Posts Tagged ‘language’

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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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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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.





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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Come on, Kanye

I’ve been lazy for a month or so, but when both classes were canceled today and the weather wasn’t horribly hot, I knew I had no excuse not to go to the gym.  It felt good, and, as usual, it was hilarious and weird.  The music is often a bit old and sometimes utterly unsettling.  As I was lifting weights (they ARE in kilos, by the way; I’m not as wimpy as I thought I was!), a song came on calling for a toast to douchebags and assholes, including such lyrics as “I sent this bitch a picture of my dick” and “24/7, 365, pussy stays on my mind.”  It turns out it’s a Kanye West song and I often enjoy his music, but that doesn’t change the fact that the words are supremely bizarre, unnerving, and unhelpful to hear in the middle of a workout.

When I finished, I went downstairs to check out the pool and “Steaming Rooms.”  The pool’s pretty big, and I might take advantage of it at some point, but the best part was the downstairs translation of steam room: oven.  There is a Gentleman’s Oven at my local gym, folks.

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The man from Qi

I wrote this essay for my Chinese class.  We were assigned a story and told to write 300 – 500 characters about our feelings on the subject.  Those of you who know me know I don’t have that many feelings, so I spent a lot of time re-telling the story.

As it turns out, I got a story that that explains an idiom that’s related to paranoia.  My essay without corrections is below, and my translation is under that.  The translation is faithful to my word choice in Chinese, but it’s very possible I’ve been too generous in my grammatical clarity.  Consider it more of an intended meaning!





第 一位杞人把腦子的力量 用光了擔心不重要的事。我們可能笑他的膽小,說誰叫他想這麼笨的想法,可是有很多人像他這樣神經過敏。這個故事和這條成語告訴我們生活不該像這位一樣!對 我來說,各有各的隱憂可是我們由自己來想:這個事情重不重要?怎麼決定呢?先問聰明人的看法,等自己想一下以後,再決定要不要憂慮。這樣可以好好兒地集注 活的精華。

“The man from Qi is afraid of the sky”: Explaining an idiom

In Chinese, there is an idiom that drives students crazy.  Many chengyu are not clear, but “The man from Qi fears the sky” is especially hard to understand.  To make the meaning clear, it is necessary to begin with a story.

A long time ago in China there was a small country.  In this country there was a man who was both cowardly and nervous.  He was pitiable beyond words: he didn’t think about realistic issues; he worried that the sky would collapse and smash him to death!  His kindly friend, in order to comfort him, said “The world isn’t ordered this way!  The sky is made of gas; tell me, how could it fall down?”

“If it’s as you say,” responded the man, “The objects suspended in the sky might fall: the sun, the moon, the stars, even Mars!! We will be crushed to death!”

Hearing this wild babble, his friend gave up.

The man from Qi used all of his mental power to worry about unimportant things.  We might laugh at his cowardice, saying “Who told him to think about such stupid things?!”, but many people are nervous like he was.  This story and this idiom tell us that in living life, we must not be like this man!  In my opinion, everyone has their own concerns, but it is up to us to decide if a matter is important or not.  How can we decide this?  First, we can ask the opinion of intelligent people, wait and think on it a while, and then decide whether or not to worry.  In this way, we can better focus on the important things in life.

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