Apr 19, 2010

15 months...

(how I spend my weekday afternoons..)

The countdown to fluency begins!

Here’s the problem: Chin.ese is hard. I mean seriously hard.

It’s tonal, it’s grammar-less, it’s backwards. Every word has multiple meanings depending on the tone and character. A little extra throat movement on the ‘e’ sound, and you just asked that person to give them a kiss, not a question. A slight exhale on the ‘i,’ and you told your student to hand you that vagina instead of that pen.

And context is of no help. A waitress will stare at you like she's seen an alien if you order a "kele" ( thirsty - 3rd tone) instead of a "kele" (coke - 2nd tone).

And to add to all of this, there’s no help; you’re going it alone. You pick up what you can by listening, you ask for translations, but at the end of the day that’s all you got. No book can give you the listening skills needed to master the tones and most Chin.ese friends have no idea how to teach their native tongue. Tutors abound, but most are college girls looking for a foreign boyfriend, and that's no help to an honest student.

So, to combat this? Flashcards. Always the best answer. An endless amount of flashcards. Potato, diarrhea, electricity, month. Piles for numbers, action verbs, time placers, foods, pronouns.

So you practice. Practice alone, with some friends who do their best not to laugh, some people who politely pretend to understand. You talk to yourself in the shower, sing to yourself on the street. Answer the people on the bus when they ask, "you weize ma?" "no, there are no seats left". Whoa, the foreigner understood that. You talk every chance you can get. To children walking home from school who can't help but stare, to metrosexual men in the bar who can't believe how white your skin is, but steer clear of the old people...chances are they don't speak Mandarin and you'll end up in a mess of local dialect with no way out but a head nod and a swift getaway. And they're probably just calling you fat, anyways.

You practice until you can go to the woman at the noodle shop and ask for directions to the nearest place to buy batteries for your camera. "Ni zhedou zai nali ma, wo you mei dongxi, wo mei yao pian de dianzi?"

And afterwards? Well, you’ve earned it, of course. A stop to the pineapple stand man who is selling huge chunks of the sweet fruit on a stick is in order. "Yao yige bolo." And you go on your merry way.

But that's before you even attempt to actually reading the language! It's a good thing the language was romanized so that the people can even use a computer.

And after you have memorized 20,000 characters, then try writing them. But don't miss a stroke, that could change the meaning of with 因 and you've got yourself a problem.

This is going to be quite the adventure. Countown to sitting in a Chin.ese lecture and taking notes in Chin.ese while reading my Chine.se text book = 15 months. What's the Chinese word for daunting? Oh, 令人生畏. Good to know. AND....go.

walk slow. xoxo.


agapelife said...

yikes! I thought Hebrew was hard

Wang Xue Fei said...

I can't wait until we are transatlanticly QQing in Chi.nese. This is gonna be awesommmeeeee!

Mom said...

Don't worry! Relax, take a deep breathe, and know that you will do wonderful! What a great opportunity and a door to a great future!