Thursday, July 26, 2012

Language Barrier

Although the students and faculty at my new school will all speak English, I'll eventually need to know some Mandarin to get by in other areas, like public transportation and the grocery store.  The school provides once-a-week Mandarin classes for the teachers, but I'm eager to get a head start.  I've heard great things about RosettaStone, but the price tag was too hefty for my recent-college-grad budget.

Here is the first installment of my favorite wallet-friendly smartphone apps to practice beginner Mandarin and communicate with those who don't speak English.  Since I haven't gotten to try them out firsthand my reviews may not be completely accurate, but I'll follow up once I get to try them out for real!

Learn Chinese (Mandarin) by MindSnacks

This app is my favorite for practicing basic Mandarin anytime, whether I need to keep myself entertained for a few minutes while I wait in line or have more time to spare.  The cute little Mandarin lima bean (or slug?) gets smarter as you play games to work through different levels.  So far I've made it through "numbers," "months & seasons," and "days, weeks, and years."  You can access the first level for free, but I paid the extra $4.99 for all 50 levels.  It's super user-friendly, the material is applicable in real life, and the cuteness factor is huge.


Before downloading this app I had heard about it, but never had a reason to use it.  Supposedly, it's a way to have a conversation with someone who doesn't speak English.  After inputting the gender and native language of two people, it allows you to have a multi-language conversation in real-time.  I haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet, but I can imagine that I'd get some pretty funny looks from people if I held up my phone when they spoke.  Maybe I can try it out first on someone who's more understanding!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Ready

The Oriental Pearl Tower, one of Shanghai's most famous landmarks.

In less than a week I'll be trying to find my way around this place!  I'll journey to Shanghai on July 31st to begin my first job as an elementary music teacher.  During the first few weeks I'll have lots of help from the faculty at the school where I'll be teaching, and there are a handful of other new teachers who will be just as culture-shocked as me.  School starts during the third week of August and there is so much to do before then!

I wanted a way to keep a record of my biggest adventure thus far.  I'm looking forward to sharing pictures and details about hunting for an apartment, attempting to cook (Chinese apartments don't have stoves!), learning to use public transportation, and exploring the city, all while settling into my role as a K-6 music teacher.  I'm also anticipating plenty of "confused American girl in China" stories.  Stay tuned!