitely will not forget this.” —There were times during these eight weeks when I was exhausted and despised having to only speak Mandarin. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Every time I called on Him, God gave me strength to carry on. He encouraged me to study harder and to give better effort. He is the reason I am able to look back over the program and see such intense growth. He blessed me. —
“Also,” I followed, “I want to thank the leaders and teachers of Peking University’s Office of International Student Affairs and School of Chinese as a Second Language. Thank you for your support and care.” —These two divisions in the Peking went great lengths to make our program a great success and Peking was a great host university. From the classrooms and cafeterias to the weekend trips, each resource enriched our program greatly. —
“And I especially want to thank our beloved teachers,” I slowed down to emphasize the following phrases. “We extremely appreciate you. You’ve done incredibly well. Thank you for investing into our lives with such hard work!” —I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times we complained that classwork was too much or Chinese was too hard. Our teachers, while unrelenting in their pressure, readjusted their teaching approaches to better suit our learning styles. They daily taught with enthusiasm and interest. They applied more than enough energy and effort to support us. I am exceeding grateful for their great efforts and sacrifice.—
I concluded my graduation speech by thanking the audience of students and professors and returned to my seat. The program was officially over. Finally, we had permission to speak English. Somehow, however, I still wanted to speak Chinese. Maybe, I grew attached to the language in more ways than I had expected.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
When learning a language you learn that there are connotations, denotations and proper context usage. Before going to Beijing, I knew of the first two and wanted to know these two senses of every word I learned. However, I did not think of the last dimension. For example, in English we can say, “vast plains” to mean “huge plains” but we never say, “vast dreams” to mean “huge dreams.” A dream usually does not seem measureless and therefore, it is not usually “vast.” However, if someone studying English as a second-language were to translate “vast,” what if their language did not have words that connoted immeasurable? Translators would settle for the closest concept, like “huge,” and thus the student could erroneously think “vast dreams” is acceptable. I think this extra characteristic of learning a language is what separates fluency from proficiency. As for my learning goals, I failed in a lot of them (partly because I over estimated how much personal time I would have). But there are a few notables: I can read well over a thousand characters; I can hold fairly sustained and advanced-daily conversations; and I can write intermediate-length compositions. I cannot yet, however, read a newspaper or chapters in the Bible.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
Language and culture are inseparably intertwined. If you want to learn a language, you need to interact with the culture of that language. The SLA grant helped me enter and be immersed in the Chinese culture while I was studying Mandarin. The uninterrupted time I spent engaging the culture, allowed me to fall in love with the language and the people in ways I would never have imagine before. I would advise anyone studying a language abroad to try her hardest to make friends who speak very little English or no English. Then, also find friends who are not only natives to the language and area you are studying but also great English speakers. These two friend groups will stretch and grow your language ability in different ways. The former, by forcing you to always, only use your target-language, will cause you to use what you learn in class in conversation. The later, by explaining customs and definitions to you, will teach you appropriate word usage and customary behaviors.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
By God’s grace, I plan to continue learning Chinese for the next couple of years and hope to learn more about Chinese culture as I go along. I have already started to take more Chinese language classes and hope to graduate with a degree in Chinese language and culture. After college, I hope to attend medical school and eventually would like to use any medical expertise I will have acquired over the next ten years, God willing, to better medical treatment in China.