Saturday, May 26, 2012

{Are You Tone Deaf?}

Spring is winding down and summer is in the batter's box warming up . From what I've been told summers here are hot and sticky, and the next month is filled with rain. And rain...

Life has been business as usual here in Suzhou, and the transient expat community is gearing up for the mass exodus of summer vacation. Most of the people at church go home for a couple of months to spend time with friends and family in the states, and I can only assume to avoid the Georgia like summer. My workplace has been in a consistant state of change since I arrived which seems to be the nature of the beast in this business. Over the past month and the next few weeks we will have had over 6 people coming and going. It's been a great experience so far, in that I have met some incredible people that I would otherwise never have met.

Jeff and I have not intentionally made any efforts to learn Mandarin, but we are picking up bits and pieces. I've heard it from more than one person that individuals who have a background in music tend to have an easier time learning because of the tones involved with the language. I don't know that it has neccessarily made it any easier for me, but I have picked up a few phrases and have even been complimented by a few locals here and there for my pronunciation. Jeff has also been learning, but is certainly struggling with tones. Luckily most people are generous and good humored and more than anything grateful for the effort. It might take him a little longer, but he's persistant and I have no doubt that he will come home from this experience with quite a bit of Mandarin under his belt.

It's hard to think about dialects in other languages when you're not familiar with it. Certainly there are a LOT of dialects in English, and most are pretty easy to point out. Apparently, Suzhou has it's own dialect that deviates from the standard Mandarin dialect that was best described to me as " a jumbled mess of gobbily gook." Most people native to this area, especially on the lower end of the socio-economic scale sound very garbled and hard to understand, even for some other chinese people.
Someone asked me how many words/phrases I knew the other day and I couldn't answer them. I never thought to write down or keep count of what I learn. After thinking about it for a bit, here's the list I came up with:

Things I can say in Chinese ( but couldn't hope to spell correctly):
  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • How are you
  • I'm sorry
  • It's ok/It doesn't matter
  • I don't want any
  • How much is that
  • Colors ( blue, green, red, yellow, etc.)
  • Cat/Dog/Bark/Little Dog
  • Which one?
  • My Home address
  • My work address
  • Right/Left/Straight
  • Apple/Water/Food/Rice
  • Boy/Girl/Man/Woman
  • Mom/Dad
  • I don't know ( I use this A LOT)
  • some numbers ( 1-10)
  • Good/Bad
  • Come Here

Not much, but it's a start! Do you keep track of what you learn when you are studying/incidentally learning a language?

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