I'm going to study Mandarin at university. I'm a little shocked by that because a) I didn't expect to start messing around with university studies again until I quit, got fired, or had been resident in Australia-land for three years and b) I hadn't really been into the idea of Mandarin, of all things.
But the introductory course work paid for that I'm concluding next Monday totally whetted my appetite, and there are no other courses available in L--- - my only option is a correspondence degree with Griffiths University. And I won't have to pay foriegner fees. So - there you are. I start at the end of May. I'm totally excited about it too - I'm the sort of dry, joyless learner who does really well with university-type education - it's how I learnt Italian - so I feel quite optimistic that maybe in a year or so I can have a degree of functionality in Mandarin, especially if I can somehow persuade work to let me go work in one of the Chinese offices for a month or so.
What a strange language it is, coming from my Romantic Anglo Saxon perspective. Grammar so simple you could blink and miss it, which is just lovely, but then the fucking tones. I feel certain that the tonal languages must have been a different language-event from the non-tonal languages; I just don't understand how a tonal language, whose construction seems to me to owe so much more to singing than a clod-hopping language like English or French, could have sprung from the same source. As I practice the Pinyin table exhaustively I realize I am basically saying every word you can say in Mandarin without actually knowing a damn one (though the word for 'bullshit' does stick in my mind quite reliably, it's a really good one) and that is fucking weird.
I have to think about it as singing - I have to, because as a language learner I've never had any interest in speaking with anything like a correct accent. When I speak French or Italian, people have had a hard time placing me as an Anglophone, because unlike most of us Anglos I do actually make all the correct sounds - rolling rs, weird gs, no problem - but nobody has ever mistaken me for a local and I've never wanted them to. Francophones and Italians always thought I was Spanish for some reason. Fine with me. Spain's cool. Also Francophones guess I'm Italian because once I figured out how to roll my r's in Italian and realized that French people could still understand me if I rolled my French r's I just never gave up on it. That's fine with me too. Everybody knows that the Italians who aren't in Italy anymore are the cool ones. Man, that fucking country.
Anyhoo. It's clear now with Mandarin I don't have the option of riding roughshod over accents anymore so I'm going to think about it as singing correctly when I speak.