Law student prepares for a new life in ChinaTony Dip was raised in England by Chinese parents, and spoke Cantonese at home - as such, he always felt that it was part of his 'duty' to learn how to speak Mandarin
He felt this would help him avoid what he describes as 'embarrassment' at not knowing the language of where his family are from.
Having learned German at GCSE, Tony was delighted to find that his expectations of how he would learn were very different when he started classes. "It was not like learning at school in a classroom at all," he says. "The atmosphere in class was incredibly relaxed, which I liked a lot. It felt much more like I was doing a hobby rather than being in a learning environment and I definitely learn better and faster that way."
Tony confirms there is plenty to learn when trying to pick up Mandarin. With help from his teachers at LSBU's Confucius Institute, however, he made quick progress – and found patience is certainly an invaluable virtue.
"Don't try to compare it to other languages, because there are reasons why it is how it is. You need to be patient, especially with the tones because they are the hardest part. Getting tones and pronunciation right is important as otherwise, you can inadvertently give what you say a totally different meaning."
Meeting the challenges
Writing the language is also challenging, says Tony: "The characters are meant to reflect their meanings so you have an idea of what they mean just by looking at them, without necessarily having to know how to read it."
However, what seemed impenetrable at the start of his lessons is now becoming second nature to Tony. "The language is quite simple and meaningful once you get the hang of it," he says. "I still have lots to learn, but learning Mandarin has taught me so much – including just how diverse China is, something I hadn't realised before taking the course."
Tony is currently studying an LLB Law at LSBU, and hopes to become a lawyer in the future. His aim is to settle in China and practice law there, so hopes that knowing the language will be of great benefit to him in the future. He regrets not taking some other courses that the Confucius Institute offers, however, which he thinks may have increased his knowledge of Chinese culture.
"I'd have liked to taken a couple of other courses to give me a greater understanding of Chinese culture, such as tai chi and martial arts, but I have really enjoyed learning Mandarin at the Confucius Institute," says Tony. "And whatever you study, the most important piece of advice I can give anyone considering a course is to go for it – and to enjoy it as much as you can."