Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Home Sweet Home - if only I could say that in Chinese

We're getting closer to picking a house. It's kind of like buying shoes- you always end up buying the first ones you tried on. Well, we might end up renting a place in one of the first places we saw. Remember those neighborhoods for foreigners? Well, we're now closely looking at a house in one of them, in a neighborhood called Lanebridge. It would be very close to Simon and Thomas's school. Far from a busy city life, so I might try knitting or watching Chinese soap operas during the day. (OK friends, don't worry, I'll work as well, and we'll make sure to get out of our sheltered expat neighborhood for some tai chi in the park with the locals. After my Italian cooking class and cocktails with the neighbors that is :-) ).

Meanwhile, I am progressing with my Chinese classes and I am loving it. What's not to like about learning a new language? Here's some of what I like.

1. You definitely know you are learning. Just weeks ago, I couldn't speak a word, not even understand where one word ended and another began. And now I at least have some insights on how this language holds together and I can even ask for the bathroom in Chinese! (That's more important than Ni hao if you ask me.)

2. Writing is like drawing. It's of course not particularly easy to learn all the characters that you need to read or write Chinese --- and I think there are plenty of people speaking excellent Chinese without knowing the characters --- I happen to always like reading and writing, so understanding the characters is important to me. And making those little pictures is just like drawing. So instead of cartoons I draw a little picture and call it "ya" (teeth), or "zao" (early morning), or "xi" (washing). (OK, can you tell my homework (gong ke) was about getting up in the morning?

3. It's fun to think that the language you are learning is really spoken by so many. Of course there are still plenty of Chinese who use their own local languages, but still, this should be a skill that is going to help me order Chinese for a long time to come.

It's not all fun and games though. Just last night I was ready to tear my hair (tou fa) out over a listening exercise. I was supposed to hear if the tone of a word was the first (steady), second (going up), third (going down then up), or fourth (going down) tone. It reminded me of my recorder lessons as a kid, when my teacher played two keys on the piano and asked me which one was higher. How is it possible NOT to hear which one is higher? I am going to have to train my ear to hear these differences more clearly, so that I don't accidently get run over by a horse ("ma", third tone) when I am calling for my mom ("ma" first tone).

Speaking of calling, Thomas is calling from upstairs. He must be on Chinese time...


  1. Anna, thanks for doing this--it's a great read! I'll live your adventure vicariously from my midwestern hukou :-)

  2. Hi Liz, your comment is wonderful, I am glad you posted it twice! :-)
    The blog is great bedtime reading... zzzzzz