In 1991 2000 foreigners were studying Mandarin Chinese. In 2005, there were 117, 600 studying the Chinese language. Interest in Mandarin Chinese is growing at a tremendous rate. Deborah Fallows, author of the recently published book, DREAMING IN CHINESE: MANDARIN LESSONS IN LIFE, LOVE, AND LANGUAGE (Walker Publishing 2010), shows us that learning a language is also learning a people. Studying how a culture forms words also shows you how a people form the culture. And this language study is worth pursuing.
Learning this language has had its challenges for me. I remember the time I was leading worship in the small chapel outside Taipei city and in a great moment of Christian, liturgical energy on an early Sunday morning, I admonished those 20 faithful worshippers to stand up, greet the new day, and worship the pig. The Chinese word for "Lord" and "pig" are the same sound, differing by only one tone! They all laughed and so did I when I realized my error. More stories abound about my language errors. Will save them for later and some for my own personal diary!!
I am filled with deep gratitude for my Chinese language teachers both past and present. For my teachers at the Taipei Language Institute (TLI), Wang Taitai, Lyou Taitai, and so many others. For my honorable teacher and dear dear sister-friend, Tung Yi Ping, who now lives in New Jersey and still helps me with my language while I watch over her precious daughter, Justine, a first year student at Wake Forest. For the Chinese language professors at Wake Forest, Professor Shi, chair of the East Asian Language Department, and Professor Hu, a recent addition to our faculty, I am especially thankful. I have been able to audit Mandarin language courses at Wake Forest this fall and will continue to do so in the spring.
In 1977 when I first moved to Taipei Taiwan I went to visit a missionary friend who was soon retiring after over 30 years of work in Taiwan. I walked into her home, saw the packing boxes all around, and noticed the dining room table where language books were scattered around and her Chinese language teacher was giving one more lesson in the language. Learning Chinese takes a long long time. Learning to speak in simple conversation, however, takes only a few months. For those of us watching this sleeping lion, Jung Gwo (China), wake up to the modern realities of a global market and politics, it is certainly worth pursuing. For those of us who want to understand a group of people so that we can better understand ourselves, it is absolutely necessary!