Maintaining my proficiency in Mandarin has been a constant challenge. Instead of taking structured classes I have been trying to find ways to at least maintain what I have already learned. I am grateful that Vancouver’s great population of Mandarin speakers has given me opportunity to use the language in everyday life. One challenge I have experienced is that most of the Mandarin speakers I meet have a better English vocabulary than my Chinese vocabulary. It is only natural for people to default to the most descriptive of shared languages so that opinions and stories are more likely to convey their intended meaning. In these situations, English clearly remains the default language and highlights one of the benefits of learning in an immersion environment.
While looking for inspiration on ways to overcome such challenges, I found a Wikibook called “how to learn a language“. One good piece of advice is to listen to audiobooks in your target language. So where does an English-speaker find Chinese audiobooks? A link to the free audiobooks at LibriVox of works in the public domain brought me to discover poems Tang Dynasty (618-907); specifically a work compiled in 1763 called Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐詩三百首).
To practice my pronunciation, I have been listening to a poem called 佳人 (Alone in Her Beauty) by 杜甫 (Du Fu). It helps to have a copy of the poem to read at the same time. So I have prepared a version in Simplified Chinese that I found online and added pinyin for anyone like me that would find it helpful.
佳人 (Alone in Her Beauty)