I just joined after having this place pointed out to me by an LJ friend. My name's Sebastian, and for fun and personal interest, I've been learning Mandarin Chinese for about a year now through a combination of self-study and local language courses. I am very serious about my studies and would like to learn more than a weekly class permits, and I'm seeking resources that offer opportunities to practice my skills.
At one point in the past, I found a website (which I believe was multilingual) where language students were encouraged to post questions, stories, experiences, etc. to practice, and native speakers or more advanced students would help with grammar and vocabulary. Stupidly, I did not bookmark this site, which I now feel would be quite a valuable community for me. Does anyone know what I'm talking about, or of something similar?
I'm becoming reasonably good at reading / writing Chinese and now know about 1600 characters, but my speaking / listening skills need work. I have anxiety issues, which become extremely pronounced when speaking a foreign language (basically my mind blanks, I struggle to express basic concepts, and then beat myself up endlessly over it as if I speak alone to myself, I am reasonably able to do so). I think I just have to force myself through it, but as of yet apart from joining my classes, I haven't done as much as I could to do so. Does anyone else experience anything like this?
As a final part of my introduction, I'd just like to add that I'm reasonably competent at speaking French (I teach computer science to undergrad students in French at my University to help fund my PhD studies). I'm far from fully fluent but I can get by pretty well and enjoy practicing. Also, I was learning Japanese for about a year and a half at a fairly slow pace, but then realized that my primary interest was in kanji, and given that I've always been far more fascinated with Chinese culture, religion, food, history, etc. than Japanese, I decided to put my Japanese studies on hold and shift my focus entirely to Mandarin. (I briefly tried to learn them both simultaneously, but that was quite confusing, and I found I wasn't making enough progress in either to satisfy me.)
Final question: does anyone know of any books I can read to grasp the basic ideas of grammar / linguistics? I have little knowledge of these concepts in general, and I feel that knowing more on them would be beneficial to me in learning other languages. My Chinese teacher, who has a Master's in Chinese and linguistics, is constantly telling us things like, "You can't do that with an auxiliary verb" or similar, and that's all fine and well, but generally, I have no clue what an auxiliary verb is or any of the other constructs she references. (I'm at a point where I regret having pursued a career in computer science academia when the Chinese language and characters is my true passion. At the very least, I wish I'd taken linguistics courses in my undergraduate to satisfy elective requirements. *pout*)
Anyways, nice to meet you all! *waves*