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Does dating a native really help your Chinese?

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To quote myself (again), I once said:

"As cliché as it sounds, the two ways people usually learn Chinese the fastest are:

Get a Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend

Go to bars a lot"

听起来有点陈词滥调,通常学汉语最快速的办法有两种:

1. 找一个中国男友/女友

2. 经常去酒吧


But since I haven't had a (very long) romantic relationship with any Chinese girls, I decided to invite an American friend of mine (using her Chinese name) to do the first ever guest post! She's engaged to a Chinese guy and has learned quite a bit of Chinese so far. But was it because of him…?

我从来没有和中国女孩谈过恋爱,我决定请我的一位美国朋友(小一)来分享她的经历。她交了一位中国男友,学会了一点中文。但是,她学会中文真的是因为她的中国男友吗?


By Xiao Yi (小一)

So you're in China, you've been studying Chinese, and now you've even got this great Chinese boy/girlfriend who can teach you. You've got it made! You'll be fluent in no time. Right? Not necessarily.

你在中国,也一直在学中文,而且有中国男友/女友可以教你。你马上就能流利地说中文,不是吗?未必是!


While it seems to make sense that having a Chinese signifiant other would quickly cement your language skills, my experience tells me differently. My fiance, Mr. X, is a talented linguist and a patient teacher, and being with him has certainly boosted my motivation to learn. But there's a long list of people I would rather study Chinese with than him. Now, I realize that every relationship is different. It's important to note what your default language is. Mr. X's English far outstrips my Chinese, so our default language is English. That being the case, I find it counterproductive to use him as my primary language informant for three main reasons:

有一位中国伴侣会快速提高你的汉语能力,看起来像是那么回事,但我的经历告诉我,事实并非如此。我的未婚夫X先生,他对语言很有天赋,而且是一位有耐心的老师,和他在一起的确让我有学汉语的动力。然而,在学汉语上,我宁愿向其他人学,而且不是我的未婚夫。X先生的英语远比我的中文好,所以英语是我们的默认语言。适得其反,我不想把X先生作为我学习汉语的首选对象,主要原因有三:

  1. The roles can get mixed. While I appreciate Mr. X's occasional tips on pronunciation, I do not appreciate him correcting my grammar when I'm trying to vent my  frustration about a bad day. When you spend too much time in teacher/student mode, it can be difficult to snap out of it and back into relationship mode. Good teachers consistently correct grammar mistakes. Good boyfriends do not.

    角色混淆。我有时欣赏X先生的发音技巧,但我不喜欢他纠正我的语法。当你在师生模式上花太多时间,你就很难自拔,很难回到情侣模式。好老师经常纠正语法错误,好男友不能这样。


  2. You turn into azhongwen bandit. Just like you hate those random students who come up to you while you're doing your shopping, trying to steal bits of English practice, your partner could end up feeling used. Interactions need to be primarily about building the relationship, not the language acquisition.

    你会变成一个为了学语言而霸占别人时间的强盗。这好比如,你正在逛街,突然跑过来一群学生,试着和你打招呼来练习他们的英语。如果你也这么做,你的情侣最后只会觉得被利用。情侣关系的初衷应该是建立关系,而不是被语言学习绑架。

  1. The message is more important than the medium.  We're trying to build a life together here. We need real communication to happen, so we go to our default language: English. Neither of us want to waste our precious moments together waiting for me to fumble through an oversimplified Chinese sentence just because I need to practice passive voice.

    信息比媒介重要。我们是要在一起生活的,我们需要真实的交流,所以我们把英语当做我们的默认语言来交流。我们都不想浪费宝贵的时光,等着我吃力地说出一句极其简单的中文,因为我需要练习被动语态。


This is not to say that we never speak Chinese together. On the contrary, we frequently have basic conversations and send text messages in Chinese. I'm quick to try and impress him with every bit of new ability I acquire. But I acquire it elsewhere. Your experience might be quite different, especially if your partner doesn't speak English or your Chinese and her English are at about the same level.

当然,这不是说我们在一起完全不说中文。相反,我们经常会用汉语做一些基础对话,也会用汉语发信息。我一学到新知识,我会很快分享,让X先生印象深刻。但我从别的地方学到汉语。你的经历可能不一样,尤其是,如果你的伴侣不会说英语,或者你的中文和她的英文水平相当。

2016-06-21

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