Oberlin starts classes in one week, and 学生 are returning to campus. The once deserted green spaces of the college where once only solitude occupied the plentiful sunlight are being filled with younglings here for orientation. This migration bodes poorly for both Scott and I who have been avoiding our language textbooks all summer, plaintively living in the last few moments before Japanese and Chinese 2 start up and we have our pride handed to us on a silver platter.
I went into the summer without any high expectations that I was going to study, and so I’m not frustrated with myself, but I am frightened to discover just how much I have lost. I tried reading the first chapter of A New China on Friday only to discover my ability to read has apparently gone down the tubes. I recognized most of the characters, but my memory of Chinese grammar has eroded significantly. My listening comprehension is toast, but I expected that. I’ll have to buckle down and start listening to ChinesePod.
To further incite panic into my brain, there’s the knowledge that second year at Oberlin marks the switch from traditional to simplified characters, which is neither gradual nor measured. Essentially Oberlin teaches traditional characters exclusively the first year (in case students want to study in Taiwan or Hong Kong) and then in second year students are suddenly allowed to choose whether you’d like to use simplified or traditional. For most, it’s not really even a choice as traditional is markedly harder. For me, although I appreciate the simplicity that the newer standard affords, I find myself rather attached to some traditional forms. For instance, the simplified form of 刚 is fine but the traditional version is a little more . . . dignified? Perhaps my love for the old standard is partly due to my interest in mastering difficult skills and less about the characters themselves.
Scott, for his part has been studying Japanese frantically in preparation for the beginning of the semester. Both he and I skipped out on our finals last semester. We are both auditing the courses, which means grades are meaningless, and we were launching the paid version at around the same time, which sucked all of our time. Now we’re both realizing how much value finals really have. They temporary solidify the information in your brain and make it more easily accessible later. I for one intend to do my midterms and finals this semester.
In other (non-company-related) news, Nick and I made a rope swing in a nearby park. The project started out as a mission to create an enormous slingshot, but morphed into a rope swing. Go figure. Here’s me climbing into the tree to setup the rope and Nick using our creation. The pictures don’t capture it well, at the time of this photo nick was about 5-6′ off the ground.