Mandarin Chinese is both a thrill and a challenge to learn. Approaching it from the beginner's end, it seemed daunting and exhausting and impossible. After all, there are thousands of characters to learn and comprehend by themselves; then characters can take on completely random meanings depending on the other words with which they are combined. Context is everything in Chinese. So is tone, as I'm sure most non-speakers are at least aware of. A single syllable pronounced four different ways can have 8 different meanings. But for me, this spring, learning Mandarin has been a thrill. It is such a rush to be able to read a page in my textbook. I love knowing how to write the characters in their correct stroke order, and for that matter, I love knowing the strokes and how they fit together. I like learning the radicals, and cracking the mysterious code of each new word.
By no means is it easy, but it is a pleasure seeing results, seeing myself absorb the words. I am more receptive to this language than I ever was to high school French or Spanish once I got to college. That moment of realization, comprehending a foreign language and understanding what kind of door that opens for you is quite indescribable. I am beginning to widen my discussion opportunities in the world-- there is a new, HUGE population for me to chat with, over in China. So I'll keep studying!