My video project is going pretty poorly. It’s going very slowly, and I’m starting to be irritated at my groupmates. And one of them has such awful pronunciation that I can practically feel my own pronunciation getting worse when I listen to him.
In other (Chinese-related news), this morning after class I asked my professor a question: “蔡老师，请问，在人民大学餐厅能不能吃素？” (“Mr. Cai, I have a question - can you eat vegetarian at Renmin University’s cafeteria?”) I can’t remember his wording, but he answered in the affirmative, and added, “每个餐厅都有素菜。” (roughly, “Any cafeteria will have vegetarian food.”)
Also, I’ve recently written two emails in Chinese. I’m sure they both had mistakes, but both seemed to communicate my meaning without any trouble. The first was to my professor, telling him my flight information for when I arrive in China:
The second was to my TA, asking for clarification on one of her corrections of our script:
Her answer came a few hours later, and I had no trouble reading it. (It turned out that the character I was asking about was actually two characters: “要交”.)
We have a group project for Chinese class. I’m in a group of four, and we have to write and film a short (20-minute) movie in Chinese. We’ve written the beginning of the script, and today two of us showed it to our TA for her to correct it.
She had a lot of corrections to make (which is no surprise). She wrote them all on the paper, and because I’m still not very good at reading Chinese, it’s particularly hard for me to decipher her handwriting. But it’ll be a learning experience.
There was one line (one that I wrote) that she didn’t make any corrections on. The main character says it right after someone bumps into her and makes her drop the cakes she’s holding on the ground: “你做什么呢？你看得清楚看不清楚你走哪儿？” [“What are you doing? Can you see where you’re going or not?”]. My TA said that it sounds like something a Chinese person might very well say when arguing with someone.
At another point in the TA session, we were talking about furniture, and I asked her how to say “dresser”. She said she didn’t know what a dresser was (her English is only a little better than my Spanish), so I explained, and she said it was “衣橱”. She was about to write it down, but she couldn’t remember the character for “橱”, so she had to look it up on her laptop first. Which was an interesting experience - I’ve heard that even well-educated native Chinese speakers often forget characters, even for everyday things, but this was my first time seeing it happen.
Since the beginning of the quarter, I’ve been able to tell from my physics TA’s accent that his native language is Chinese. Today, he was wearing a shirt that said “台大物理” on the back - which I was able to read. It means “Taiwan University Physics”.
I’ve been enjoying the bedtime stories - after “白雪公主” was “愚蠢的驴” (The Stupid Donkey) and “会生金蛋的鹅“ (The Goose that Could Lay Golden Eggs). There are just two left.
I also checked out a book called “中國啊” (Oh, China), which is basically a beginning Chinese reader. It has 35 dialogues and articles (in both traditional and simplified characters), with vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar glossed. So I’ve read the first four of those, which were about what it’s like to be an American-born Chinese and the difference between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China. My goal is to finish the reader by the end of the quarter.
I’ve started reading a children’s book, “3分钟床边故事” (“3-minute bedtime stories”). The first story is “白雪公主” (literally “Princess White Snow”). I’ll need a dictionary constantly when I’m reading this, of course, but I’ve found that I already know well over half of the characters in each sentence. So that’s pretty good.
I just watched a video of a performance of “谁在一垒” (“Who’s on First?”) on Youtube. It was nice watching something that I’m familiar with. I still didn’t understand very much, but I followed a little, and I picked out all of the players’ names (except the one that’s said at the very end - “I don’t care” or “I don’t give a damn” in English). And I also learned a new word - “当然” (“naturally”). I also noticed a joke that I think the Chinese translator made up - I don’t remember anything like it in the English version. When the characters were talking about Today and Tomorrow (“今天、明天”), the fan character asked, “后天呢?” (“How about The Day After Tomorrow?”), and the manager said, “没有后天” (“There is no The Day After Tomorrow”).
This summer, I’m going to Beijing for two months with two professors and about 25 other students from my university to study Chinese there. The class I’ll be in will go through three quarters’ worth of Chinese in 8 weeks, and I imagine that being in China will really help me learn the language too.
In other news, I have a new TA for Chinese this quarter. I like her a lot - she seems very focused on using as much Chinese and as little English as possible during the TA session, which I appreciate. And she also doesn’t avoid using words we don’t know (which she explains the meaning of if we can’t figure it out), so that’s good too.
I just successfully navigated an Esperanto-language online form to order a book (Relativeco per Bildoj - “Relativity through Pictures”) and a movie (La Graveco de la Fideliĝo - “The Importance of Being Earnest”) online from FEL (the same organization that distributes Monato). And I feel pretty proud of myself for being able to do so without much difficulty at all.
My Chinese written final was yesterday - I think I did well, but there’s nothing interesting to report about it.
I’ve finished reading Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, Pars I, as well as a supplementary textbook called Colloquia Personarum, which contains 24 dialogues intended to accompany Lingua Latina. I thought Lingua Latina was an excellent textbook - each chapter is just a little bit harder than the one before it, but by the end you find that you can really read a significant amount of Latin. And the story is interesting too. I definitely intend to read the second textbook in the series at some point.
I just finished my Chinese oral final, which involved reciting a dialogue and answering a number of questions. The dialogue was selected randomly from a list of 14 that I had to prepare, and the questions were mostly selected from list that was posted online beforehand, although my teacher added several of his own.
I did pretty well on the dialogue, although I did make one mistake - Instead of “她今天早上坐飞机去纽约了”, I just said “她今天早上坐飞机去纽约”. In other words, I forgot a 了 (which is supposed to be the most difficult element of Chinese grammar to master, so I don’t feel too bad about that).
With the questions, I did well, I think - after asking them, my teacher said that I’m doing very well in the class, and that if all the other students were doing as well as I was, he would be very happy. So that’s good.
I have my written final on Monday, and over spring break, which is the week after next (下下星期), I plan to learn a bunch of the supplementary characters that our textbook has but that we don’t actually learn in class.
As for other languages: I’m still reading Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, and I’m partway through the February edition of Monato. (The March edition still hasn’t arrived, which is a little worrying.)