Self intro and why Chinese

Now that I’ve introduced the concept of my blog I felt that it was necessary to do a short self-introduction. Simply put; I am a 17 – year old, female Muslim student living in England who has gradually developed what my mother describes as ‘an obsession with China’. I think that’s hardly true though…right?

Recently I decided on a Chinese name for myself with help from one of my Chinese friends living in Linhai 临海. For the most part I wanted to leave the result to fate, but initiated the process by telling her that I wanted it to look elegant and include an ancient Chinese character. Eventually we came to decide on 陈欣妍 which is spelt as Chen Xinyan (the Chinese norm is to write the surname first when spelling a name, therefore 陈 is my surname). The name means Jade, pretty and joy, and another friend of mine told me that the name looks very pretty (which kind of met my objective) -my teacher also approved once I had shown her.

Previously my ‘Chinese name’ was my actual name phonetically spelt in Chinese which came across as English/Chinese. That’s why I thought it was best for me to decide on an actual Chinese name. Some of the features I like about the name we chose is that the characters are fairly simple to spell, and also that the meaning of the individual characters conveys a sense of majesty. Lastly I can’t leave out the fact that 陈 is the Chinese name of the member; Chen from the Korean/Chinese pop group EXO (he’s my 2nd bias in the group…but I shall not get distracted!).

I am currently pursuing the A2 studies of my A Levels in the UK. I understand that the education systems differ across the globe and it causes much confusion when people from China ask me about my studies, so if all goes well I shall explain that in greater detail in due time. I am currently studying English Literature, Religious Studies and Chinese with the Cambridge Pre U. The Pre U has a shroud of mystery cast over it in my eyes because I was given a vague understanding as to what the course entails; however constantly engaging with the Chinese language, reading all of our prescribed texts in advance and doing additional work seems to be working for me. The course is quite challenging because it consists of numerous units, including a cultural paper as well as a unit on grammar that devotes an entire section to the formation of characters (this includes the order and direction of strokes that are to be followed when writing a character). However being a language and essay-oriented student hopefully should help me perform well in these aspects of the course.

I have been exposed to languages from a young age by being taught Arabic as part of Islamic studies, speaking my home language with family (mainly my Grandmother), listening to lectures in Urdu at my Mosque and travelling around the Middle east where I heard a lot of the Persian dialect; Farsi. In addition to that, I also came into contact with German when I was being child minded during my primary school education. As it was my child minder’s main language I learnt how to count in German and say a phrase about Diddl unt Diddlina liking cheese (you never know when you might need it). I was introduced to Japanese manga around the age of eleven, and then I became more actively engaged in Korean music and culture a few years later. Chinese didn’t really seem ‘cool’ at that point in time, but it was offered as a subject at the Secondary school that I completed my GCSE’s in (this is a UK qualification for students that are due to enter high school). I gradually became interested in the Chinese language as I continued to excel in the subject.

At the moment I am in the midst of drafting and formulating my personal statement, which is required for my University applications. During the time I spent in summer preparing by researching, reading and thinking hard (perhaps a little too hard), I was able to investigate why I am interested in Chinese. While it may seem like an obsession on the surface, I know that I truly appreciate the language because of it’s intricate systems, the heritage it holds, its development and the stories of characters.

I find it quite awkward to discuss my achievements, which is why writing my personal statement can feel like a daunting task. I find that it’s more reliable to go by people’s opinions of you and something that I’m often told is that I’m good at languages. From imersive techniques to cultural roots, I’m thankful for the intellectual journey that I’ve taken up till now and I hope that I can continue to study Chinese at a higher level.

One thing I find myself often telling my classmates is that Chinese is what I like to call a ‘thesaurus language’. By this I mean that a single word usually has several translations with slight differences that can provide a more precise meaning to a phrase etc. For example the word ‘know’ can be expressed as 懂 dǒng, 知道 zhī dao or 明白 míng bái. The first word is best translated as ‘understand’, whilst the second (the option I hear most frequently being used) could be translated as ‘to know’ or ‘to be aware’. Finally the last word is slightly more formal and means ‘to comprehend’. Although the word may have minor differences in the interpretation you choose to go by, it can heavily impact the meaning of a sentence.

I didn’t plan to write so much about what feels like so little, but I do tend to become engrossed in my writing. If you stayed with me till the end of the post the I’m sure you now better understand who I am and why I enjoy studying Chinese.

Next time you have to give a self-introduction; good luck 世界~                                                                                 从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

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