So far, Beijing still feels like Wonkaland, but I kind of love being in Wonkaland. I’m having huge issues with the language, though.
Since this summer, I’ve been doing ChinesePod lessons, which I would totally recommend to anyone trying to learn Mandarin. They’re much shorter than typical language tapes like Pimsleur, so I don’t feel like I’m devoting an hour of my life to fighting the unforgiving tones. Also it’s easy to find a lesson by topic, so if you just want to work in ordering food, you don’t have to sit through a whole “Hello, I am an American. What’s your name?” dialogue.
I’m also doing a basic radicals writing book. I like it because the author gives some background on each character so they don’t seem like random squiggles (I know, I know, foreigners like me should just go home), and there’s a little story to help remember the character. It’s difficult though because the simplest characters to draw are not necessarily the most common or the most useful.
So I can speak survival-level Chinese and recognize simple characters, but I can’t usually say and write the same character.