Friday, March 07, 2008

Let's do this thing!

Hello to the three or four people who still read my blog! You know what's weird? I go through phases where I write a lot, and then I go through dry spells where I don't write anything. Anyway, a lot of changes have been going on around here. The most newsworthy event to have taken place recently is that I quit my job at Kojen. Oh my gosh, I'm telling you, after I handed in my resignation letter birds started singing -- and I saw visions of fat little cherubs dancing around me shouting congratulatory remarks. This is my unique way of saying that it was a happy day! Not that Kojen was all that bad. I loved teaching my students. The problem, as any buxiban teacher will tell you, is that you're not really there to teach students -- you're there to make money for the company. Most of the time I could ignore this fact, but there were times when this directly impeded my ability to provide the best quality teaching to my students. I happened to work under a great manager though, and I was fortunate enough to only have to teach adults. Let's face it though, living with the knowledge that someone else is making money off of your hard work is never pleasant. I could easily teach students privately and provide a better service for them with no middleman involved. There are two problems with this in Taiwan though. One, it's sort of illegal (I say sort of because it's not a law that anybody really follows and I'm confused as to the reason for its existence, but it's illegal nonetheless). Two, a teacher cannot get an ARC (like a green card) to stay in the country with this kind of work. The reason why I have stayed at Kojen for as long as I have (about two years) is that I want an ARC so that I can legally live in Taiwan and receive benefits like health care.

Here's the straw that broke the camel's back though -- I have just recently realized that it's darn near impossible to work full-time and learn Chinese. I don't mean "learn how to order food" sort of Chinese -- I'm talking about the whole package here. I want to know how to read, write, type, and speak Chinese fluently. I'm aware that there are some people out there who seem to be able to do everything at once, but I am definitely not one of them. I've been in Taiwan for about two years studying Chinese off and on, and I'm still not that great at it. I've gone through phases with my Chinese learning, and after two years of frustration, I've finally realized what the best method is for me. Let me start by saying this: contrary to what everyone may tell you, Chinese is not a difficult language to learn. English is way harder! People that say Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world have probably never actually studied it, and they are only saying this because the characters are hard. Granted, the characters are a big pain to learn to read and write, but this is the ONLY difficult part about Chinese. Chinese grammar is SO simple. Pronunciation is a little daunting at first, but remember that there are only four tones. Once you get those down, you're good to go. One could easily get a language partner for speaking practice, and basically teach themselves Chinese. I believe the best way to learn is by having a private tutor, but one most be motivated in order to thrive under this method.

Trust me, I've been there, done that. The first few months of my "Chinese learning journey" were spent in a desperate attempt to draw upon motivation that never really existed for me. I tried having my husband teach me (heck, it was free), but I soon learned that having a spouse as a teacher is not such a good idea. I then went to a private tutor, but we quickly became good friends and she lost all ability to discipline me. How can a private teacher discipline an adult student anyway? So although she was a great teacher and I was getting plenty of opportunities to speak Chinese, I had no motivation to study on my own time. Then I tried a class and dropped out after two weeks because the teacher was terrible. It was back to my private teacher after that, and I was once again a lazy student. Now I'm back in a class, and I have a great teacher! I'm studying more than I ever have, mostly because I don't want to get a bad grade on the test and look like an idiot. Perhaps this isn't the best motivation to study, but hey, it's working for me! And slowly but surely, I'm beginning to study more for a genuine love for the Chinese language rather than merely wanting to outperform the other students. And the fact that I have mandatory homework forces me to be really disciplined. At last, I seem to be on track!

So, back to why I quit my job. I have class for two hours each morning, and I spend about three hours on my homework each night. I came to realize that I must choose one thing as my focus -- teaching English or learning Chinese. This isn't to say that I would have to give up the other thing entirely, but only one could be center stage. God had to remind me why I came here in the first place. Yes, I love teaching English, and yes, God uses this for His glory. But how much more could He use me if I spoke Chinese? Then I wouldn't be limited to only teaching English as a means to minister, but I would be able to do other things as well. Not only that, but even if English teaching always were my primary way to reach people, it would still help if I could speak Chinese. Let me share with you something very important that I've learned ... even if speaking the language isn't necessary for your work as a missionary (English teachers are the only kind of missionaries in Taiwan that one could arguably say that learning the language isn't absolutely necessary), it sure does open a lot of doors. It impresses people, it allows you to relate to them more when you're outside of the classroom, and it's just a courteous thing to do when you live in their country and use their resources. All that stuff about needing to minister to people using their "heart language" sounds kind of cheesy, but it's true. So, here I am, saying, "Okay God, let's do this thing!" I guess coming to this conclusion two years after you move to a place is better than never coming to it at all.

We found out that I could be added onto my husband's ARC, and that I could quit Kojen and study Chinese full-time. It was a little scary, and maybe we won't have as much money as before, but we decided to do it. For two years, I've been living in a place without really experiencing it. Yeah, one could live a comfortable life in Taiwan without ever learning Chinese, but oh would they be missing out on a lot of beauty. Chinese culture is ancient and beautiful. When you read a traditional character, you're reading something that people read thousands of years ago. When you understand what people are saying in Chinese, you understand more of their heart.

I want to know this culture, and I want to understand the people here more so that I can better love them. So Lord, let's do this thing!


  1. You go, Girl! ;) You asked God for a vision, and you realize you can't study Chinese as you'd like and teach, so you choose to focus on one thing and do it well. GREAT for you! ;) Praying that the language learning continues to go well for you!

  2. Good luck Cahleen! This sounds like a great opportunity, and the right decision. I am so envious, as usual!

  3. Good for you! Now remember to repeat: I love Chinese I love Chinese when your brain feels like Teflon and your mouth seems to trip over itself!
    Seriously, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
    BTW, I have commented twice to your blog (and another Blogger blog) in the past month and when I went to change my identity I lost the comment! Auurrgghhh. It looks like they updated so I hope this one isn't lost!

  4. Praise the Lord for your Vision and sticking to it!!

    Good luck in your full time learning, I too was in school part time and working and doing the mommy thing also it was well just way too much. Working part time no school and of course still doing the mommy thing.

  5. Sounds like you know yourself and have made some good decisions.
    To it all unto the Lord and you'll be safe.
    I am glad you are learning to have a heart for the people. Love them with the love God put in your heart.
    They will see it.


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