I'm really working on my Mandarin again now. I feel it's important to keep up with languages I've used a lot in the past, and Mandarin is obviously one of them. The thing with Mandarin is that I got to quite a good spoken level, but an abysmal written one. I'm quite confident in my spoken Mandarin and you'll notice that in conversations, despite the accent and some of the tonal screw-ups I'm easy enough to understand (although the fact I learned my Mandarin in Beijing's environs really shines through - I had a class with a Taiwanese teacher today and she can really hear all the mainlandisms that I use, INCLUDING all the little things, like particles I tack on the end of sentences, more erhua, but also words that I use and particular intonation patterns common to Northern China but absent elsewhere). My written Mandarin is horrible but we're working on reading comprehension as well in order to improve that.
Actually one of my goals now is to get deeper into the more slangy types of the language, into different registers, and into other varieties of the language such as the one spoken in Taiwan. It would be an absolute shame to let such a good base go to waste (I speak quite acceptably). I've got the basics down so it's time to diversify my Mandarin in those directions that would make it as well-rounded as all my other good languages such as Russian or Spanish or English.
And a funny anecdote when I was at a tattoo parlour a few months back and mentioned I had lived in China and learned some Mandarin: the shop owner's reaction was not "wow, you speak Mandarin" but rather "that's useful - you should maintain the language, it will come in handy." Which I think really exemplifies the Dutch attitude to language learning - because Dutch people are much more comfortable adapting to other people and learning foreign languages, having skills in one or two languages is not really that impressive (many people speak a second language and having studied three is not at all uncommon. And some schools even teach Mandarin nowadays). People may be impressed, but they feel languages are useful tools that you can use abroad - and as a Dutch person, the habit and custom is to adapt to others. If that includes learning Mandarin, so be it.
By the way, there are good examples here of people that have done so and derived benefit from it: a Dutch journalist, photographer annex doctor made a tv documentary on the inner workings and cultural particularities of China in a six-parter where he travelled along the Yangtze river. Now, this man had lived in China before and had learned Mandarin well - so well that he conducted all his interviews with Chinese people IN MANDARIN. This led to many situations where people, surprised at the foreigner not only speaking Mandarin but mastering it well, leading them to open up massively and give unique insights into the culture - ones that no anglophone journalist would ever have received without the cultural and linguistic knowledge of this journalist. It really boosted the quality of the production - and something as simple as having worked on your Mandarin effectively caused that result. Of course, he is a clever young man, being a qualified physician as well as a journalist and photographer and speaking fluent Mandarin - but the fact he put in that effort, learned it well, and eventually got more out of his stay in China than most people that live there speaking English in Sanlitun do for years, reveals what the use of knowing Mandarin well is - and how much the Dutch culture should continue to ingrain this mentality into the youngsters. Because he's not the only one to have done this - there are more examples of such journalism in the Netherlands.
To polyglotism and beyond.
Preferred pronouns: feminine.