A Language Litany – 语言祷文

KeepCalm1.JordanInChina

Excerpt: The Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook & Dictionary sticks out of my back pocket. Pin Yin has been decoded during a few language classes, and some survival vocab arms me with the essentials. Time to put it all to use.

All my aspirations of being a language prodigy disappear the same time I ask a mall worker where the bathroom is and get a confused shake of the head in return. Bathroom, or as they usually say in China cesuo, toilet, is a very useful word to know. And I have to find one, fast.

Finally, when all hope seems gone, I cave and go with a term I’ve recently heard. “W.C.?” I ask in English. He points me in the right direction.

Round two. I’m in a restaurant that has a menu with pictures. Point and say, “Wo yao zhe ge,” and things are looking good. Chinese isn’t so hard. I got this! But I don’t want the hot water that everyone else in China drinks. I want cold water. “Bing shui,” I order.

Blank stare in return. Okay, my tones are wrong. Once more with different inflections. The waitress is looking at me like I’m requesting that the chef sprinkle salt on his leg before he cuts it off and serves it. Again, I give in and resort to gestures. I make fists and hold them up while shaking like I’ve somehow found myself magically outside in the middle of winter without a jacket. “Ah! Bing shui!” she exclaims, nodding as if that’s not what I’ve been saying for two minutes straight.

Originally published by Verge Magazine.

Read the whole thing at:

http://www.vergemagazine.com/work-abroad/blogs/2005-a-language-litany.html#.WOHobc9NzLQ.twitter

 

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Words of the Day

Illustration: Juan Leguizam/Wired

howto.com

 

It’s been hard keeping up my Chinese study habits since I started at the International School. All my interactions with the staff are in English, except for when I chat with the Mandarin teachers or go to the copy room. In my ELL specialist position I try not to rely on my Chinese, but it has definitely come in handy in rough situations, and it’s helping me get a new student adjusted this week. However, I’m not improving.

 

I wish I were this studious...
I wish I were this studious… Credit: ryanclifford.me

 

The Learning Plateau is real, and anyone who has tried to master a skill that contains many levels will tell you that it is a leviathan that can lull the learner into languid complacency, making even the steadfast of students lethargic.

Last summer I had a great strategy. I talked with three different college students from different parts of China for an hour each, nearly every week. It helped with my listening, and strengthened my ear for dialect. I bought a great book (one of perhaps a few dozen now) with everyday situations and plenty of idioms and vocabulary. I always had it nearby and resorted to it many times a day, soaking in new phrases. Xiao Ming and I stressed Mandarin for longer periods of time, and she helped me with the correct wording constantly. Even my buddy, Matt, a guy who’s been here for 10 years, offered a few compliments. I was improving.

 

Yeah...I'm awesome...
Yeah…I’m awesome…

Then August rolled around and I was in a new position.

In an effort to break through this plateau, I have been learning a word or two a day for the last month. In my planner each week, on the weekdays, I’ve been jotting down words of the day. These words are terms that relate to my job or to something I’ve needed to know how to say while helping a student. This has been going on a month come St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve listed my words for the past month below, but I’m curious….anyone have any suggestions for learning a new language when you’ve already got a very busy schedule?

Um...It's either an unemployment sign or a Rorschach test.  credit: telegraph.co.uk
Um…It’s either an unemployment sign or a Rorschach test.
credit: telegraph.co.uk

 

 

Feb. 18—28

Influence  ying xiang 影响

I would rather…than…   Wo ning yuan…ye bu…

I’ve noticed…   Wo zhu yi dao… 注意到

Religion  zong jiao    宗教

 

Theory  yuan li   原理

Community    she qu   社区

Extinct    mie jue  灭绝

Consequences/Results   huo guo   后果

Compromise  zhe zhong / tuo xie   折中/ 妥协

 

March 3-18

To put ones head in the noose    jiang tai gong diao yu, yuan zhe shang gou (there’s a whole story that goes with this idom).

Simply, or to emphasize     jianzhi   简直

Instructions  shuo ming  说明

Example  li ti/zi   例子

Experiment  shi yan 实验

Never   cong lai bu…

Variables  bian liang  (bian hua wu chang= fickle) 变量

 

Eloquent   shan bian  善辩

Context yu jing / shang xia wen  语境   / 上下文

Background  bei jing   背景

Pride  jiao ao  (worth being proud of   zhi de jiao ao) 骄傲

 

Human rights   ren quan   人权

 

Improve/lengthen    jia qiang  加强