That China Girl

{May 6, 2011}   Berlitz and me

Like a lot of people, we took part of a Mandarin Chinese course before we came over here.   A skinny Chinese American girl named Ana, who said she was 24, but looked younger than I did, came to our living room every night and taught us a lot of basic stuff.   I thought it sounded completely weird and bizarre, but Mom and Dad were really into it.  I think they were competing to see who could be teacher’s pet.

Mom was going for perfect pronunciation and grammar, even if that meant we spent FOREVER discussing why there wasn’t a verb in Ni hao ma?  This means how are you? or as Mom insisted: you good?

Dad tried to keep it light —  mostly by speaking in English, which didn’t exactly advance the cause , if you know what I mean.

I’m just happy there’s actually this thing called pinyin, where you can basically learn how the words would be spelled in English letters instead of just looking at a  those weird looking symbols, or as they call them characters.

Like instead of just seeing this:    

You can learn that the first character which means you is pronounced “Ni”(like “knee”), while the second is pronounced “hao” (sounding like how).

That seems pretty easy — except you have say the words in this funny tone way, where you stretch them out and go down and up with your voice.

I tried to find some audio to post, but I can’t so this picture will have to do.  Those little marks over the words show what your voice needs to do:

I’ll stop the lessons now.  I’m such a loser.  Good thing I start at school soon.

The other funny thing is that the girl, Ana, who taught us, said she had a different accent then they did in Beijing.  Her parents were from some place down south or something.  But she said it didn’t matter.  Which it doesn’t — unless you want to be UNDERSTOOD.   The translator at my Dad’s office spent like two weeks, teaching him the right way to say certain words like shi, which basically means “is.”   Like  Wo shi nu hai, which means “I am a girl. ”   Dad had been pronouncing it  si, like Ana taught him.  But no, no, NO!, says his translator.   Apparently it was like he was saying “dead” or “death.”


So yeah, our Chinese needs work.  I really don’t want to go around saying “I dead girl,” if I can help it. 🙂


Katy M says:

I only learned to say a few things well in Chinese, since I was there just a week at a time.

Several free audio lessons here: Their included transcripts aren’t exactly word-for-word, but still useful as you hear expressions pronounced correctly by different voices.

Zai jan!

No, might be best not to go around saying, “I dead girl”! But even with all the mistakes, isn’t language learning just so fun? My partner’s father is Chinese, but as kids Jon and his siblings didn’t learn the language. He often called his grandmother “horse” instead of “grandma” because of the wrong tone! And learning Spanish, I’ve made, oh, so many mistakes. Good for you for learning, though. Look forward to hearing more about what it’s like to live in China!

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