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Welcome to Chinese at Dickinson

As many of you may know, learning a new language beside English is a graduation requirement at Dickinson. I perceive that it would be difficult for many new students to decide which language to take among thirteen language programs provided by the college without any insights on these languages. Therefore, I intend to start a series where Dickinson’s students will talk about their language-learning experience and thoughts; so after reading this, I hope that you may have at least one idea of what language course that you want to take at Dickinson. Don’t worry that you are uncapable to take that course, starting a new language should be and will be a fun experience to everyone. For this week, Katherine and I will kick off the series with one of our favorite languages which is Chinese.

Katherine Schultze ’23 has learned Chinese for three years before coming to Dickinson, and she is currently taking an Intermediate course in Chinese. She started learning Chinese when she was in middle school and was taking Spanish at that time. It is an enjoyable experience for Katherine to learn these two languages. However, to many people’s surprise, she finds Chinese to be more interesting as well as easier to acquire. To her, it is because that Chinese’s grammar is less difficult and especially does not require users to change the endings compared to Spanish. Importantly, a fascinating fact about Chinese is that there are historical and cultural meanings attaching to every character, which always spurs her curiosity. Katherine thinks that this is the incentive which has kept engaging her with the language so far. In addition, as I have mentioned that she started taking Chinese since middle school, Katherine recognizes that while the middle school’s courses are designed to focus more on speaking, the Chinese program at Dickinson attempts to help students comprehensively develop all four essential skills of the language; and she is especially very satisfied that her writing skill has improved a lot in the last two months.

In this semester, like Katherine, I am also taking an Intermediate course in Chinese. As an international student, I do not need to take any foreign language at Dickinson. Because of that, I did not think of learning Chinese when I first came here. However, after taking a course in the East Asian Studies Department, I have become interested to major in it. To meet the major’s requirement, I need to take either Chinese or Japanese. Then, I just decided to take Chinese because I heard that this language is very similar to my mother tongue which is Vietnamese. After learning for five months, I have to admit that they do share some commons mainly in the pronunciation, which has helped me a lot in the learning process. Apart from that, like many other learners, I still have to work very hard on writing and reading Chinese. I agree with Katherine that its grammar is not very complex to acquire. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of time to memorize the vocabulary; from my experience, I would say that if you do not practice writing the characters, you will eventually end up forgetting them. Hard work is needed to acquire any language; but a bigger effort is required to master Chinese. Despite this struggle, I enjoy learning Chinese so far because it helps me to understand more about my mother tongue. The similarities between these two languages is the result of two thousand years of Chinese domination of Vietnam. I do not perceive this as something like hatred, but rather as a better way to understand and appreciate the beauty of my own language since the usage of Vietnamese has been changed significantly during Vietnam’s integration period. 

After reading some of our insights on Chinese, I hope you already have in mind a few ideas about Chinese in general. To further enhance your skills in Chinese, Dickinson provides students with study abroad programs in China which also allow you to experience living and studying in China. Thank you for reading my series and I hope you have a great week.

Nhu Truong

Dickinson '22

Hello, it's Nhu. ?? I'm from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam ? My major is Environmental Science ? I love dogs and enjoy being with family and friends ★ I'm super interested in Asian culture, writing, graphic design, and voluntary activities I hope that you have a great time reading my articles. There are other amazing writers from Dickinson on the website who I think you should check out their works too!
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