I board a flight to Beijing in 9 days, and I’ve been thinking about what I want out of the next 9 months. As I’ve started the packing process, and the scheduling to make sure I see all of my friends before I leave, I’ve had to think about goals to set for myself. I’ve been asked to write about three, and I’m not known for my brevity, but I think I’ve figured out the three most important goals for myself.
Firstly, I’d like to improve my Mandarin skills to a point of higher proficiency. Upon returning home from China after a month last summer, we were tested using the ACTFL proficiency test. I scored “intermediate low,” which means I was able to discuss “predictable, concrete concepts.” Learners at the intermediate low level speak with hesitancy and oftentimes make grammatical errors influenced by their native language (I am guilty of this). However, after spending almost a full year in the heart of china, I hope to advance to ACTFL’s “advanced low” level. This would mean I could talk about concrete concepts as well as some higher-level concepts like art and literature. I could speak beyond basic sentences, and I could converse without having to think about correct words are in advance. Of course, there won’t be any way for me to test this once I get back (ACTFL is only available for educational institutes), but I hope to meet or exceed those requirements. To do so, I need to immerse myself in Chinese society entirely. I plan on offering free tutoring sessions for adults both in person and virtually, using WeChat, a Chinese social media and messaging app. By doing so, I can create a symbiotic system of helping others learn English and helping myself learn Chinese.
Secondly, I would like to provide the best possible learning experience for my “little sister.” This isn’t a concrete goal, of course, but arguably the most important one. She’s 9 years old and learning her third language, and it’s my responsibility to make sure she’s learning it well. However, it’s equally my responsibility to make sure she’s not overwhelmed by the rigorous course load created by the Chinese education system. Kids need time to be kids, and I’m just as much a “sister” as I am a teacher. Sometimes, we demand too much from kids without remembering that leisure is just as important as work. I hope to create the best possible environment for her in which to learn and grow.
Finally, I hope to learn more about the history and art of China. Growing up in America, I learned plenty of European and American history, but I didn’t learn much Asian history. I can at least remedy my distinct lack of knowledge of Chinese history and art by living in China. I could tell you all about Albrecht Dürer or Mark Rothko, or any other European/American artist, but beyond Ren Hang and Ai Weiwei, I couldn’t name a single Chinese artist. I feel rather cheated by the American education system, knowing I could’ve learned more about China than I did, but here’s my chance to learn it! I have 9 months and limitless resources.
So, I have three goals (all suspiciously related to learning… I could have an addiction). In only 9 days, I will be on my way to achieving these goals. So as I count down the days, I remind myself — here goes nothing.