Have you seen it too?
Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed something has changed in my Mandarin. I'm focusing here on the difference between (mentally) translating, and (intellectually) understanding.
I would love to be able to tell you that I woke up one morning and discovered I was perfectly fluent - but that's not true. And I don't know exactly when it happened, but given the level of the material & discussion partners I've been working with lately, I can see signs of it now.
Basically, I'm understanding without understanding. Bruce Lee would have been proud of this statement ("The art of fighting, without fighting"), but it makes sense if you think about it ...
I'm sure you know what it's like in your Mandarin world too ... when someone says 你好 (nǐhǎo) to you, you probably don't have translate nǐhǎo='Hello' (thinks: "Ah, they're saying hello to me. What friendly people."). You just know they mean 'hello' and you respond to that.
OK, so in recent months I've mainly been listening to elementary-level podcasts (ChinesePod equivalent), and I could understand most of what I heard. The conversation was at a slow enough level that I could pretty much translate sentences, word-by-word, and understand it all as I went along.
But my language partners have been speaking a bit faster to me, and I've been listening to intermediate-level podcasts, and although it's too fast for me to be able to mentally translate word-by-word, I still find that I'm reaching the end of the conversation with a rough idea of what I'm hearing.
Of course, there are plenty of cases where I can understand (without translating) most of the sentence, but because I don't get the main word, I don't fully know what the sentence actually means. But I still get enough to know that I'm on the right track.
So I'm responding to this by trying to shut down my conscious mind, and just listen (without trying to translate). And although it's still managing to evade me, I have noticed I am definitely operating at a higher level.
Something has definitely happened.
Have you experiened something similar? Do you remember the first time you understood what someone was saying to you even though you didn't seem to hear the words they were using? Or is this something you're still waiting for? Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you.