The HSK (汉语水平考试) is the standardized test for speakers of Chinese as a second language. The “Old Duffer” is, of course, me.

You might not think 39 is that decrepit, but in foreign-language-learning years, it’s older than Methuselah. Back when I was 29, I could barely keep up with my classmates in China. Now it’s a whole new ball game. In fact, I’ve noticed that most language programs in China have “40” as a cut-off age for any program.

Nonetheless, I’m pulling myself out of moth balls and trying to get my engine started for the epic March 24th race against Chinese grammar. This time around, it’s going to look more like demolition derby than F1.

Originally I was thinking, “Surely I’ll knock this thing out of the park,” but after looking over some practice tests, I’m now thinking, “Oh shoot… Will I even be able to pass?”

I haven’t been a student in 7 years, and the “student mentality” is gone. For listening comprehension, I understand every word. But then I look at the questions and ask, “What on earth are they asking for?”

For “choose the sentence with incorrect grammar”? Forget about it.

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom. The Frodo in the picture is: This time around, the test is computer-based. That means I don’t have to remember how to hand-write each and every character. I can just type. That’s the game-changer that may just tip my score above the required 180 out of 300.

I’ve gone through iTalki to get some tutoring help, which has definitely made a difference (if not a dent in my bank account). Some of the rust seems to be coming off.

If I were the teacher, I’d be slapping this silly student for trying to prepare for this exam just weeks away from the test date. Fortunately, my tutors have been much more gracious.

We’ll see what happens in two weeks.