Published in The Babbel Magazine, August 6, 2018
“So I guess we’re moving to Beijing!” In one sentence, our lives turned upside-down. Within the space of a few weeks, my husband and I went from being happily settled in Paris, our home for many years, to vaguely discussing a job opening in China, to totally committing to the move. Although we’re both keen travelers, neither of us had ever imagined actually living in the land of the Great Wall, panda bears, and dim sum — let alone learning a third language.
Transplanting yourself into a completely foreign culture and environment is never easy, but having a little bit of the local language can go a long way in easing the transition. Within days of reaching our decision, we hired a tutor and got to work studying Mandarin Chinese.
I expected learning Mandarin to be a challenge, but I had no idea that the fact that I already spoke a second language — French — would help. After all, why would it? French and Mandarin are probably as different as any two languages could be, having developed from entirely different linguistic families on opposite sides of the world. They have practically no pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar or writing system in common. And yet, speaking French has helped me to learn Mandarin. Here’s how...
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