I apologize for the lack of updates over the past couple of weeks. My MacBook Pro met its end a month ago, and I won’t be able to replace it for another two weeks.

That being said, I have quite a few lesson plans and thoughts about teaching to share with you, plus some reflections about finishing my first semester as an English teacher. So, stay tuned, and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

A message from risenapes
You are awesome! I used scenes for Love Actually too with my ELL tutoring. We discussed the scene with Aurelia and Jamie when his papers going flying in to the lake.

Thank you! Love Actually is such a great film for teaching, especially for ESL - there’s so much that you can pull out of each clip. I’d love to hear about how you used that scene; it’s always nice to exchange ideas with other teachers.

Taiwanese calligrapher Shao Lan uses a pictorial and story-telling approach to teach Chinese characters. Her website, Chineasy, is fantastic: when you click on a character, related and more complex characters appear. This will be one of many resources that I’ll use when I start learning Chinese characters next month. (For now: speaking and pronunciation practice). 

Learn more about her project by reading The World of Chinese's review or visiting her website

Images: screenshots from Chineasy. 

Delicious Eats in Chongqing. Natasha @ polidigital/Flickr.  

On April 28th of last year, I graduated from college, three weeks after trying to commit suicide. It took seven months to crawl out of that hole. But in November, I had enough energy to pack my bags and hop off to Prague for a TESOL course. At the time, I didn’t know how much that flippant decision—that brief moment when I asked “why not?”—would change my life.

I’m in a café in Chongqing right now, with a cappuccino and an atlas of China in hand, planning my summer adventure out west. In the past eleven days, I’ve finished eleven Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese dialogues; before the end of today, I’ll do another one. I couldn’t be happier. 

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind

I can never leave the past behind

I can see no way, I can see no way

I’m always dragging that horse around

And our love has pastured such a mournful sound

Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground

I like to keep my issues drawn

But it’s always darkest before the dawn […]

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back

So shake him off

Language Progress

I completed another Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese lesson today (#7), which satisfies my daily quota, as well as Popup Chinese’s podcast on casual greetings and ChinesePod’s newbie lesson on greetings and short dialogue on China’s “5,000 years of history.” It feels good to be sinking into a study routine.  

Chongqing Metro. April 2013. Natasha @ polidigital/Streamzoo. 

Chongqing Metro. April 2013. Natasha @ polidigital/Streamzoo

A Window of Opportunity
During my week-long jaunt to Shanghai in February, I took a day trip to Zhou Zhuang, a “water village” in the Jiangsu Province. I fell in love with this stunning, sleepy town instantly. Natasha @ polidigital/Flickr. All rights reserved.

A Window of Opportunity

During my week-long jaunt to Shanghai in February, I took a day trip to Zhou Zhuang, a “water village” in the Jiangsu Province. I fell in love with this stunning, sleepy town instantly. Natasha @ polidigital/Flickr. All rights reserved.

"That feeling about trains, for instance. Of course he had long outgrown the boyish glamour of the steam engine. Yet there was something that had an appeal for him in trains, especially in night trains, which always put queer, vaguely improper notions into his head."

Georges Simenon, The Man Who Watched The Trains Go By

I recently discussed my ongoing obsession with trains on one of my other blogs. My summer break is about two months away, and I’m determined to take the Chongqing-Lhasa sleeper and then train-hop through various cities out West. I get all giddy just thinking about it. 

(Not As) Lost in Translation: Beginning a Mandarin Chinese Study Routine

When I arrived to Chongqing, I decided to give myself eight weeks to adjust and settle into a routine. Until now, my priorities have been teaching, finding decent restaurants and grocery stores, maintaining my workout and reading schedules, and figuring out where things are located.

Now that my two-month reprieve is over, it’s time to get serious about learning Mandarin Chinese. I’ve flirted with the language for the past year or so, without making serious commitments to full-time study. 

I’ve decided to start with small, manageable goals. (I’ve used this approach in other areas of my life, namely swimming and daily reading, and so far, it’s been successful.) So for the next 30 days, I’ve committed to completing at least one 30-minute Pimsleur audio lesson everyday. Eventually, I want to work up to 2-3 hours of daily speaking and writing practice, but for now, I’m focusing on mastering short dialogues. 

Yesterday, I completed the first two lessons from the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese-Gold series, with good results. (When I bought some snacks from a local vendor, I used the target language without hesitating or translating in my head). Today, I completed two more dialogues, and then decided to mix things up by trying a 15-minute intermediate ChinesePod lesson. After being spoon-fed vocabulary and grammar for an hour and meticulously repeating phrases, I wanted to challenge myself with more advanced material. (Pimsleur might be a fantastic way to learn the nuts and bolts of a language, but the dialogues are boring. David Sedaris humorously demonstrates the pitfalls of the Pimsleur method in this essay in The New Yorker). Since I live in China, I regularly hear conversations that I can’t understand, so it only makes sense to practice listening to and picking out words from more advanced dialogues. 

The intermediate lesson was about hot pot, which is a popular meal in Chongqing and therefore relevant to my daily life. In contrast to the Pimsleur lessons, I didn’t care about remembering every word in the conversation: I practiced the most important or interesting words, and spent the rest of the time focusing on imitating the speakers’ pronunciation and intonation. It was fun, not to mention a nice break from the dry Pimsleur dialogues.

After I finish the Pimsleur Gold series (30 lessons total), I plan to buy ChinesePod, PopUp Chinese, and Skritter (to learn characters) subscriptions. 

If you have any resources you’d like to share, send me a message

Post-Lunch Nap. April 2013. Natasha @ polidigital/Flickr. All rights reserved. 

Post-Lunch Nap. April 2013. Natasha @ polidigital/Flickr. All rights reserved.