Studying Chinese gives me a feeling unlike anything else, a feeling of being brilliant and stupid in almost the same moment.  

Sometimes I feel smart, capable of anything – when I have an authentic conversation with someone, when I put together a new phrase out of the jigsaw of words I’ve already learned. This language is hard and I feel proud that I’ve learned as much as I have.

Usually, though, in the next second I’m hopelessly confused again, one or two unknown words blocking my comprehension completely.

Sometimes I think it’s the unpredictability of those highs of understanding that keep me coming back, that make me addicted to the language. Mandarin is a delayed-reward system par excellence.


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