In my sophomore year of high school I studied in Changzhou, China for three months. The school I stayed at was called Changzhou International School. While there, I learned about the Chinese people and also the Chinese language. I needed to keep up with my other courses too, and observed how they taught those subjects. In most Chinese schools, the tests alone decide the grade. Graded lab work and homework don’t factor in.
I learned to read, write, and speak a lot of Chinese while I was there, which was one of the main reasons I went to China. During my three months of study there, I was able to learn Chinese at an accelerated pace, partly because of the great teaching, but also because of the immersion in the Chinese culture and language. Because of this setting I was able to learn quite quickly. I had to try hard to understand what people were saying. After a while, I was able to make out different words and phrases that I had learned and recognized.
Chinese is a much different language than English, and others offered at my school: Spanish, French, and German. These languages’ structures are all very much the same, since they all have nearly the same origin. Chinese developed separately from European languages, and are therefore structured differently. In the Chinese language, each word is made up of syllables that have a certain tone. The tone is needed to understand the word because other words have the same sound but different tone. A word could be misinterpreted if you use the incorrect tone. Another major difference in Chinese is that it uses characters in its writing. Instead of having words made up of different letters, each word has a set character. It was very difficult learning the character for each word. Parts of the characters are similar, which helps if the meanings are similar, but other than that, it is difficult to memorize them. The only way to learn them is to write them over and over. Chinese is majorly different than other languages because of these two reasons.
I learned a lot about the Chinese culture. During my stay, I took field trips to three other cities in China and learned about the cultural aspects there. In Shaoxin, we visited the house of Lu Xun, a famous writer, and learned about building architecture and construction for the famous Chinese in history. We also went to a museum of modern and antique art in Nanjing to understand the influence of Chinese artists. The overall experience while living in China offered insight into how the Chinese live today. I observed how the Chinese eat, buy goods, commute, and even get their hair cut. The trip also taught me how to integrate and adapt to a foreign environment in a short time. I learned how to be humble and open my mind to different perspectives. As such, I believe I can enlarge the culture perspective of people around me.
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