Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It all sounds like Chinese to me!

A month after we moved here we started our Chinese Mandarin lessons. This was important to us for a number of reasons...

- we wanted to learn a new language
- we wanted to get the most out of our time in China
- we wanted to impress our visitors with our new found talents!

We had a recommendation from a friend of a very good Chinese teacher, called Esther (English name) or Ting Ting (Chinese name). Luckily for us, she is extremely patient, and while at first was very bemused, has now come to laugh at our competitive natures... and sometimes even joins in. She definitely likes to antagonise situations by creating a 'winner' and a 'loser' for different chapters. A common phrase used in our lessons is 'hen hao (very good) Michelle', followed by a quizzical glance at Sam as she tries to make sense of whatever 'words' are coming out of his mouth (no bias, honest!). 

We have two lessons of two hours each work, plus 'homework' which usually takes the form of some listening exercises. I think we may have completed one since November, so definite improvement needed on that front. However we have both just passed our first exam, so we're feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at the moment!

With over 2,000 characters (simplified and traditional), plus 5 tones (4 basic, 1 neutral), you begin to understand something of the challenge we have. On top of that, each region has a very distinctive dialect - for example in Shanghai you have Shanghainese, which you can't understand even if you speak Mandarin! Having said that, there are no tenses, genders or plurals - so a few less things to contend with than learning another European language. Sam is also enjoying learning about English grammar alongside Chinese sentence structure, which seems to be pleasing him no end. 

Now, nearly 6 months in, here are just a few examples of things we can say (and more importantly, have tested our in the 'real world' to some success)...

- Hello, how are you?
- I'm good, and you?
- Where are you from?
- I am English
- I have one older sister who is 32 years old. My mother is called Caroline. 
- How much is that?
- Two hundred and eighty seven kuai
- Where would you like to go? 
- I want to go to [insert road name]
- Turn left at the intersection and then stop at the entrance to the restaurant
- I would like a medium capucino, and a piece of cheesecake. 
- I would like three apples and two watermelons. 
- Can I have the menu please? 
- Can I have the bill please?
- I go to work at 8am, come home at 7pm and eat dinner at 8pm. 
- Tomorrow I will wait for you in the reception of your work 
- At 6pm I will pick you up and will be go and have dinner in a restaurant on Beijing Road
- On Wednesday, 8 September 2014, I will meet friends
- So expensive!!

So, basically fluent!

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