Feature | Phobia Alert

I have traumatic memories of learning Mandarin Chinese as a child.

My parents enrolled me in Mandarin classes at a neighborhood Chinese community center during my grade school years. From the onset, my brain struggled to comprehend grammar, memorize vocabulary and master calligraphic strokes to create words.

I started in a classroom at a proficiency level below my age group, and then it was further evidence of my inabilities when I was held back—not once, but twice. I became the giant in class. I was surrounded by children—sweet, but annoyingly adept at learning Mandarin faster than I was.

20 years later, even after taking formal courses in university, I never managed to reach a level of fluency.

In hindsight, I recognize it was self-consciousness that inhibited my ability to learn Mandarin freely. I was self-conscious being the oldest in class. I was self-conscious to sound like a fool. I was self-conscious for not being fluent after all these years.

To this day, whenever I’m prompted to speak Mandarin, my heart rate increases, I feel slightly panicked and look for exits.

Aren’t those signs of a phobia?

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