Once we get to post in Shenyang, Diplowife will be working at the Consulate, and I’ll be on my own for 40+ hours a week. In China. Where people speak Chinese. This is a problem. I don’t intend to stay home all day, waiting for Diplowife to get home from work, so I can then go out to run errands, dragging her along to translate for me. Diplomacy is a full-time job for her, she doesn’t need a second job as an EFM hand-holder.
So, my first step is to learn Chinese. Mandarin, to be specific. FSI is way ahead of me here. Of course, they offer classes in every language imaginable, and EFMs can attend, provided the class has space. But I’m working full-time and need options that don’t involve going to FSI every day.
With help from Diplowife, I got signed up with an account in Mango Languages which is a terrific system. You can access the lessons on the web, or via apps that work on my smartphone and tablet. I’ve learned a lot already, like greetings & introductions, how to talk to shopkeepers, give directions, ordering food at restaurants. It’s pretty much all verbal, so don’t expect to learn how to read & write. They show you the Chinese characters, but there’s little emphasis on reading.
Aside from Mango, there are some other options for learning at home, or “distance learning” as FSI calls it. Ask your spouse about FSI’s Distance Learning options, they probably already have an email about it in their DoS inbox. The “Express” option caught my eye, it’s available in Mandarin and is two 14-week courses taken at home, about 6-8 hours per week, plus an hour of one-on-one time with a mentor, via Skype or something similar. So I’m signed up for the first Express Mandarin course, starting next month, so I’ll be sure to post about it once I start.
Also, some posts have language training that EFMs can participate in, so ask the CLO if that’s an option. Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until you get to post to start learning, but it’s good to have the option, not everybody has free time like I do. Learning some Mandarin should go a long way to preparing me for a semi-independent life in Shenyang.
I have some other concerns about burdening Diplowife, but they’ll have to wait for another blog post.