Archive for the ‘Mandarin’ Category

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.


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.


Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Found this very useful website which outlines the various stages of learning Chinese. Sino Spice is the site. I am now kind of between Stage 2 and 3 but if you ask me to pick I would say 3. I can get my point across to taxi drivers and the ayi. I can understand way more than I could four months ago but I still have a long road ahead of me. The thing that is making learning the language easier is my obsession with it – I love it and learn something at least once a day even if that one thing is a reinforcement of what I already know. Chinese actually isn’t that difficult once you get under the skin of it and my lessons I have after work help me on the conversational side of things.Last week I had two weird experiences. First one: I was talking to my teacher in Chinese about very simple concepts, why did you come to china, what do you do, what do you like in Shanghai etc etc when I stopped dead. I froze because it was the first time I had a real conversation in Chinese and I was freaked out I am speaking Chinese. I had finally reached some kind of level after a long time of study. The second weird experience was watching TV. I was watching a game show on Chinese TV and I got it. I understood what they were saying. OK, I couldn’t understand everything but the broad strokes I was understanding. It was very trippy and not unlike someone moving away a net curtain that had been up previously. I was quite moved. Both these thing have happened in the past week. All at once. Crazy shit.