The Urban Legends among Foreign Students

I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the friend of a friend from X country at X university in China, and the story is so remarkable you almost don’t believe it.  Here are a couple I’ve picked up from different people, I don’t know if they are true or not. They are both very motivating.


The turtle wins the race

So when my roommate was studying in Beijing before she came to Xi’an, there was a foreign guy who left the semester before she got there who spoke amazing Chinese.  He didn’t start out that way though. 

When he first started studying Chinese he spoke very slowly enunciating every sound and stressing/exaggerating every tone.  No one had patience to listen to him so no one talked to him and everyone made fun of him, but the guy kept on going.  When the foreign students ignored him, he made friends with Chinese people.  Though Chinese people still found his pace glacial, they found the exaggerated tones cute.  After the winter break he started his second semester and everything changed.  Somehow in the time everyone had ignored him, he had picked up the pace.  He now had perfect pronunciation and tones that sounded just like a Chinese person’s.  Everyone was shocked and jealous.


The little girl who could

So there were two students who arrived from the same school, a guy and a girl.  The guy was boasting to all of his new classmates how he would master the Chinese language in just one semester.  The girl had a competitive streak and didn’t want to be shown up by someone from her own school so she said she would do the same. 

Day and night she studied.  She was always pouring over her textbooks and writing Chinese characters.  No one ever saw her.  While everyone else was out having fun, she was in her room or in the library studying.  After the semester was over and everyone had taken their finals and the HSK, all the students got together to relax and celebrate.  Everyone applauded the girl for her amazing scores that were utterly unheard of after only one semester of Chinese.  Her male classmate asked her how she did it.  She looked at him a little puzzled and said that they had both decided to learn Chinese in just one semester.  The male classmate stared at her kind of shocked and said he was only kidding when he had said that, he never imagined she would actually try. 


In both of these stories, the foreign student overcame adversity and managed to not only become fluent in one of hardest languages in the world, but to do it in a short period of time.  It only took hard work and perseverance (plus isolation from other foreign students).  So is it possible to become fluent in Chinese after only one semester?