Feb 12 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #9: Chinese Language

As part of my ankle-deep immersion for his VBS I have been learning Chinese. I am using a number of apps, but mostly I am listening to podcasts from ChineseClass101.com. The podcasts are great for picking up the language and they have lots of notes about the culture, but they will email you incessantly, and you should really be careful about what paid options you are actually paying for and/or what options they will auto-renew your account for without telling you.

Contrary to what I expected, Chinese is pretty easy to learn so far–especially compared to Welsh, in my opinion.

The sentence structure, at least for the simple sentences I have learned is similar to English–subject, verb, object. Declarative statements become interrogative questions with the addition of a particle at the end of the sentence. The greatest thing–no conjugating verbs–verbs have only one form.

I can’t read a single character (besides the one for ‘middle’, but I can hear, identify, and speak several words and make a few simple sentences.

The hardest part? Probably learning the tones. According to the instructors there are only about 400 sound combinations in Chinese. However, there are 4 or 5 tones, and changing the tone changes the word, whereas in English changing the tone gives some auditory cues as to the intended meaning, or maybe whether the word or sentence is meant as a statement of a question.

I’m enjoying it a lot, and maybe eventually (after smatterings of French, Spanish, Welsh, Hebrew, and Greek) I could attain bilingual status.

Right now, I still just know enough to get me in trouble.

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Apr 27 2011

Victory, pt. 2

As mentioned in a previous post, I assisted someone at work in getting their laptop connected to our wireless network. The user was Chinese, and I greeted her with a friendly nihau.

A few weeks later I was assisting a user in Personnel.

“I heard you are a valuable asset to our company,” she said.

That made me kind of nervous for some reason.

“How so?” I asked.

“I heard that you were able to help an employee recently because you spoke Chinese.”

I saw way too many sitcoms growing up to know what happens when you let this kind of thing go:

“Mr. CEO–the Prime Minister of China is here to donate several billion dollars, but we can’t find any of our Chinese-speaking users! What should we do?”

“I heard there’s this guy in I.T. who speaks perfect Mandarin. I’ll go get him!”

I’d rather they find out now that I only know how to say ‘hello,’ ‘beer,’ and ‘where is the bathroom?’ than wait until I’m in that meeting.

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