Monday, November 28, 2011

Surviving Chinese Studies at Beijing University


(hǎo jiǔ bù jiàn - literally: very long time no see, also known as long time, no see - yes, the expression's origin is Chinese!)

Winter has arrived in Beijing and the return to Norway is approaching rapidly - hallelujah! Only three weeks left and I'm off!

I've enjoyed this semester in Beijing. The classes have been hard and demanding, making me feel like I've got my money's - and time's - worth. But God knows I haven't been practicing my Chinese nearly as much as I should have been, which is a pity. But after a day of six hours of intensive classes, attentively listening to Chinese, speaking Chinese and writing Chinese, you just want to go home and make dinner, relax, (do tons of homework) and watch Breaking Bad/True Blood/Dexter, ya know

I really like you, Beijing - but you're so damn polluted! Since the weather got colder, it's been truly terrible, and sometimes I've felt almost claustrophobic, longing to get a gulp of fresh air. Even when living in Bangkok the air quality never felt this bad, maybe the cold air is making it worse. 

Fresh air is so underrated! 

Klara - friend, classmate and fellow Norwegian
On her merry way home from school

Last week I had my final exams in both my speaking and reading class. I aced them both, yay! The first part of the exam for the speaking class was to perform a 6-minute-ish speech on a self-chosen topic. At the same time it was also a contest, where you were being judged by your fellow classmates + teacher, and the person who got the highest score would represent the class in the grand speech contest held at Beijing University this week.

And I won! And I was like, "lol". (In addition to happy and proud, of course)


I might be an attention whore, but I'd rather have people judge me for my looks rather than what I have to say. Especially in Chinese. So I gracefully (read: cowardly) passed the crown to the runner up. Voluntarily holding a speech in Chinese in front of hundreds of people and then having to answer the judges' questions on stage afterwards - a little too intimidating.

I'm thinking of making a video of my speech, though, with subtitles. It's pretty funny. I'm pretty funny.

Despite getting an A in both my speaking and reading class, which, as mention earlier, are courses offered by Beijing University - the most prestigious university in China, I might add - us Norwegians from the University of Oslo still have to endure one other class, which is based on a compendium the program in Oslo made us bring. The teacher is provided by Beijing University, which normally would serve as a quality stamp on it's own, but in this case.. it's a complete joke. 

阅读 (yuèdú)- class is yet another reading class, where the focus is on reading comprehension. We plough through everything from advanced academic texts and scientific articles, to one hundred year old fictional texts full of words and expressions no one use anymore. And most of the time it's way beyond our level after only three semesters of studying Chinese. I think they'd be challenging even after six years.

The teacher ha-ha-hates us. 

She is fairly young and fairly incompetent as a language teacher. She always look at us with this hostile glare - and this is the first time I've ever experienced the teacher ditching classes! I bet she's cancelled the class equally as many times as the student with the highest absence. 

We're not stupid, but the curriculum is way beyond our level. And since she's completely incompetent she doesn't know how to adapt, so she's completely given us up. She's not teaching us - just ploughing through the texts at super speed, reading every sentence out loud, and then repeating them by rephrasing them, often devoting a lot of time on the simple sentences that we very well comprehend on our own, and skipping those who are complicated and full of poetic metaphors (sometimes I suspect she doesn't get them herself).

Oh, God, I'm not able to give a vivid enough image of her and how she acts during class. I just wish I'd kept hidden cameras in the class room throughout the semester and could make a "best of" video. It'd be a real treat.

Our University back home has been very lousy at instructing the teacher, or administration, here at Beijing University on how to teach us this course, so it's all been very makeshift. And we've been seemingly been handed the "spare teacher", not being willing to waste a real teacher on this "silly" course - obviously way beyond our level - that Oslo University insist that their students work through during this semester in Beijing.

Most of us Norwegian students are both very hard-working and fairly intelligent. Still we are struggling to keep our heads above water and keep up - despite spending more time on this course than on the two other courses combined - times two. 

And we have an oral exam waiting for us in January when we get back to Oslo, where we have to read and translate a part of a text from this compendium. And the last text is even in traditional Chinese characters - which they stopped using in Mainland China in the 1940s. Lol, I can't even read the damn text in simplified characters. 

But I can't be bothered with stressing about that exam anymore. I'm not stupid, and I've never worked harder - so if I do poorly on that exam when I get home, despite putting in my very best effort, than so be it. 


Parents waiting outside the school gate to pick up their kids

In our speaking class a couple of weeks ago we were given an assignment to go out to a nearby elementary school and interview parents regarding the education system in China and whether or not it needs a reform.

That was a hoot and a half, as you can imagine.


I'm so glad I'm not living (well, not permanently) in a country as overcrowded as China.

Screw the one child policy, Chinese people need to stop having sex and making babies all together.


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Anonymous said...

haha, you are funny