Trying to learn Mandarin

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Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The main activity to report from over the last few days is that we've been back in the classroom again, not for work - but to learn Mandarin. Boy..... it's tough!!

We have be lucky enough to get 2 weeks of classes offered for free as we work at the Diplomatic Compound, Mon, Wed & Fri mornings for 2 hrs. It's just an introductory course and perfect for us right now. There are about 10 of us in the class, about 4 children, us from the UK, others from Spain, Macedonia and Uzbekistan.

Now those of you in the teaching business will share my woe of the slightly outdating teaching styles, it felt like we were back in the olden days back in Junior school again!!! I won't bore you with it all (and perhaps I expected too much having been teaching for 8 yrs) but...... a small intro from the teacher, nothing about the course and what it was going to involve & how, what we were going to do today etc, nothing to tell us where the toilets were, water (and Call Management guys - no tick in the box for telling us about fire exit procedures!!!). One poor girl arrived a few mins after the teacher, there weren't enough books so whilst we all got started he sent her down 4 flights of stairs to get her own book from reception, then made her receit everything she'd missed in front of us without any practice! How to make someone feel uncomfortable! Then we got pointed at a lot 'you repeat' and so on, you get the picture! I see a gap in the market here.....!!!

However, all but 1 of us returned this morning so it can't have been that bad!

What amazes me, is that we've struggled enough to tune into our Chinese teacher's English, let alone someone from another country where English isn't their first language, trying to learn Chinese!

Anyway, a bit about the language for you - Mandarin is one of 8 major Chinese dialects and is the official language of China, as well as Singapore & Taiwan. About 70% of China's population speaks it. There are huge differences in pronounciation, I guess the same in English really (the North / South divide!!) or learning in London, then hearing it in Scotland, New York or Sydney.

In 1958 the Chinese adopted a system for writing their language using the Roman alphabet, which is known as 'Pinyin' which means 'write sound'. In the big towns such as here, some signs will be in both (like the subway & road signs for example) but in the countryside you'll only see the Chinese characters.
There are 4 basic tones used and words are distinguished by their tone, as well as no tone (so you could say there are 5), one word could have 5 different meanings. For example:

'Ma' can mean Mother, numb, horse, scold or swear, or marks a sentence as a question.

I expect you're thinking 'that could get you into trouble'!!! Yep, too right - an example in a book I've just read. Being 'pregnant' (huai yun) could be mistaken as 'bad luck' if a different tone is used. A 'poem' could be turned into a 'handful of shit' if you use the wrong tone!!!! Best we watch out!

Anyway, we have learnt stuff like introductions, how are you, what is your name etc. and it's been interesting but difficult, we just need to practice practice practice.

It's Weds night & we've just come back from a great evening, the British Chamber of Commerce in China, 40th year Anniversary of full ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China & Britain. A garden party followed the AGM at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Of course it was all about networking, we had a great night, and the best event so far - this was as far as getting other contacts & business cards was concerned, but also about meeting potential friends. We also met our competitors which was interesting.........!!!! Free flowing wine and lots of food (W*** F*** Buffet food for those in the know, hasten to add I ate lots, Andy didn't - even though Roast Beef & Yorkshire pud was on offer....!)

At home now with a gift bag from the night, consisting of a furry dragon (year of the dragon, not totally weird!), a commerarative book and twinings tea, one of the sponsors so we're enjoying a camomile tea, and have peppermint tea to look forward to in the morning. Incidentally, the Beijing boss has rung us tonight saying as we are giving it 110% by having been out & had a productive evening, to not worry about turning up in the office until 10/11am. How cool is that?!?! Maybe coz he's playing golf tomorrow ;)

Anyway, night all - please comment, or e-mail, or text - I'm really not used to my inbox or phone being so quiet :(

In case we don't write for a few days, a very happy birthday to Amanda for the 29th, happy 4* birthday in fact!!!!!!!

Night all!!!!

The Perry's

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Lou W on

Love the blog on training - maybe there is hope for some trainers we know - go to China!! Have to see if Adrian can come and do some training observations!!
The Furry Dragon could lead to some interesting jokes - is it a ginger furry one!!
Sounds like fun. Catch up soon xxc

Sarah on

Hello both......sounds like you have been having lots of fun and freebies as well...even better. The best buffets are usually at the big hotels. One thing we used to do in Singapore was a Sunday brunch which alot of the big hotels do. A flat fee also usually meant free flowing champers was thrown in to....and an afternoon of eating lots of yummy different food was always WELL worth it! Keep going with the teaching...I never learnt...but perhaps with some possible work travel I to Asia I may need some help / coaching! Take care and enjoy the lie in. Lol xx

tracy-andy-pez on

hi Ian,

No I am not getting up to watch the game tomorrow morning....... I've given up on it now.

Speak soon Pez

tracy-andy-pez on

Don't see you Fev getting up at 2am watching the game then doing a full days work followed by 2 yes 2 networking events on Friday.........Pez

tracy-andy-pez on


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