Friday, 21 February 2014

Old Dog - New Tricks

I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.

It's for this reason that I've taken it upon myself to learn Mandarin.

Not only do I intend to learn Mandarin, but I'm putting aside the romanisation system known as pinyin and focusing on the traditional characters and way of reading them, known as Zhuyin.

Why would I put myself through such torture at the age of 30?

After all, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, right?


You can teach a dog new tricks if it's willing to learn them, regardless of its age.

Language has never been my strong point (the irony of a writer, I guess). I didn't start speaking till I was four years old. My parents said I made up my own language, and in my sleep I spoke in tongues. At school I hated studying French and German - opting to focus on German as I found it resembled English that little bit more.

So why have I decided to learn Mandarin, when I thought I had put all the 'language learning days' behind me?

I mean, I've always been drawn to the East. I've been a martial arts buff since I was knee-high. Bruce Lee has been my idol for as long as I can remember - even more so when I started to read his books and understand him as a philosopher, rather than a guy who only kicks ass on screen.

(Growing up, I knew my Nan shared the same birthday as Bruce Lee. I told her and she found it quite amusing and I found it cool. When she died in July, the date seemed somewhat familiar to me. And the reason was because she died on the same day as Bruce Lee, too. It may mean nothing, but to me it forges a connection to the guy who still inspires me to this day.)

Because of Mr Lee, I was drawn to Eastern thought and philosophy. I enjoyed watching documentaries about the East and even loved watching the Chinese cooking programs. I started drinking green tea before I was 10. And I've always found a bowl of plain rice really comforting!

So, I will ask again: why have I decided to learn Mandarin?

The answer can be reduced to four words.

I fell in love.

It's as simple as that.

Not only did I fall in love, but I fell in love with a girl who I met whilst living in a Buddhist Center and she was visiting the UK from . . . Taiwan.

Out of duty, she went back to her land far, far away and we intend to be with each other before this year is through.

So it is love that is my driving force. It is love that inspires me and eradicates all the fear and doubt I ever had about learning a new language. And the best thing is, I'm loving it. I'm truly enjoying the [slow] learning process that I've undertaken. I'm fascinated by Mandarin and how it all works. I'm fascinated by Taiwan and its history and its people.

And the more I learn the more I feel like I'm reminding myself of something which has always been within me.

I don't know about reincarnation or past lives (it makes sense if we consider that life has no beginning and no end) but it would explain my pull to the East.

As my girlfriend said, 'I feel like I've come to bring you home.'

And that's exactly why this old dog is wagging his tail.

(I know that most of you who are past your thirties will argue that 30 is young - but I'm afraid we in our thirties won't listen to you.)

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