Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Years of linguistic effort being lost

My wife's cousin got married in Changsha last Saturday. We were here in Texas. Though she could see lot's of pictures on Weixin, I could tell my wife was sad to be away. Knowing how close her family is, I would've been, too.

A pic from a more studious era: The Hunan Normal Years. This was taken at a classmate's birthday party.

 She wanted to record me saying a Chinese best wishes to the bride and groom. I refused. Why? Is is because I don't like them? Not at all. I loved sitting and talking with this cousin, and her husband (then boyfriend) seemed like a nice guy when I met him. So why did I refuse?

In short, I was embarrassed. I can tell my Chinese is degrading more quickly than I could have imagined. I try to study, but it doesn't always happen. It happened once two weeks ago and twice last week and not yet once during this week. There's only so much and hour of listening or reading or writing practice can do to maintain skills.

Don't let the cake on my face fool you; I was in complete study mode, like a machine, I tell you.

After years and years of hard work and devotion, I am losing my ability, and I see no way to arrest the fall. If I'm here for a year, ok. What about five? Five years from now, if I've been here working, living and socializing in English, will Chinese remain? Will it be like my German: seemingly gone, never to return? (If I try to speak German, I just start speaking Chinese after a few words.)

I'm getting older everyday. Everyday it becomes more difficult to maintain let alone acquire language ability. Add in the fact that my decade in China limited my English vocabulary growth, and I'm in a linguistic state I don't want to be in.

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