My name is Isaac. 제 이름 Isaac 입니다
What’s your name? 이름 뭐 입니다?
I’m 29 years old. 제 이십구 살 입니다
How old are you? 몇 살입니까?
I like to learn languages. 저는 언어를 배우고 싶습니다.
I’ve learned Korean for two months. 저나는 이 개월 한국어를 공부했다
I also like to cook, and bake bread. 저는 요리 그 빵을구워 도싶습니다.
I work in a bakery in Taiwan. 대만의 빵집 에서 일한다
What do you like to do? 취미 는 뭐니?
I’ve been learning Mandarin Chinese for about eight years, and I’ve been told many times that I have an almost native-sounding accent. The people who said this were doubtless exaggerating to pay me a compliment, but it’s been enough to make me complacent.
The problem is, after hearing me speak Chinese for a while, it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. I have a good accent, and I can banter almost like a Taiwanese person (huge gaps in cultural context/awareness notwithstanding, but that’s another topic for another time), but where I fail is in differentiating levels of formality. When things get serious and I have to stand up and make a speech, or open a bank account, or negotiate with my gym’s sales representative — all situations that require a more formal tone — I still just do the banter.
I’m like a Taiwanese person who never went to school. This is not to say that I’m illiterate. But almost all of my reading and writing has been done in the context of personal communication. My reading hasn’t progressed much beyond manga. I can count the number of novels I’ve read in Chinese on one hand. And aside from a few months in Chengdu when I was just starting, I never studied Chinese in a classroom. It’s no wonder I sound uneducated.
Maybe this realization will finally get me to sign up for Chinese classes. In the meantime, I’m just going to try reading and writing more in Chinese, on the assumption that this will also improve my speaking. Specifically, I’ll start making some entries here in Chinese, and then I’ll ask a native speaker to correct my writing as if correcting a paper in school, using more formal writing standards.
Wish me luck!