Languages and Me

luckyI made a decision awhile ago that will no doubt frustrate the living hell out of me-I’ve decided to TRY and learn Mandarin.

Why? You ask. Well I work with a lot of Chinese people whose English ability ranges from very little to almost proficient and thought I might try and bridge the gap a bit. Plus-There is the whole “With China’s booming economy and immigration all over the world, it is the language of the future, yadda, yadda”..But you guys know about that stuff already!

Learning Chinese however is a monumental task and I honestly do not expect to be fluent anytime soon. There are thousands of characters and the whole ‘tonal’ aspect that make it very challenging for Westerners to learn. But if Dashan can do it, so can I!

Here are some phrases that I’ve learned so far-In Standard Mandarin, English and Pinyin:

你好吗  How are you?-nih hao ma?

我叫     My name is-wo jiào

对不起 I am sorry-duìbuqi

谢谢     Thank you-xièxiè

我很好 I am good-wo hěnhao

我爱你  I love you-wo ài ni

(Please note, I don’t have the right kind of keyboard to represent some of the tones) Mandarin phrases are actually fairly easy to learn, but sentences are another matter entirely. Anyways, , I’m also hoping to take a French brush-up course in the Fall, because I sort of fell out of practice. Being a born and bred Ottawan, French is obviously something I feel much more comfortable with and can usually speak and understand fairly well, but like many English-speaking Canadians, I get lazy and complacent and don’t practice enough to be as bilingual as I could be.

Its not ignorance or stupidity-Its just a matter of not being literally forced to speak it all the time. (Many Anglos are spoiled in that aspect!) Other issues with French, however, is that they make the classes as frickin’ BORING as possible, so the motivation to enrol is practically non-existent and some French people switch to English when you’re speaking to them. (Then they complain that not enough English people speak French! LOL)

But despite the challenges and politics, its better to find as many ways to communicate as possible, I think. Do you speak any other languages?


20 thoughts on “Languages and Me

  1. quackattack

    Oh, I’ve got that National Capital lazy bilingualism problem too … should really spend more time reading french and watching french tv. Sigh.

    I also speak a little German from third year university. I often surprise myself with the fact that I know more than I thought I did … which still isn’t a lot. Borrowed a book of Grimm’s maerchen’s from the library last week and could still get through some of them. So, I guess I’m doing alright.

    I’ve been tempted to sign up for mandarin classes since moving to Vancouver … seems like something that could come in handy some day. Perhaps eventually … the University will pay, of course. 😛

  2. LiLu

    Dudette, that is a kick ass ambition. I will say, even my pathetic broken Spanish made a HUGE difference when I was working in restaurants. It’s a nice gesture, you know? And if they don’t speak ANY English, well, it’s invaluable.

  3. hannah78 Post author

    Robin-LOL. The thing about the written out Chinese is that even with the romanization, you still have to know the tones to say the words right. And trust me when I say, the tones take a LOT of practice!
    Quack Attack-I watch and read French sometimes, but the selection can feel a bit more limited. I taught myself a bit of German awhile ago. Its a neat language.:) I’m surprised you aren’t already fluent in Chinese since you live in Vancouver. Isn’t that a practically a requirement for living there?;)
    LiLu-Thanks dudette! I agree learning another language is a nice gesture and can definitely further your career.:)

  4. Nat

    Wow Madarin is hard because it’s not an indo-european language. Good on you for giving it a go.

    (I speak English as a second language. Technically French is my mother tongue.)

  5. get off my lawn

    All around the world, everywhere I go, no one understands me, no one knows what I’m trying to say.
    Even in my home town, my friends make me write it down, they look at me when I talk to them and they shrug their shoulders.
    They say, “What’s he talking about.”
    But you, you speak my language.


  6. deutlich

    now that sounds cool as hell

    i don’t think i could go through with learning chinese.. i swear i’d go nuts.

    with that said, a VERY good friend of mine learnec Chinese as a second language and now he’s over there making BANK

  7. hannah78 Post author

    Nat-Merci beaucoup! 🙂
    Suburban Sweetheart-I thought of learning Spanish too, but we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the well wishes!
    Get off my lawn-“Kabrula kaysay Brula Amal amala senda Kumahn Brendhaa”….;)
    Deutlich-How long did your friend study Chinese before he went over there?
    Miss Chris-Wow! Arabic. That is cool! What made you you decide to study that? I might give Rosetta Stone a try. Thanks!:)
    Linda-It probably is almost impossible, but I like a challenge!

  8. Wendi

    Wow–good luck! That’s amazing.

    I studied both French & Spanish, so now I speak a combination of the two–in the same sentence. I’m a mucho disaster.

  9. f.B

    During the Olympics last year, there was this free Mandarin-learning app available for the iPhone. I downloaded it but never used it. Now I feel like an idiot, having missed all that time to be practicing.

  10. pinklea

    I speak French, and a smattering of German and Ukrainian. I suppose I could get by in Spanish too, because I’m fluent in French. Darling Daughter speaks French, Spanish and Japanese. Aren’t we just the multilingual Vancouverites! (Notice that we’re missing Mandarine or Cantonese, though!:) )

  11. hannah78

    f.B-That sounds so cool! Too bad you never used it, but there are LOTS of sites and videos which teach basic Mandarin phrases.:)
    XUP-I’ll give it a look thanks!
    Pinklea-It looks like lots of people around here speak German! I know a few words. Wow! You guys are very multilingual but it is funny you don’t speak Chinese since you are in Vancouver! LOL.

  12. Lost Artist

    Ni shi hen hao de ren! (roughly: You’re so cool!) Wo shuo Pu dong hua yi dian dian. (I speak a very little Mandarin.)

    Pu dong hua = Mandarin

    I lived in China for a year, teaching ESL and managed to learn enough Chinese to get by. I can speak and listen fairly well, but nothing fancy, and I hardly know any characters at all because I was intimidated by them. My advice, make sure you learn characters, pin yin, and pronunciation all together. Also, Rosetta Stone has a pretty amazing Mandarin program. And it would be okay if you got a bootlegged version, because everything about China screams bootleg.

    The bad news is that yes, the tones are really hard. It kind of just comes to some people and other people have to really work at it. What worked for me was to not try to memorize them but just repeat the word exactly as I heard it. And then always say it exactly like that. You can’t try to inflect your voice for emphasis like we do in English, b/c when you do, it inadvertently changes the tone and thus meaning of what you’re saying.

    The good news is that there is NO GRAMMAR!! Seriously Chinese grammar is incredibly simplistic. There are no conjugations, tenses, gerunds, anything like that. You want to make something past tense? Add “le” after the verb. That’s it. Or well, that’s as far as my elementary Chinese got. But it really is kind of awesome not having to deal with grammar hardly at all.

    Sorry for the gigantor comment. I get excited when people talk about Chinese.

  13. hannah78 Post author

    Lost Artist-xièxiè!
    Your advice is greatly appreciated and its nice to receive coming from a Westerner like myself trying to learn Chinese. I am learning the four tones and at some point will attempt to learn characters. However, after dealing with grammar for so long, it is nice to not have to worry about it in Mandarin. No problem for the gigantor comment, it is great to see your continued passion for the culture and language.:)

  14. hannah78 Post author

    Bill-I actually can’t read and write in Chinese just yet, so I’ll respond in English. (A friend of mine translated your comment:)My Chinese lessons are going pretty good so far, I’m listening to cds and repeating what they say. How long have you been studying Chinese?

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