Friday, November 9, 2012

Dreaming in Chinese

They say a measure of your language progress is when you start to dream in Chinese, but I'm not sure if my dreams really count.  Last night I dreamed about reflexive verb endings.  Seriously.  I recently had a dream in which I was sitting in class making up several sentences trying to use 把 (ba) and 拿 (na), two characters with roughly the same meaning but different usage which I often use incorrectly in my waking hours.  In my dream I kept making sentences and my teacher kept saying, "错了!错了!It's wrong!  It's wrong!"

It's possible that I dream in Chinese more than I realize because when I wake up during the night I often have Chinese phrases and sentence structures running through my mind.  Perhaps it is just my brain frantically trying to categorize the things I shove into it during the day.

I would say my dreams are a pretty good mirror of my language progress right now.  I can speak more Chinese than every I also make more errors than every before.  We are constantly learning new sentence patterns and grammar for me to misuse, and since I can talk about many more topics, every time I try to talk I think of 20 more words I don't know how to say.  It's a little frustrating.

A year ago I was just excited to be making progress.  It was hard to believe how much more I could say compared with two months before.  Starting from practically nothing can really make progress more obvious.  Now as our time set aside for official language study creeps toward an end, I realize that at the end of these two years, there will still be approximately 358,037,464,956 words I don't know how to say.  There will still be whole areas of language I can't use.  Every day I think of another "I can't believe I don't know how to say that" word or three. 

Perhaps I need to look back a little more to remember I am indeed making improvements.  When I started studying my conversations would die out after about 2 minutes, or even sooner if people weren't asking the standard questions.  Now I can talk for a couple of hours with my tutor in Chinese and still have more to say - provided we are talking about interesting topics, of course.  I don't understand everything she says, and I can't remember all the words I want to use, but we are still able to communicate pretty well.

So I guess I'm making progress.  Maybe soon I'll start dreaming correctly in Chinese!

1 comment:

Mallary said...

I don't think I have dreamed in Chinese, yet. I hope that's not a bad sign.

And I feel the same way about words that I can't believe I don't know, yet. Sometimes they seem like such obvious practical words but in the past year and half I guess I just never needed them until now.