When you’re learning a language, sometimes you have to throw all your dignity out the window and do a terrible tone-deaf cover in front of your whole class. (Video below…)
The other day when our teacher said that in lieu of our usual weekly speech we would instead have to perform something in front of the class, I could not disguise my sheer horror.
She said we could either memorise two tongue-twisters, sing a song in Mandarin or do a dance. Not liking any of the options, I decided at the last minute last night to sing a song. The thing is I only knew (very vaguely) one Mandarin song. The one that probably every Chinese learner will be familiar with- Duibuqi by Transition
It’s a song about the funny struggles of not having very good Chinese. The best part is when they highlight one of the most common mistakes people learning Mandarin make- mixing up the words for sleep (shuǐ jiǎo ) and boiled dumplings (shuìjiào). As you see, the words are the same, but the tones are completely different- thus leading to many people announcing “I want to eat sleep!”. I have definitely done that once…. or five times….
Losing a class game of scissors, paper, rock, I had to perform first. I have pretty bad stage fright, so I was surprised how “well” I managed. You can tell how embarrassed I am because I keep avoiding looking at my classmates! It’s a very easy and repetitive song to sing- but my nerves got the best of me sometimes and I got muddled up. Childhood dreams of being a popstar crushed! But -I survived-!
I must be on a “Thank God It’s Friday!” high, because for some reason I have decided to humbly share my tone-deaf cover with you all:
Please don’t be too harsh! I know I can’t sing (especially in Mandarin!) to save my life.
When my teacher first shared the song with us, I literally could not understand any of it as it was on my second week of school. Coincidentally, about two weeks later, someone commented on this very blog (hello, wherever you are!) and also shared it with me. They kindly gave me some encouragement and said it’d be cool when I could understand it.
Now I can completely understand it (albeit, it’s a very simple song), and I think back to when I couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin, I guess it’s a nice little reminder how far I have come. Especially when I constantly worry that I’m not making any progress, sometimes I need these little nudges to keep my chin up and keep going.
Because when you’re learning a language- you have have to relish in your achievements (singing in front of your class without dying) and laugh at your embarrassments (singing in front of your class without dying).
I truly think in order to improve you just have to throw all your dignity out the window, make an innumerable amount of errors, be laughed at and let it slide, hit a wall in your studies but doggedly push through, forget a bunch of things and question your very sanity and every other cliche in the (Chinese text) book, and somewhere along the way, you’ll find that you progressed to a place you genuinely believed you would never reach.
And in that place, you’ll do all those things again, and again, and again until it seems almost futile, and you will wonder what you’re doing this all for, but hopefully- one day- this language that you’ve given so much time and dedication to – is no longer just a “foreign” language to you, but one which you can take as your own- to speak your thoughts and to share with the world, you.