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Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Out of the blue

On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two.  On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies.  On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.

This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier.  The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities.  At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students.  She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.

And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?”  I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it.  He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people.  I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level.  I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language.  If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t.  I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists.  Too light?

I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…

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Standing invitation

On Sunday, I intend to ride my scooter to Sanxia with my 9-foot-tall coworker riding pillion, and since I haven’t run that little machine in a good six months, I took it in for a check-up.  Since I wasn’t able to start it, I wasn’t surprised to find it needed a new battery, but I took care of that and got it washed and pumped up, all for just $850.

Since the washing took a bit of time, I was able to chat with the two mechanics, and as usual, answered a lot of questions about myself, especially since they see me basically every night as I walk home.  At one point, they broke into Taiwanese and I understood a bit.  When it became obvious I was sort of following, the conversation turned to speaking Taiwanese, whereupon I began bitching about the crazy difficulties.  The mechanic washing my scooter promptly shut me down by telling me that I just need to practice more.  As we finished the transaction, he invited me to stop by and practice any time.  How can I resist?

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Prizes!

The cover of The Analects, giving you a sense of the artist's style.

I worried that the challenge post was becoming too long, so here are the prize choices.

I’m living in Taiwan right now, which I think influenced me quite a bit in coming up with this challenge!  Because of that, I am offering some Chinese books: comic book versions of classics.  Oh yes.  They’re by the excellent Taiwanese artist 蔡志忠, and I can offer you one of the following: 論說孫子兵法聊齋志異.  If you are consumed by a desire to have a different story, I’ll see if I can find it for you, but these are the ones I know I can get in my bookstore, and the first two are quite funny, for all that they’re philosophical texts.  Let me repeat: these books will be written in traditional Chinese characters, but the art is very cute and fun.

If you can find no use for something like this, you can choose a book from the read-a-thon’s prize pool.  Second and third place will get a postcard from Taiwan, with Chinese writing if they want it.  Please contact me via the “email me!” link in the sidebar.  Thanks for playing!

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I should have just lettered them off A-Z, my new class of travel agents.  There are 26 and it’s possible that I might have more next week (I’ll go into Greek letters).  Then again, it’s possible I might have less, but I’m not hopeful.  This class has nearly two times what a standard corporate class should have, but am I being paid for two classes?  Of course not!  I work for a company where my cataloging proposal for the teacher’s resource shelf has to get past the CEO.

All that aside, it was not a terrible class.  I was able to wrangle a better classroom right off the bat and there are multimedia capabilities, so I’m thinking of working in plenty of video.  Do they have Muzzy for English?  How magnificently creepy that would be!

Now for the pun: some weeks ago I went for a Kung Fu Panda 2/X-Men: First Class double feature.  It was fun enough, but the best part was reading and comprehending a Taiwanese joke on a movie poster.  It puns “we” and “blue” and I love it (probably too much).  My Taiwanese teacher and classmates were not as impressed as me (except possibly the other American), but that’s okay.  For your enjoyment, I present a dark, slightly fuzzy poster for the Smurfs movie’s Taiwan release.  Have fun!

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Life news round-up

Last Friday I was walking home from the bus stop when I saw three boys practicing weapons in my neighborhood park.  When I asked what they were doing, the boy with the rattling spear said it was for a temple fair in Luzhou.  Tragically, as it was the end of the night, my brain and my Chinese were shot and I couldn’t really formulate any good questions before he lost patience or interest and turned away.  I do have some video of a temple’s fighting group somewhere; I’ll have to find it!

I’m going to Malaysia on Friday, basically right after I take the foreign service test (and bomb, presumably).  It’ll be a lovely distraction, since I also had a big ol’ final today for Chinese.

Speaking of Chinese, I have been having a grand time with my language exchange buddy, who I feel really gets the short end of the stick.  His English is already so good that he focuses more on me.  Last time, he brought a comic book version of The Art of War (which rocked!) and this collection of Chinese ghost stories which I have in mind as a gift for a certain middle school bff.

My other personal time one-on-one is a lawyer who just wants to discuss news, which is fine by me!  He’s quite articulate and challenging; I really only work hard to keep up, not to help his English.  Last Sunday we talked about Taiwan and China, and what he thinks could happen if China were provoked.  It was a little bit chilling.  We almost got into their one child policy, but I told him to hold off until our next meeting; I want to take info about the gender imbalances in India and China.  Contrast their policy differences that have done nothing to fix this problem and such.

The last piece of news relates to a wonderful hash I attended that same Sunday.  The weather has been rainy and gray this past week and half or so, but that day it was perfect for a mountain run.  The cloudy sky kept the temperature comfortably low but never let fall any significant rain, and the hares led us through some crazy trails including a piss-scented valley, an illegal canyon (man-made), and about 3 hours of 87° uphill slopes.  I exaggerate, but only a little.  For me, though, the best part was my Chinese fluency that day.  It recovered fully from the incident with the weapons boys and–my favorite part about the Taiwanese hashers–got few criticisms and even fewer compliments.  As it should be!

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Another Chinese essay

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why my teacher assigned this task, but I quite enjoyed the way it echoed a middle school writing assignment where I wrote as a pair of shoes.  I think?  Maybe it was high school.  Who can remember these things?

This post is a little different from the facebook one in that I’m including my intended translation, same as last time, for my Chinese-challenged friends.  I’ll also link up the Google machine translation because it’s frakking hilarious.

 擬人化的謎語

我跟同伴們一起站著等人來選擇。我們住在大大的館,睡在硬硬的床。誰來看我們呢?研究者、學生、科學家,人類都會在我們的身體自由自在地來找資料、資訊、故事等等。

您找到我了,怎麼搜尋需要的資訊呢?我沒辦法說話,您應該打開我,把我的內臟翻來翻去。不要雞皮疙瘩,這種動作不擾我!我的目的就是幫助您。

我是什麼?

An Anthropomorphic Riddle

My friends and I stand waiting for people to come and choose us.  We live in a huge hall, and sleep on hard beds.  Who comes to see us?  Researchers, students, scientists; all humanity can freely search within our bodies for data, information, and stories.

Once you’ve found me, how do you find the information you need?  I can’t speak, so you must open me up and turn through my viscera.  Don’t get goosebumps; this kind of action doesn’t disturb me!  My only goal is to help you.

What am I?

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The moon rising beside Taipei 101.

Today was a joyous revelation and a crushing realization of limitations.  In class yesterday, our teacher introduced the topic of businesses taking midday rests along with some pros and cons.  Today, we had the debate (with basically no preparation).

I took the pro side because I truly agree and I thought I had the proper language to make my case.  My teammate was the weakest student in class, and although he’s really been improving in this level, I knew I would be doing most of the talking.  Zhang asked me to begin and the words just flowed!  I was thrilled.  When my turn came again, however, I fumbled everything and that’s where the crushing realization came in.  Immersion is not enough, and Chinese is going to be an eternal struggle.  It will not be a lovely, comfortable language like Spanish, but a secretive, twisty bitch that requires never-ending attention and devotion.  That’s my fear, anyway.

The debate continued, and I just reveled in exercising my argumentative muscles and catching my slips too late and seeing my opponents latch on and make the points I had accidentally yielded.  Clearly, I need a lot more exercise, but I had forgotten how fun a good debate can be.  To be sure, it helped that it wasn’t a terribly controversial point, but what else are we going to talk about at our level?  The coming elections and the merits of each party’s positions?  Actually, I bet we could!

Just very, very slowly.

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