Hi! My name is Daniel Lim Jhao Jian. Here is where I share my experience, knowledge and ideas. You are welcome to leave comments and follow my blog. You are free to copy anything from this blog. Please recommend this blog to your friends.

Friday 11 June 2021

Me speaking Mandarin at university

I have been at NUMed for a total of 7 years. Here's an interesting fact: I almost never spoke Mandarin during my 1st and 2nd year at NUMed, I spoke a bit of Mandarin during my 3rd, 4th and 5th year at NUMed, and I spoke Mandarin a lot during my 6th and 7th year at NUMed.

During the first 5 years, many people at NUMed thought that I couldn't speak Mandarin since they never heard me speaking it. In reality, I have been speaking Mandarin since I was very young, I studied Chinese during primary and secondary school, and I got grade A- for Chinese Language in SPM. So, why didn't I speak Mandarin during those 5 years?

It dates back to my first day at NUMed. At that time, a lecturer at NUMed told all students that since we are studying a British degree, having a good command of English is essential. She strongly advised us to speak only English at NUMed so that we could improve our English proficiency.

I felt that her advice was quite reasonable so I chose to follow it. Initially, my group mates followed the advice as well. We always communicated in English. Soon, we had become quite close to each other. Later though, some of my group mates began communicating in Mandarin at times, and I thought of doing the same.

The problem is that after I have gotten used to speaking in a particular language with someone I am quite close to, it's extremely difficult for me to switch to speaking a different language with them, as it feels so awkward to do so.

Therefore, I continued speaking to my group mates only in English throughout Stage 1 and Stage 2. I had a close friend in that group, and I always spoke to him in English as well. I knew that he would like to speak to me in Mandarin, but I just couldn't switch languages as we had gotten very close while communicating in English. However, he still became one of my best friends.

After I entered Stage 3, the student grouping was reshuffled and it kept changing from one rotation to another. A few of my Stage 1 and Stage 2 group mates were still in the same group with me. Many of the Chinese students in my new group really liked to speak in Mandarin.

It would be weird for me to speak to my new group mates in Mandarin but not to those who had been my group mates since Stage 1. Therefore, I chose to speak to everyone only in English. Unfortunately, I couldn't communicate with my new group mates very well because of that, and consequently we didn't get very close.

During the LTC rotation in Stage 3, I was placed in the same group with TL and EL. We started speaking to each other in Mandarin. I had no issues with that as previously they weren't in the same group with me and I had rarely spoken to them. That was the only time in Stage 3 where I spoke Mandarin. EL later became one of my closest friends and we always communicate in Mandarin.

In Stage 4, I was placed in the same group with several of my Stage 3 group mates as well as SG. I had never spoken to SG previously, but I could see that she is very good at speaking Mandarin. I wanted to be friends with SG, and I felt that it would be most effective to communicate with her in Mandarin. However, I only spoke to her in Mandarin whenever my other group mates weren't around.

The student grouping for Stage 5 was largely the same as that for Stage 4. I had gotten quite close to SG at that time, so I always spoke to her in Mandarin even when my other group mates were around. They were quite surprised when they heard me speaking in Mandarin to SG for the first time.

They tried communicating with me in Mandarin as well, but I refused as I still couldn't overcome the awkwardness of switching languages. It was a weird situation where SG was the only person in my group whom I spoke Mandarin to, but I didn't see a need to change that. My group mates interpreted it as a sign that I had a crush on SG.

I failed Stage 5 and repeated the year by joining the 2015-2020 batch. I wanted to make new friends in the new batch. From the start, I chose to speak to my new Chinese friends in Mandarin so that we could communicate better. Since I didn't know them previously, there wasn't the issue of having to switch languages. Soon, I managed to build a very good relationship with them.

I spoke Mandarin so much more compared to the past 5 years. However, I still communicated with my friends in English whenever we were having group discussions during teaching sessions. NUMed expects students to speak only in English during classes, and we complied with that.

I became a NUMed teaching fellow after I graduated. I didn't know most of my colleagues as they weren't in my group previously. Initially, I spoke to them in English to reflect our professional relationship. However, my Chinese colleagues were speaking in Mandarin at times. I knew that if I wanted to get really close to them, I had to speak to them in Mandarin.

Switching languages was awkward for me, but it was still possible at that time as I wasn't that close to my colleagues. One day when we went for lunch, I started speaking in Mandarin to them and it was well received by them. Since then, I mostly communicated with my Chinese colleagues in Mandarin and we became very close friends. However, we still communicated in English at professional settings.

I have always communicated with my students fully in English during teaching sessions. As the NUMed MBBS course is meant to be delivered entirely in English, it would be unprofessional for me to speak to my students in Mandarin or any other language when teaching.

My most favourite years at NUMed are my teaching fellowship year and my repeat year of Stage 5. Interestingly, these are also the 2 years where I spoke a lot of Mandarin. In these 2 years, I had many friends from other ethnicities as well, and of course I communicated with them in English.

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