Lately in March, I’ve taken the step to get serious about studying Chinese while I’m here. You learn the basics in the first month – how to say “this one” and the numbers 1-10; you learn to say “I’m a teacher” and tell people where you’re from since those are the first questions that people ask you. I have two Chinese lessons per week: one provided by my school, and also I’ve hired a private Chinese tutor (who came recommended by a friend) to help me grasp this incredibly simple, yet frustratingly complex language. Having a base set for me from my Chinese 101 class certainly helps me as I learn and my general knowledge of grammar and linguistics doesn’t hurt either. flowershop-vintage.jpg

Chinese is really simple grammatically. They don’t bother with grammatical fluff like indefinite and definite articles, subjects are often optional, there are no verb tenses or conjugations. Even the vocabulary is fairly simple most of the time, with the complex nouns being compilations of other, more simple vocabulary. For example: if you know the word for medicine, and shop, just put them together and you know the word for pharmacy. It doesn’t always work like that, but that helps with the lack of cognates. On the other hand, English is a very hard language to learn – it has one of the most extensive vocabularies of any other language, the grammatical structure is complex, it breaks rules faster than it can make them, and the phonetics is such a mutt of languages that it’s no wonder even native speakers have to guess how to pronounce a word.

Chinese being the third language I’m learning, I’ve noticed how confused my brain is. It’s trained to respond to any non-English speaking person in French…which certainly doesn’t help in China. Sometimes I manage to compose a sentence from all three languages, which ends up being incomprehensible to everyone but me. Also, during my Chinese lessons, we haven’t even gotten to tones yet when working with my phonetics. We’re still working on the initials and the finals…the problem being that I can’t seem to say them together. My tutor is really confused that I’m able to make (most of) the sounds individually, but I can’t put them together. By the end of a two hour session, my mouth is in so much pain from trying to say the words correctly.

Next stop: Beijing



Church in Changsha

welcome word cloudThis Sunday afternoon, I managed to get out of my apartment and find my way to a church that I’d heard about from another foreigner (who’s been living in Changsha for a couple years now). I was a little unsure if I was in the right place at first, so I just kind of  hung around for a bit until I started to see a bunch of other foreign people going in the building. Then I just followed them.

The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. Now to
answer the question(s) that I’m sure is sitting on the edge of your tongues: Is it an underground church?  Are you going to be arrested?? No. We’re on the 27th floor of a large international building near the center of the city. There are a few Chinese people there, but since the services are bilingually run in French and English (more on this later), and most Chinese here don’t speak either of those languages well enough to follow the service, nor do they have much interest in religion…I’m going to guess that’s why they don’t typically attend.

The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. I loved the service and this welcoming, energetic, enthusiastic group of Christians. The service really is a compilation of denominational styles–which is actually why I love it so much. There’s enough Pentecostalism to keep things moving and fun, but there’s also a fair bit of liturgy in there. Since I’ve spent most of my time in rather liturgical churches, I really appreciate that.

And then here’s my favorite part: the majority of the service is bilingual in French and English. For those of you who might not have a good picture in your mind of what a bilingual church looks like–they say a sentence in English and then someone is standing next to them in translate it into French. I experienced this in Hillsong Paris and I fell in love with it there. It takes some getting used to the repetition and language switching, but once you do adjust, it’s nice to have the extra processing time to really focus on the message being said. And since translation is never exact – you actually get the message in two different ways, so you can kind of choose the translation that makes more sense. Or if you didn’t hear the first line, you can go off the second line. There are so many benefits to this, so I love it.

So while the majority of the service was in French and English, there was also some other languages that popped up. In worship time, there was an…African language (sorry I couldn’t tell which one…) that made a debut. And then Communion was bilingual in Chinese and English  (Chinese first, then English). I also heard in the short meeting for newcomers after the service, that there’s some Portuguese and Spanish speaking members as well.

One of my favorite things is when believers from around the world gather together and our faith unites us despite our cultural, linguistic, and physical differences.



Week 3: Six Facts from France

I’ve been working on trying to describe this week in a blog post for about three days now. What always comes out is a list of things I did–le Louvre, a cemetery, la Bibliothèque Nationale, le Marais, Sacre Coeur…  And while all those things were AMAZING, there’s not really much to tell. So instead of rehashing everything I did this week, I decided to go about this a little differently this week.

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A list of 6 things about the French/France that I’ve noticed so far!

1. Nobody smiles unless you’re specifically with a group of friends and you’re in a social environment. Just don’t smile or laugh on the Metro ever. Not under any circumstance–even if it’s a joke you read online (hint: don’t read funny things on the metro). The metro is a place for quiet contemplation and distrust. END OF STORY.

2. I don’t know about other people’s host families, but I know that mine keeps her house insanely cold. I don’t think that heat is utilized at all (and here’s where I have to admit my dad was right….).

3. The French don’t refrigerate as much as Americans do. I see cheese and fruit and even eggs just sitting out. My yogurt for breakfast is always taken out of the fridge the night before. I’m not sure why all this happens, but it does.

4. Showers. Of all the things that I might miss of America, I really really really really miss a good ol’ American shower.  French showers typically don’t spray down on you. The nozzle is connected by the tub spout and you like shower yourself with it and you turn off the water in between rinses. I might get used to this…but I doubt it.

5. The French don’t use clothes dryers, they hang dry their clothes typically. On the bright side it means that the new pair of jeans I bought won’t shrink. On the downside, it takes two to three days for them to actually dry.

6. French food is amazing. It’s good for you and it tastes like beauty. 🙂 It may be more expensive, but it’s worth every penny.

Où Tu Veux

I discovered these guys a couple months ago and I totally fell in love with their catchy French melody and their cute little boy-band.

Even if you can’t quite understand what it says, it’s still adorable! 🙂

It made me even more excited than I already was to go to Paris next spring!  I talked to the study abroad center at my college today and they told me about my options in France and I am so excited!