Maria Holland

Dinner and a Movie

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 at 1:45 am

I spent this morning studying Chinese and working on my journal.  I finally got some pictures from Aleid, so I’ve added pictures of the first amazing meal that Jimmy cooked for us as well as our day on the boat

On the Chinese front: this language is ridiculous.  Seriously.  Way back when I started studying Chinese (this June), I remember being flabbergasted at how similar two characters could look.  I always got 报 and 服 mixed up, and when reading quickly I couldn’t tell 我 and 找 apart.  By now, the differences are pretty clear and, in the first case, I can’t see how I ever had trouble with them. 

Now I’m on to new problems, though.  For instance, I just yesterday realized that 人 and 入 are different characters.  I’m kind of embarrassed to say this because entrance signs say 入口 and I always thought they said 人口.  Yes, I thought it was a little bit confusing that the words for “entrance” and “population” were the same, but who am I to argue with this ancient language? 

The other two sets of characters I’m struggling with right now are 未 & 末 and 土 & 士.  (Hint: if you look really carefully, the parallel lines are different lengths.)  They’re pronounced totally differently, and – lucky for me – are all used as phonetic components of characters. 

I think it would have been helpful if, in my beginning Chinese class, my teacher had taken the time to point out common mistakes when writing characters.  I know the English alphabet – all 26 letters – pretty well, so I know when it’s okay to make a line a little longer or add a hook at the end without intrinsically changing the letter.  For instance, you can do a lot with the tail of a ‘g’ but you can’t turn it the other way, because then it’s a ‘q’.  With Chinese, though, I have almost no sense of this.  I didn’t even know until I got my mid-term back here that 未 & 末 were different!  I’m sure there are a lot of subtle differences I haven’t picked up on yet, too . . . maybe I’ll just stick to typing. 

This evening, I had the most wonderful time.  It started with a dinner of hot pot – all sorts of meats, vegetables, noodles, eggs, etc. cooked in spicy broth.  All you can eat, all you can drink; my beverage of choice was glass bottles of Coke!  Even better than the food, though, was the conversation.  We talked about all sorts of things – the foods we don’t eat, something about Humpty Dumpty that I didn’t entirely understand, traditions surrounding losing baby teeth, and the sounds that animals make.  Some things just sound hilarious in Chinese, like Carlos explaining the Spanish tradition of the tooth mouse: 不是一般的老鼠,是个特别的老鼠!  (It’s not an ordinary mouse, it’s a special mouse!) 

We followed that up with a trip to the movie theater, which was a Chinese first for most of us.  We went to see 2012, which I don’t think anyone but Carlos was actually excited about seeing.  It was surprisingly good though – the disaster stuff was a little tired but the musings on what constitutes humanity and what deserves to be saved were interesting.  In the end, the human race consisted of those rich enough to buy tickets and the Chinese welders who built the arks, so I think I would like to see a sequel about life in 2020 or so. 

The whole experience of a Chinese movie theater was also interesting.  The movie was left in English with Chinese subtitles.  I tried to read along and understood a lot of it, but because I’m not exactly a speed-reader in Chinese, I missed the end of a lot of sentences.  I was grateful that I could even read a little bit because there were a few times in the movie when the spoken language was not English.  Surprisingly, when the actors were speaking French I understood more of the subtitles than the dialogue. 

As soon as the movie was obviously winding down – maybe 4 minutes to go before the credits started – people began leaving.  As soon as the final frame came up, a large title appeared saying something about the Chinese public movie company and as the credits rolled, they played cheesy Chinese muzak.  Until then, though, it was almost possible to forget you were in China.

We had to taxi home as it was 1 a.m. when we got out, but even with taxi fare it was a cheap night out by American standards.  Buffet dinner and a night showing of a new movie . . . 70 kuai, or $10.  (It sounds better that way, using American currency, instead of equating it to two normal days’ worth of food.)

  1. I had to look at some of those Chinese characters a few times to tell the difference. I would never had made it through Chinese penmanship class (As I recall,I barely made it through with a C). I was speaking to my brother today, who is a high school Spanish teacher, and he told me that languages are rated on level of difficulty from 1 to 7. He said Mandarin is a 7 and Spanish is a 1. He thought Russian was a 6. I wasn’t familiar with this rating system, but it certainly makes sense. These ratings may apply only to English speakers learning a foreign language. Thanks for all the thought and effort you put into your terrific posts. Happy Thanksgiving. Alex

  2. I think you are totaly excused for getting those characters mixed up! Wow! I can even justify your “entrance” and “population” understanding. I mean, doesn’t the populace/population go in that open door charcter-thing? I can see it.

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