Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wo zai xue Zhongwen. (I am learning Chinese.)

I did something crazy recently. I decided to recopy all of my notes from Mandarin class in legible form. There were lots of them and the process took about 15 hours in all. I noticed that they were dated as far back as June of 2007! It was really cool to look back over the notes that I wrote down feverishly and understand fully what they meant for the most part. It wasn't necessarily the case when I wrote them down the first time.

Matt and I have come a long way in our Mandarin skills but there is an infinitely longer way to go yet before we even approach becoming fluent. Case in point: the opportunity I had when we were in CA to have a chat in Mandarin with the Chinese language teacher at my mom's school. She asked me what my name was in Chinese (Ni jiao shenme mingzi?) and I answered in Chinese (Wo jiao Jenn.) That's about all I had. I didn't even follow up with a 'ni ne?' (and you?) I only managed to eek out a 'Hen gao xing ren shi ni' (nice to meet you) and a 'zai jian' (goodbye) and that was pretty much the extent of the conversation. Hundreds of dollars and a year's worth of Mandarin classes later, that's all I could manage-what a dork I am!

It would be great to have a friend or neighbor that speaks Mandarin right about now. When I was in college working on my Spanish minor, a friend of ours married a girl from Spain and they moved into our apartment building. I helped her learn English and she helped me with my Spanish. At one point, I was able to spend hours on end with her and function using only Spanish, speak Spanish exclusively to my Spanish-speaking coworkers, wait tables in Spanish, write 10 page papers in Spanish, etc. Something similar will have to happen if I'm going to be able to progress any further with my Chinese.

Living in the Old Pueblo doesn't lend itself too well to opportunities to practice Mandarin. Last Friday, Matt and I went out to what we thought was the most authentic Chinese restaurant around hoping to have an opportunity to practice. We asked our waiter if he spoke Mandarin. Nope, Vietnamese. Well, we tried. The next time we go to LA, I'm going to try to spend a day in Chinatown and try to function using only Chinese. With my luck, everyone there probably speaks Cantonese!

In the meantime, I've been trying to teach the kids a little Mandarin and Xander seems to be the one picking it up the quickest. He even gets the tones! I caught him chastising the dog the other day in Chinese by yelling, 'bu hao!' (not good!) That's my boy!

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