Learning any language is a journey and like all journeys there are milestones that represent progress. On my journey to be fluent in Mandarin I feel that I have reached a milestone, the time has come for me to start reading books with Chinese characters. As of the date of this blog, I know about 400 Chinese characters, but to be considered literate one must to know at least 1,000 characters.
There is a limited supply of the latest English books in China so I download most English books to my iPad and read them using the iBook app. To start reading books with Chinese characters I decided to go to a local bookstore. I asked one of my Chinese colleagues to recommend a good bookstore in Beijing and they recommended the Wangfujing bookstore which is located on a popular pedestrian street that also has many shops, shopping malls and restaurants.
Founded in February 1949, the Wangfujing bookstore occupies a large multi-story building and is one of the most popular and well know bookstores in Beijing. On a recent Saturday afternoon I went there and when I got there it was packed with people. Each floor had books grouped by category and based on my Chinese reading level I made my way to the Children’s section. When I arrived there were parents and children everywhere. Children were sitting on the floor reading individually or chatting in small groups with their friends, parents were considering books for their kids and children were pleading with their parents to buy the books they wanted. There was the smell of books and a buzz of activity in the air that I haven’t felt since my parents took me to a bookstore when I was a child.
While I was considering which books to buy, two things entered my mind. First, I didn’t have the same feelings buying a book on my iPad as I did buying a book in a bookstore. Second, I couldn’t help but notice the ease at which children read. Children have no resistance; rather they just read and accept the new information. It made me think about my studying Chinese and how I needed to free myself from resistance and simply accept the Chinese language.
My journey to become fluent in Chinese language continues and my experience at the Wangfujing bookstore has given me a new perspective on learning in general and a greater sense that my journey will have a successful conclusion.