This journal prompt was about language barriers. Students were asks to reflect on the experiences and challenges they have had speaking Chinese. Below is Rachel’s response.
Resembling all the people that I pass on the street and within my complex is how the conversation starts. A woman asking for directions or even a simple “hello” causes my brain to switch to a higher gear where my sense of awareness must be at its fullest capacity. This is because I’ve realized that if I do not respond with correct Chinese within the expected several seconds, that person stares at me questioningly and walks away, wondering why that Chinese girl can’t speak Chinese. Living in Xi’an and being pushed to speak Chinese everyday, I am glad to say that I’m better prepared to handle these situations and find that the challenge is worth facing.
I noted before that here, I don’t really stand out, but that condition switches whenever I am with my American classmates. Locals approach me to ask why I am with foreigners and when I explain that we are all Americans, they look at me with a puzzling look. How am I American if I clearly look Chinese? It has made me form an answer that is simple and to the truth- I’m both. These conversations, although occasionally tedious, are the best practice for my Chinese. Unlike my Chinese teachers, these strangers don’t alter their speaking in order for me to catch up. I have to understand quickly and resolve any questions that arise by saying something other than “what does that mean in English?” It’s a bumpy road, but it’s one that I enjoy taking.
Living with a family here has also been extremely beneficial for improving my Chinese. Rather than ending my studies at school, I get the chance to apply what I have learned and use it in everyday dialogue with my family. The satisfaction of holding a conversation in Chinese is immense to me. When I returned to China five years ago, the only accomplishment I could brag about was helping my friend to buy a pen. Now when I come home, I’m able to explain the entire day to my parents in Chinese. This fills me with pride and strengthens the desire I have to advance my proficiency so that by the end of the next three months, I can prove to others and myself that I was capable of leaping over the language barrier.