I may take up golf instead


Mandarin Chinese (MC from here on out) is the dialect that was chosen to be the “common” language of the country. It is spoken by more people than any other language in the world, remember that tidbit for Trivial Pursuit. There are 4 tones in Mandarin, 5 if you count the one that is neutral. English is a flat language. We use voice inflection for dramatic effect or to convey emotion. Mandarin uses it to convey meaning and almost every word has at least one tone, except for the few that use the neutral tone.  The Chinese language uses tones because it has fewer syllables and more homophonic words (words that are pronounced the same) than other languages. Chinese has 400 syllables and English has 12,000!

Disclaimer: none of the  MC words in this post will have tones marked above the corresponding letter because the wingdings on this site only have 2 of them for MC. I don’t have the time to figure it out in Word and then copy, cut, or paste. Sorry. Just imagine little marks above the vowels. They can be whatever you want them to be, just make sure there is a different mark above every “a” or “u” in the MC words in the next paragraph.

Some common words to practice tones on are: ma, ma, ma, ma. Depending on the tone they mean: mother, hemp, horse, or to scold. Then there is zhu, zhu, zhu, zhu with the assigned meanings of pig OR pearl, bamboo, master, or to reside. I mentioned a tongue twister E gave me a few weeks ago. The only difference in the 3 words for the whole thing is whether I raise or lower my voice and whether my tongue is touching the back of my teeth or the roof of my mouth. I’m a visual learner so not only do I have to see the spelling of the word but I also have to see the correct tone for the correct vowel, and then say that tone correctly. (It’s like practicing your golf swing: head down, shoulders back but relaxed, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, elbows straight but not locked, roll your hips, and DON’T LIFT YOUR HEAD KAREN!) Can you say uphill battle? No tones needed, just say it with an exasperated inflection.

It’s very strange to be home all day by oneself and talk out loud. Try it, it’s odd. I say things in my head but then remember that I have to say them out loud. The other funny thing is that for the most part I’m just saying individual words. No sentences,  a word just pops out every now and then.  Door, office, wallet, cup, clock, beer, wine. See where this is headed?   I put  post-its on things in the house.  I have a list of drinks on the refrigerator and “measure words”.  The Chinese love their measure words even though they’re not measuring anything!  When a certain driver helped me with my groceries this week he laughed and I mean laughed. The more stickers he saw the harder he laughed. To the point that when he went to the door to leave and saw the post-it for that word he almost tripped walking out the door. I am not exaggerating for comedic effect.

Wow, I just realized that this is not a very positive post. Talk about a defeatist attitude! I’ll never learn with that attitude. I put way too much pressure on myself and for various reasons want to be speaking like a local after 3 months. Anders just doesn’t have the time for lessons here. Shampoo and conditioner don’t make themselves you know! He’s depending on me to get us around GZ and China, we’ll end up in Kazakhstan.  I want to make E proud, she’s such a great teacher. I want to impress friends and family when they come to visit 😉 Ben thinks I can do this. And I don’t want anyone to think I’m not smart enough or horrors, too old to learn!

Yesterday as we pulled up to the building for my lesson I told Ben that is was time for me to start thinking in Chinese. We laughed and as I got out of the car he said, ” Just change your SIM card.” Oh how I wish it was that easy and wouldn’t that be cool?!?!? Can someone please work on that and make it a reality in the next 6 months?

2PM – 79° (This is for you neighbor, you know who you are.)


About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

2 responses »

  1. Aren’t you a doll to accommodate me! Thank you! What’s next……dinner at McDonald’s?!! I feel badly after reading all the knowledge you have of golf. I’d never be able to recite the proper stance and formation, yet, of the two of us, don’t you think it SHOULD be me? And it’s not that I feel badly because I don’t know that stuff, it’s that I don’t care that I don’t know. 🙂 You made my day!

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