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The International Writers Magazine: In China

China experience
Nicky Millman
In May 2000 I embarked on a trip to Beijing, China. This was no ordinary trip! I was about to participate in a language course at the Beijing Language and Culture university. The trip was to last for only one month, however I did plan to stay longer, but did become homesick. All in all, one month was enough to savour the delights that China and in particular Beijing has to offer.

Script The Chinese language is a difficult language to learn and as I was only there for one month it would prove difficult to gain even a basic grasp of the language. This was proved right! The characters were very difficult to learn and the tonal system (speaking and listening) was hard to grasp.

Nevertheless it was an incredible experience and gave me paramount insight into this great culture and language. Notably, about 1/5 of the World population speaks some form of Chinese. Essentially, this language course focused on Mandarin Chinese which is spoken in northern and south western parts of China.

During the month there were trips to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. My favourite was the train ride to Inner Mongolia which took all night to get to. Hohhot is a city in north-central China and the capital of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, serving as the region's administrative, economic, and cultural centre. We stopped off in this town and there were kids excited to see me as I was only white person on the organised trip. This was another feature of my excursion to China. The amount of stares and hello’s was immense and it was engaging to start a conversation, not in a ‘lingua franca’ but to draw sketches on the sands of the Gobi Desert in order to communicate with the natives.

From my viewpoint, the Chinese are a polite people who are passionate about improving their English language skills. In particular, one student, called Mike was obsessed with me examining his English language papers which he had produced. He was also interested in the United Kingdom and my culture, but seemed more interested in improving his English. English is such an important language to learn and most if not all Chinese students spend hours perfecting their English Grammar.

What is also intriguing is that even in 2000 when I travelled to China, the country itself was in an economic boom period. All over Beijing I could see crane upon crane upon many a building site in this fascinating and beautiful city. The country also is growing at an alarming rate. Beijing itself is amongst the most developed cities in China with tertiary industry accounting for 73.2% of its GDP (Wikipedia).

Whilst at the University I made many friends from all over the world. These included people from Tunisia, Italy, America and many other places. In particular I met a friend with which I would forge a beautiful friendship with in the years ahead visiting her in many parts of Europe. It was exceptional that I had somebody to share my Chinese experience with and especially an Italian with which I would begin a love affair with her country in the months ahead. A language course in Rome was also undertaken in the same year as the one in China. The Italian language of course would prove to be a lot easier than its Asian cousin.
© Nicky Millman September 2010

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