Friday, March 12, 2010

Learning Chinese: Duibuqi, wo lai wan le!

When I tell people that we're leaving for China, I often get two questions. The first -- which really amuses me -- is: "Is that a good thing?". So while I think this three-year long stay in China is just an awesome adventure, I suppose not everyone thinks that way. :-). The other frequently asked question is: "Will you learn Chinese"? To which I reply a heartily: "Yes", followed by a muttered "I'll try." Probably saying it here in this blog post will come to haunt me eventually, but I'll sure give it a good try to learn the language. It's kind of essential of course, as well as polite towards my new host country and a requirement should I ever return to the Netherlands and want to vote for Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom. (If the Chinese were as strict as Geert Wilders, many expats would probably have to leave the country today.)

So... that's along introduction to saying that today I had my first Chinese class. Of course I'd been learning some on my own with a book about characters and a DVD with exercises, but this was the first lesson with a real Chinese teacher. (Once I figure out how to write her name, I'll let you know!)

The first sentence I had to learn was: Duibuqi, wo lai wan le, or Sorry, I am late. Why was I late? Well, "all" I had to do was bring Thomas to his daycare and then go straight to Paul's office. But Paul had moved offices, so when I finally made it to his building (or what used to be his building) he was no longer there! It didn't help that I had left my cell phone at home that day, so after much ado (involving the World Bank staff calling Paul on a phone in an empty office, me illegally taking my fold-up bike through security, then having to park it downstairs, then having to take it out again to bike over to another building) I arrived just a tiny bit late.

Just in time though to learn about 1, 2, 3, or Yi, Er, San. Oh help, Paul and I feel like little children again. Just saying 620 (liu bai er shi) hurts your brain, and after an hour of yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba, jiu, shi, ling, my tongue was twisted into a knot. Next time when I order Chinese and I have to repeat my order, I'll think I might be a tad more sympathetic.


  1. did you end up learning how to speak chinese?

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