• Fundamentals for Fun at Fifty-Five

    1. Dare to try new things

    2. Say yes to opportunities

    3. Relax, smile, dance away your worries

    4. If not now, when?

    5. Just do it (you can analyze later)

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If At First You Don’t Succeed

#1 – Learn another language

I’ve been waiting a couple of weeks to write this post, barely able to contain my excitement.

I’m learning to speak Chinese!

Mandarin to be precise. A language I thought I’d never learn.

When I was younger, languages came easily to me. I inhaled French in public school. In high school, I took every language course available – French, Spanish and Latin. Loved them all, so it was only natural that I’d end up doing a degree in translation. During the second year of university in Switzerland, I was required to spend 6 months in Spain (I know, such hardship!) Totally immersed, I came home that Christmas practically unable to speak English anymore. My parents thought it was hilarious, listening to me speak English with a Spanish accent, watching me fumble for English words while the Spanish ones leaped to mind.

Later on, I went back to university for a second degree. This time in German and Russian. I hadn’t planned to learn Russian but it was part of the degree so I thought, “Why not? Could be fun.” And it was.

So a few years after that, when I saw an evening course in Mandarin, I figured it would be a piece of cake. What’s one more language?

Ha, ha, ha ….

Little did I realize that Mandarin uses tones to differentiate among words. You see a word can be spelled the same way, yet have four different meanings depending on the tone (flat, up, down, or up and down). And I wasn’t able to hear the difference, let alone mimic it. Arrgghh!!! To be defeated by a language was a whole new experience for me. But defeat it was. Total and absolute.

Recently, I told this story to a Chinese friend. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. She rallied to the challenge. “I can teach you, Julie,” she said, brimming with confidence. ” You’ll see!”

It seems she’s been teaching her language to English-speaking adults for a while with great success. I was sure she’d met her match in me, but I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm.

We’ve had a couple of lessons so far. I know, it’s still early days, but I am impressed with my progress so far. She makes it simple for me, lets me choose what I want to learn, and explains everything in ways that I can understand. Plus her young children come along, and have a lot of fun helping me work on the sounds (giggling hysterically at some of my attempts).

When my partner came home last night after my lesson, he asked how it’s going.

“Hǎo,” I replied.

I think I said “good”, but I guess that all depends on whether or not I got the tone right. If not, who knows what I may have said???

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Ain’t life fun?

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  1. LOL – sounds similar to my experiences with Welsh 🙂 Must be something “special” inside that causes us to embrace new languages in these later years. I often ask myself what posesses me to be passionate about a language in which “u” is prounounced as an “i” and you have to alternate between “hoarking” (sorry) and lisping 🙂

    • Sounds like quite a challenge! I wonder if my willingness to try this again is the result of no longer being attached to the outcome. I don’t feel a need to “succeed” anymore. There’s fun and pleasure in the attempt itself. What do you think?


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  • Julie Wise is …

    a writer, author (Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease), life/relationship coach and an intuitive healer by day. By night, she dances flamenco, thrives on chocolate and good red wine (shiraz will do!) She secretly plots to change the world, one dream at a time.
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