There I sat at the dinner table, with a bunch of my wife’s classmates, and as always, didn’t understand a lick. I then told myself I have two choices. Numero Uno – I can enjoy my time here in China and soak it all in, orrrrrrrrrrr, Number 2- I need to learn the Mandarin language enough to be able to carry on a conversation and understand what everyone is saying about the Fat Gwailo in the room. I told myself I am going to learn Mandarin Chinese.
We have been in Longyan, China now for just about 3 weeks. For the first two weeks I put all my soul and effort into this blog, telling myself I was going to do post a day to document my time here. I put a lot of time into taking pictures and doing research on what I wanted to write about each day and then about a week ago, my smoking hot wife told me that if I put as much time into learning Mandarin as I did my blog I would be fluent by now. I agreed and the since that time forward my concentration has been on learning Mandarin. I told my wife to throw Cantonese out the window and only use Mandarin to speak to me. For the first few days we did alot of sign language and staring at each other, but now it is getting better. We do mix in alot of Cantonese still, but try to use Mandarin as much as we can. Slow but surely I am now putting together sentences. Danielle laughs at me sometimes because I sound like an infant trying to learn how to speak.
If you are going to learn Chinese, Mandarin is the correct dialect to learn. Each town will have their native language but Mandarin is taught to all the Chinese children in school. So no matter where you travel in China, if you can speak Mandarin, you are covered. A lot of the Chinese will speak at least 2 dialects of Chinese. Their hometown language and Mandarin. My wife, who is an absolute stud, speaks 3 dialects. Cantonese, Mandarin, and here hometown language spoken in Longyan. She speaks them all fluently and doesn’t blink an eye. This is why it has been slow for me trying to learn Mandarin. I am constantly around here and her friends and they go in and out of dialects as they speak. They will start the conversation in Mandarin, switch over the “Longyan Wah” and back to Mandarin. The languages are totally different and sound nothing alike. I am constantly yelling at them telling them “Po Tung Wah!!!” (Pinyin for Mandarin). They smile and say “hao de” “hao de” (ok, ok) and then go right back to switching back and forth. I try to catch what I can but it can be tricky.
How am I learning Mandarin? Reminding my wife to speak to me in Mandarin has helped, but it also helps to put your pride in you back pocket and try to communicate with as many people as you can, on the street, using the words you know. This can be tough and takes courage, but the way I look at it is I stand out like a sore thumb here anyway, so what the heck. This morning I tried to call a taxi to pick Cooper up for school (Danielle was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her). I made the call and asked if he could be here at 7:30 and he hung up, in me trying to tell him not to hang up Danielle woke up and bailed me out. (Come to find out he actually understood what I said and told me he would call when he arrives, which I didn’t understand). While in the taxi the only thing I was able to get across is that I had already eaten breakfast and he hadn’t eaten yet. He also told me my Mandarin wasn’t very “biujen” or accurate. Ahhhh!
I was able to find a fun app that does a pretty good job at teaching the basics of Mandarin and it was free! It’s called Chinese Skill. The avatar is a surprised looking panda face. It goes through and teaches you words, sentence structure etc.. does a pretty good job, spends a fair amount of time in teaching you how to write characters, which I don’t want to do just yet, so I skip over it, but overall it has been helpful. To learn vocab I have made little flash cards to help me memorize words. Side note here: actually wanted to get index cards, but apparently they are not big sellers here in Longyan BECAUSE I CAN’T FIND THEM ANYWHERE. I was able to find a small shop that had empty cigarette boxes that she folded open and used to take notes on, she gave me a stack of them and have been using them to make flash cards. They work great but they are not white on both sides so I have to fold them in half like a book and write in each side, makes it kind of cumbersome to pack around, so hopefully I can find index cards soon! There is a lot to learn and sentence structure is tricky but I can getting there.
Well, back to making flash cards and doing another lesson on my Chinese Skill app. I am sure later in the week my wife will meet up for dinner with her classmates, hopefully I will be able to understand a bit more of what they are talking about, then again in order to do this I might need to learn Longyan “wah” also.
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