I’m starting a little experiment.
Chinese is notoriously tricky for speakers of Western languages. The degeneracy in meaning between different sounds and different tones corresponding to many different characters with different, sometimes subtle meanings… ah, my brain aches just thinking about it.
Most of my home life is spent speaking in Chinese Mandarin, and I’d like to maintain that, so I’ve become very anxious at trying to improve/preserve the little I understand. Forgetting everything I studied so hard to learn would be a personal tragedy. Leaving China, leaving the daily exposure to putonghua, has only added some pressure to try not to become lazy and forget stuff.
Now, I’m in Ghent, in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium. I’d like to learn enough Dutch to be polite to shopkeepers, ask directions, etc. This level of “polite Dutch” is equivalent to “survival Chinese”, but there is less struggle to survive here as everyone speaks very good English!
However, I have the voice of Homer Simpson in my head proclaiming loudly that if I learn something new, it will push out something old. Would learning Dutch push out my hard-earned Chinese? Homer’s idea is likely wrong, but it’s still a worry.
So, I’m going to try to reinforce my Chinese by learning Dutch via Chinese. I’ve vague ideas gleaned from the internet that this may work. I’ll keep you posted how it goes. Wish me luck!