Trying to learn Mandarin
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The main activity to report from over the last few days is that we've been back in the classroom again, not for work - but to learn Mandarin. Boy..... it's tough!!
We have be lucky enough to get 2 weeks of classes offered for free as we work at the Diplomatic Compound, Mon, Wed & Fri mornings for 2 hrs. It's just an introductory course and perfect for us right now. There are about 10 of us in the class, about 4 children, us from the UK, others from Spain, Macedonia and Uzbekistan.
Now those of you in the teaching business will share my woe of the slightly outdating teaching styles, it felt like we were back in the olden days back in Junior school again!!
However, all but 1 of us returned this morning so it can't have been that bad!
What amazes me, is that we've struggled enough to tune into our Chinese teacher's English, let alone someone from another country where English isn't their first language, trying to learn Chinese!
Anyway, a bit about the language for you - Mandarin is one of 8 major Chinese dialects and is the official language of China, as well as Singapore & Taiwan. About 70% of China's population speaks it. There are huge differences in pronounciation, I guess the same in English really (the North / South divide!!) or learning in London, then hearing it in Scotland, New York or Sydney.
In 1958 the Chinese adopted a system for writing their language using the Roman alphabet, which is known as 'Pinyin' which means 'write sound'
There are 4 basic tones used and words are distinguished by their tone, as well as no tone (so you could say there are 5), one word could have 5 different meanings. For example:
'Ma' can mean Mother, numb, horse, scold or swear, or marks a sentence as a question.
I expect you're thinking 'that could get you into trouble'!!! Yep, too right - an example in a book I've just read. Being 'pregnant' (huai yun) could be mistaken as 'bad luck' if a different tone is used. A 'poem' could be turned into a 'handful of shit' if you use the wrong tone!!!! Best we watch out!
Anyway, we have learnt stuff like introductions, how are you, what is your name etc. and it's been interesting but difficult, we just need to practice practice practice.
It's Weds night & we've just come back from a great evening, the British Chamber of Commerce in China, 40th year Anniversary of full ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China & Britain. A garden party followed the AGM at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Of course it was all about networking, we had a great night, and the best event so far - this was as far as getting other contacts & business cards was concerned, but also about meeting potential friends
At home now with a gift bag from the night, consisting of a furry dragon (year of the dragon, not totally weird!), a commerarative book and twinings tea, one of the sponsors so we're enjoying a camomile tea, and have peppermint tea to look forward to in the morning. Incidentally, the Beijing boss has rung us tonight saying as we are giving it 110% by having been out & had a productive evening, to not worry about turning up in the office until 10/11am. How cool is that?!?! Maybe coz he's playing golf tomorrow ;)
Anyway, night all - please comment, or e-mail, or text - I'm really not used to my inbox or phone being so quiet :(
In case we don't write for a few days, a very happy birthday to Amanda for the 29th, happy 4* birthday in fact!!!!!!!