One of the things I’ve come to love about language learning is the way it often turns the familiar on its head and helps us see the world in a different light.
By simply observing what native speakers say and do, we can discover fascinating elements of language and culture that trigger some serious “Aha…”, “Really?” and, occasionally, “You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me…” moments.
The video below is an example of how a question based on a casual observation (that lots of Chinese girls/women carry umbrellas when it’s sunny) can bring out a bunch of interesting ideas and expressions that in turn fuel our curiosity and motivate us to dig deeper and learn more.
In the video, you’ll see 4 random people from Beijing and Shenzhen answer the question “Why do so many Chinese girls use umbrellas when it’s sunny?”.
What do you think they will say? Press “play” and find out if you’re right…
Did any of the answers surprise you? Are you curious to find out more about the concept of “bai fu mei” and “yi bai zhe san chou”..? (If yes, check out Richelle Gamlam’s post “Bai Fu Mei: An In Depth Look at the Chinese Quest for Lighter, Brighter and Whiter Skin” ).
The key takeaway from the above example is that:
- by actively observing what native speakers say or do, and turning peculiar findings from your observations into questions, you’re creating an “information gap” that stimulates curiosity…
- … and by talking to people to get answers to those questions, you’re filling in the information gap.
Doing this can help boost your overall motivation to learn the language because, as Annie Murphy Paul puts it: “… curiosity increases with knowledge: the more we know, the more we want to know.”
So, in your quest to learn Chinese, what’s something peculiar you’ve noticed that you’re curious about right now?
Note: If you want to review this lesson on the go, the audio (along with a pdf transcript) is available to download below.