How to Study
Good LL Teach
Some Good LL
Where to Aim
When coming to China, we bring a lot of 'baggage' with us. I'm not referring here to our suitcases and trunks, however, but to our personality make-up.
We come with our degrees, diplomas and doctorates to prove that we are intelligent. We may also come with a high MLAT score (MLAT = Modern Language Aptitude Test). This tells us that we are able to learn languages well in a classroom setting. We may come, too, with some previous language learning successes. "I did well at getting basic Swahili when on a short-term program to Africa," you may recall.
We also come with our attitudes. "I had many Chinese friends back home and it was through them that I got an interest in China," you recount. Then we come with our motivational drives. "I want to become an accepted member of the local Chinese community as quickly as possible," you say.
Finally, we come with our own individual personalities -- introvert or extrovert, inhibited or outgoing, anxious or carefree. And soon we discover that our personality plays a large part in the speed with which we master Chinese. It sometimes hinders us doing the very thing that we desperately want to do, such as going up to strangers and talking to them in Chinese.
So let us now take a deeper look at some of these affective factors and see how we can find ways to overcome the negative ones.
High Self-Esteem vs. Low Self-Esteem
The person who believes in their own capability at learning languages will approach the task with a greater measure of confidence and therefore be more open to allowing the new language to go deep into their memory. This person's confidence will not be undermined when they make stupid mistakes.
Uninhibited vs. Inhibited
I remember a pronunciation class where one of the students found it impossible to make one of the sounds. After a few futile attempts, he was heard to mutter, "What a stupid sound anyway!". He refused to keep trying. This kind of barrier inhibits, rather than facilitates learning. The lowering of our defense mechanisms involves self-exposure to a degree manifested in few other tasks. When faced with this threat to our ego, it is hard for us to lower our defenses, and yet keeping the barriers up will seriously slow down our rate of learning.
Extroversion vs. Introversion
You need to find Chinese people who are gentle, caring and empathetic, and set up 'safe places' for communicating with them. You can do this by analyzing how you feel when with different people. When at the local shops or market, for instance, as you try to chat with people, some will make you feel a little nervous. Others, on the other hand, because of their gentle, empathetic personality, will allow you to relax and feel free to say whatever you want without feeling bad about your faltering attempts. It is this latter group with whom you especially want to spend time. You might ask them whether they have time during the week for chatting (maybe during their slack time each day), possibly exchanging English for Chinese. If you find it difficult going up to people to ask them, perhaps a friend or colleague could ask for you. It is best, however, if you first find your own conversation contacts as you will sense best those with whom you feel most a ease.
So note those people who make you feel good about your Chinese and spend as much time as possible with them. Why not think now who some of these people might be, and plan your schedule to spend time with them. You'll be glad you did!