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This time we talked with JunMing… See what he said

by Expugnator, sage

Babel Babble: Salut! 你好!

JunMing: Hello, my audience :) .

Babel Babble: First of all, we want to tell you that we are glad you have accepted the invitation to be interviewed by us, JunMing. We are sure a lot of people are interested in knowing more about you.

JunMing: First I have to say, I am glad to be interviewed :) . This is a pleasure for me to be here today, and I want to thank my parents, my agent, Dani (who is here) and all the friends who helped me all along :) .

Babel Babble: Hehe. Let us start with the good and old question every UniLanger asks: Which languages do you speak?

JunMing: I speak French as a native language, English, Spanish, Chinese, and a few words of several other languages, but I don’t pretend to ‘speak’ them as I obviously don’t master them.

Babel Babble: So, do you view yourself as a language freak?

JunMing: I am interested by a lot of different languages, so I guess the answer is ‘yes’.

Babel Babble: What about your life as a language freak before UniLang? What did you do for learning languages, talking to foreigners before it?

JunMing: I always lived in an environment full of people from foreign countries, who speak lots of different languages. And I can’t remember how my life was before I joined UniLang, because it was such a long time ago.

Babel Babble: So, tell us how everything started for you at UniLang then!

JunMing: Oh, I’m so nervous ^_^ . At first, I saw UniLang as a way to rule the whole world :) . I thought of that project, but I happily saw it existed :) . Skol was the one who brought me to UniLang. And yes, read skol, not sklo. I don’t know how he knew about it. And we were 3 to join UniLang at the same time, based on his advices: dani (Siddharth), hanqing (Sputnik/Dmitri/etc), and me.

Babel Babble: You made the ‘Karakalpaki’ team… That was months after the UniLang foundation, which happened in mid 2000…

JunMing: We joined at first in 2001. There was an old list, the first one. We were among the first members. Proycon and Abavagada tend to forget too often that I was one of the founders here.

Babel Babble: What was your first reaction when you came to UniLang?>

JunMing: I only visited the website. There was not much at that time, but it was a good project.

Babel Babble: And how is it like to be a member of a virtual community? How does it affect your way of viewing the world (and also your daily life)?

JunMing: I spend a lot of time here, so it affects my daily life. UniLang got me interested in phonetic transcription systems like IPA, now I wonder a lot about it. But I don’t think UniLang ever influenced me on the choice of the language I study and want to study.

Babel Babble: What about the friends/non-friends you have here?

JunMing: I have some good friends on UniLang, some I met on other servers before, and some I met here and who became good friends :) . Skol is now much more a friend in real life than he was, and we met each other on Undernet, also as I said he was the one who introduced me to UniLang :) .

Babel Babble: You said you met skol at Undernet. Was it in the #languages channel there?

JunMing: No, on #china at first.

Babel Babble: Now tell us a bit more about how it is to have a ‘virtual’ and ‘online’ identity… You seem to like changing your identity and pretending to be someone else a lot… What’s the ‘feeling’ behind it?

JunMing: Lol. Next question :) .

Babel Babble: Read above ;) .

JunMing: I only did that a few times, not too often.

Babel Babble: The time you and Siddharth switched nicks was really confusing…

JunMing: Yes, but it was funny. Dani and I used to make quite a few jokes on Undernet, and that was one of the numerous jokes we made, except that it was on UniLang :) .

Babel Babble: What is it like to live under a totalitarian regime like in China? Tell us a bit about your double-life Beijing/Montpellier…

JunMing: Double life? :) . China is completely free. I remember I talked with various people (like sage) who told me you really thought there was no freedom in China. Which I find quite amusing, because you’ve never been there :) .

Babel Babble: How is it like to live part of the year in one place and a tiny part in another?

JunMing: I don’t really live in one place, I study in Beijing this year, but that’s not on a regular basis.

Babel Babble: So, how much time do you spend in Beijing and Montpellier during the year?

JunMing: I went to Beijing in end of August, and I came back here in Montpellier last Tuesday January 23rd. I am going back to China on 2nd of February, and I’ll come back on July 15th at night.

Babel Babble: Oh, it’s quite a long time. When did you move there?

JunMing: I moved there in end of August, last year, and I’m there only for 1 year. Last time I was in China, I was working in Sichuan, teaching French.

Babel Babble: Cool!

JunMing: …I`ll never teach anymore, lol…And I stayed 10 months there (well, more or less, because I travelled during the spring break) :).

Babel Babble: And how is it to live in a distant country (from your homeland)? What have you learned from the cultural/human point of view?

JunMing: This is different indeed, and very enrichissant :)

Babel Babble: Like what?

JunMing: It helps me to know a lot about a different culture, and teaches me to tolerate many things :)

Babel Babble: And how did you learn Chinese?

JunMing: I took it in the university at first. Then I became more interested into it after I first went to China. And I decided to study it more seriously there.

Babel Babble: How long did you study it at the University before going to China?

JunMing: 4 years, but on a very little basis; about 4-5 hours every week. Which is nothing, even in 4 years. And I didn’t do much the first 2 years ;) . Then after 2 years I went to China for 1 month and I loved it there.

Babel Babble: This is quite normal when you study a language… What is the best advice you give to those who want to study Chinese (like me, hehe)? And how do you think you can help them?

JunMing: I advice you to try to study the tones as soon as you begin, and care a lot about the grammar. The characters are important, but not too hard to remember for me, I have a good memory.

Babel Babble: Why so? Well, the grammar is said to be the easiest part…

JunMing: Chinese grammar is not easy. Ask geoff ;) .

Babel Babble: And does it help to learn only written Chinese, at least for one who doesn’t plan to travel to China? It is hard to find abundant audio resources for learning it…

JunMing: At least it’s better to study only written Chinese than only spoken Chinese to me :) . Chinese writing is really important. It’s also a form of art, Chinese calligraphy is an expression of art you can’t find in western cultures.

Babel Babble: Now… how do you think you can help those who are learning Chinese?

JunMing: I can help them with grammar. I did it with Psi-Lord, Luís, Siddharth, and now geoff. I am willing to help all those who are interested and ask me questions, even if I think they’d rather ask Sputnik who has a very good advanced level in Chinese.

Babel Babble: Well, can’t you help by chatting with them in Chinese as well? Our chat supports Unicode…

JunMing: I often chat in Chinese on #UniLang; very often, actually. But people often complain they can’t understand.

Babel Babble: Well, Sputnik and you are quite active at the UniLang chat, so, UniLang is well-served for those who want to practice Chinese. But some people complain that you are a bit arrogant and impatient especially with beginners… And what did you mean when you said once that you could help as long as one proved a real interest in Chinese?

JunMing: Who complained, except Expug? :) . I really admire geoff because he could learn quite a lot in no time.

Babel Babble: Well, some people learn differently than others. If you really want to help people. you should be patient with their different learning skills.

JunMing: The point is that too many people on UniLang study too many languages at the same time; so, it’s not a matter of skill at all, but of time people can spend to study Chinese.

Babel Babble: I understand… this is indeed a point… So, you prefer to help people who are actually dedicating time to Chinese, right?

JunMing: I prefer to help people who really have a will to study Chinese. If you want to study it efficiently, it’s not like an Indo-European language, you have to spend much more time :) .

Babel Babble: Right. Next question… Tell us a bit more about the avatar you use at the UniLang Forum… Is it a flag from a Chinese province?

JunMing: A Chinese province? :) . All the European members of UniLang know what flag it is.

Babel Babble: And what is it? Could you tell us so that the non-Europeans could know, as not every UniLanger is a European?

JunMing: There is a way of thinking in UniLang that saddens me, is that it is way too Euro-centered. And you know I don’t act in favour of this behaviour, since I’m more passionned by Asia :). So, you got to tell most of the European UniLangers they’re only interested in their area (which is very interesting, by the way).

Babel Babble: Well…What flag is that, and what nation does it represent?

JunMing: It’s the flag of Occitania, a region which is united by the same culture and the same language (actually the flag is the flag of Languedoc, which is a part of Occitania, and I need to change to the Occitan flag).

Babel Babble: Is it a region inside France?

JunMing: No, it’s not. This is a region that outborders France. There is a part of what is Italy and Spain nowadays in it.

Babel Babble: And do you identify yourself with that culture and that language?

JunMing: Well, this is my culture; and I was raised speaking French, so I can’t speak the language, yet I can understand a big part (most) of it, because lots of word are used in French the way it’s spoken in that area. I plan to study the language when I have time, and especially when I’ll be able to spend more time here :) .

Babel Babble: I guess many people at UniLang will be interested in the language as well :) . As we are back into the language-learning subject: which kind of materials do you usually have in hand or have access to, for learning languages?

JunMing: In China, there are lots of books to study Chinese, and even other languages. Now I have a sufficient command to study other languages based on Chinese, and methods are very cheap there, this is why I bought a few books to study Japanese, Russian, etc.

Babel Babble: Is it easy or cheap to buy language books, even for less-common languages, where you live, in your town? (I think you answered it already, by the way).

JunMing: Here?

Babel Babble: In both places, as you live in both.

JunMing: Yes, I can find lots of books for lots of different languages. Montpellier is a universitarian city.

Babel Babble: So, you said ‘yes’ for both Beijing and Montpellier…

JunMing: Yes for both.

Babel Babble: How and how much do you think the UniLang members and other persons you meet through the Internet help you in learning the languages you want?

JunMing: I think they help me a lot in practicing with me; especially Sputnik, who taught me a lot of Chinese when speaking with me, and Siddharth, who taught me quite a lot of Japanese, too, that I already forgot :) .

Babel Babble: Now, a polemic question: Do you think it’s possible to learn a language mostly on the Internet?

JunMing: My father thinks it’s possible, he wants to study Occitan online; but I don’t :) . You need to practice. And when you study a language, you have to study the culture as well. You’d better move to a foreign country for that. Culture is not something you can completely study at home.

Babel Babble: Now tell us a nice story that happened to you when you were speaking a language you learnt.

JunMing: Once I was mistaken to be a Uygur by some Uygurs, who talked to me in Uygur. And I couldn’t understand, so I said in Chinese I was not Uygur.

Babel Babble: And?

JunMing: And the uygur guys were surprised :) .

Babel Babble: Surprised at what?

JunMing: That I was not Uygur, and that I answered to them in Chinese :) .

Babel Babble: Good. We would like you to give some advice to those who still don’t know why they should learn a foreign language.

JunMing: Study the language you want to study :P . This is my advice. LOL

Babel Babble: Well…Thanks for your interview, JunMing. We are plenty sure UniLang is a better and most interesting place because of people like you, who are interested in different cultures and views of the world.

JunMing: Thanks for the compliment. I want to see what you want to do with what I said :P.

Prepared by E}{pugnator and sage

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Originally published in Babel Babble