Mandarin is a brilliant language.
It’s a river: constantly flowing, slowing and speeding as needed, blending well. Unlike the often coarse sound of French, or the electric jumps of Spanish, or Russian’s spittle-laden, palatalized glacial flow, Mandarin is a smooth speech. It is soft: even the hard consonants have a certain smoothed-down quality to them.
Yet Mandarin is also a language that finds itself in every moment of life. It is idiomatic such that a short description can give a sense other languages take pages to describe. The grammar is flexible such that a construction exists to get the finest point across, but simple enough to not lose itself in declensions, conjugations, and the like.
I’ve been studying Mandarin for seven years, and I still can’t get over how fluid, yet how strong it is.
Here in Shenzhen, I’ve really been savoring speaking the language every day. It’s really fun to be able to express myself basically 24/7 in the language. I’m not completely fluent, but I have conversations and attend meetings and exchange emails in the language. Part of my job also includes a lot of translation, so the language comes in there too. Mandarin is phenomenal for business, and there’s a lot you can say at a meeting in Mandarin. I have to interpret for a new Korean-American employee when the language switches to Mandarin, and some of the discourse is pretty weird to translate.
It’s nice to dive into that river and float in its current. It’s really great to take all the Mandarin I’ve learned in the three years since I was last in China and to put it into action. There’s a feeling of reward. But there’s an even greater feeling of realization.