Despite having a very long summer holiday (about 12 weeks–Best. Job, Ever.) I can’t really go anywhere. International travel is basically impossible and domestic travel is going to be CRAZY crowded. Also my school asked us to not travel outside the province and even if we go somewhere close there are still a lot of health check points and general annoyance. So to me it is just not worth it.
So I need projects to occupy my time so I don’t turn into a puddle on my couch binging Netflix. That’s not hard for me, I’m the kind of person that has 100 goals running at all time, but I decided to cross off another bucket list item this summer: reading a book in Chinese.
I’ve been fluent in Chinese for about 7 years. I made my first friend who couldn’t speak any English during my fourth year, but I wasn’t really comfortable with it until I moved to Xiamen. I then started playing badminton and found a coach and badminton friends who can’t speak English and have a Taiwanese boyfriend who also can’t. That helped me speak with less nervousness (a major problem to fluency. Learning all the necessary words doesn’t make you fluent. Speaking with confidence was the major breakthrough for me.)
But…I’ve never read a book in Chinese. Which, to me, is absurd! I love reading, knocking off 70-100 books every year without fail (this year I am up to 45 so far.) I also feel much more comfortable in Chinese with reading and writing than speaking. With reading and writing you have more time to gather your thoughts, speaking requires instant replies and spot on listening skills.
So why have I never done it, never even been tempted? Well, big blocks of Chinese text exhaust me. I have no problem texting in Chinese all day long, but that’s just a sentence or two at a time. A book is huge chunks of endless text and it makes my head spin just looking at it. Imagine a Powerpoint slide with 200 words crammed into it. You’re tired before you even read it, that’s how I feel when confronted by a big block of Chinese text.
But it’s not a challenge if it’s easy, right?!
I wanted a book that I was familiar with, so I already knew the basic story and some plot points to look out for, and I wanted the level to be young adult so the vocabulary would be easier. Azhi and I went to the bookstore (and after being disappointed they didn’t carry “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”) I ended up with a beautiful copy of the classic, “The Secret Garden.” Perfect.
After the bookstore Azhi and I went to have lunch, and as soon as we sat down I promptly started reading my new book to him. The level is perfect for me. I can’t understand every word, but I get the gist. I also don’t stop and look up every word because that makes reading tedious and tiresome. Instead I just keep reading picking up the meaning through context. If a word is repeated often enough and I really don’t get it, I’ll look it up. But I try not to.
My goal is five pages a day, but I’ve been outdoing myself everyday, usually reading double that. At this pace I should be finished within a month. And I know I’m gonna be proud finishing a book in Chinese but there is already a lot of positive benefits. Like, I realize I didn’t need to be so intimated by reading a book, it’s not as hard as I thought. In fact, it’s much more like reading an English book then I expected. I thought it would really give me a headache or make me feel tired, but not at all.
And it’s giving me more confidence and I’m already looking forward to my next book. English books are hard to find and expensive in Xiamen, limiting my reading to downloads on the Kindle. But if I can open the world of Chinese books, I’m so set!
So it’s not going to be a normal, exciting summer filled with travel and new places, but rather it’s going to be a summer of traveling n my mind, and using books as my airplanes instead of actual ones. And by reading “The Secret Garden” in Chinese I can travel back in time to Victorian Era while strengthening my Chinese skills. Win-win! Now, wish me luck that I actyally finish it!