Archive for November, 2008

Chinese Fever

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Today is a quiet day at work so I thought I’d try and count how many hanzi 汉字 (Chinese characters) I know. It’s around 300 and speaking to a colleague it seems I’m going to need another 1500-1700 to really be able to make sense of a newspaper. These 300 hundred have been tough to learn but the more you learn the more you get to understand the look of the other characters and they begin to become less scary somehow. The first time you begin to study Chinese it seems impossible that these squiggles and marks really mean anything at all but after a while they begin to become old friends and new words may contain elements of the new words you already knew.



Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

crazy day yesterday. Not one big but lots of little weird things. Firstly, my Chinese teacher was weird. She looked sad and tired and I feel hr business is not going well. Its hard enough being self-employed as a Mandarin teacher but I think its hard when she has so few students. Anyway I gamely stick with her but I don’t think she will last long. I arranged to meet a friend for dinner after my lesson in the evening after work. We met outside my building and just as we greeted there was a yell followed by four Chinese chavs running off at high speed. This was weird because a) one of the four looked western and b) it was a mugging! In China. Very, very unusual in the center of Shanghai.


Back To The Future

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Picture the scene. A spotty teenage boy is sitting in his bedroom in Stanford-Le-Hope playing records. His adolescent mind already captured by the magic of Hip Hop he hungrily devourers any slab of vinyl he can get his hands on. These are the days before MP3′s so every piece of music that he heard was purchased with either pocket money or the daily wage of a Saturday job. It averages out at one or two records a week and during the late 80′s it was hard to keep up with every release such was the lack of money and sheer quanity of classic records being released. Being as this exotic, vivid and captivating music was made on the other side of the world and not yet part of mainstream consciousness everything had to be either imported from America or you had to try and find a UK licensed copy tucked away in some obscure section of the record shop. These were the days when Our Price and HMV had tiny sections marked Rap waaaaaaaaaay before the ‘Urban’ section took up half the record shop like today. One UK label, Gee Street, used to licence various records by Idlers Records of New York who, among other artists, had the Jungle Brothers on its roster. What this meant is that record shops had no need to import the original US release and instead Gee Street released a UK version however they wanted and their own bastard way.


The Birth Of Cool

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Not often I have to rush home to update my blog so make the most of it. I get a cab to and from work every day. The morning taxi I sit there mute and pissed of as I driven to impending death but the cab I catch home in the evening is a different story with me trying to engage the hapless driver into some kind of conversation. I always view any contact with the locals as a free Chinese lesson so I try and interact as much as possible. This evening I caught a cab home and had the pleasure of it being driven by a very jolly chap he laughed loudly and spat huge blobs of phlegm out the window. We had a chat about where I am from and how China owns all of Americas money and how much (surprise surprise) he hates the Japanese. The usual things that most working class Chinese people like to talk about. I asked him if he knew any English and he said no. Reluctantly he uttered a ‘hello’ and a ‘goodbye’ and that was it. As we approached my gated compound he said one other thing in perfect English ”We are studying for the revolution” which is, for whatever reason, perhaps the coolest thing I have ever heard. We both laughed as he said it but it struck me how close I am to those that 30 years ago were in a different place to where they may be now. China is cool, there is no doubt, but you have to dig for this cool shit.You won’t find the cool stuff by looking at it.

Syntax Error

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

So, one of the hardest things about Chinese is the grammar. Learning Chinese for a English speaker is to learn opposite rules to what you know. This is why Chinese is one of the hardest languages in the world and one that I will not give up on until they take me out of here in a wooden box. To understand my frustration I give you this pretend example of a conversation with a taxi driver which I will give you in English and then the equivalent in Chinese.

English: I would like to go to Dong Tai Road. Please go via the Ya’an tunnel. When you leave he tunnel please turn right onto Dong Tai Road. Thanks.

Chinese: Please take me arrive Dong Tai Road, arrive ya’an tunnel go towards right turn straight go. Thanks.