Maria Holland

Paul Bunyan, Me, And Other Giants

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2010 at 1:12 am

I went to my second optional course this afternoon – Newspaper Reading.  It seems pretty challenging and fairly interesting.  Best part – reading about something besides Beijing’s four seasons.  Worst part – realizing I read out loud at the level of a third grader. 

Our teacher has an accent, saying her r’s like l’s; she talks about Zhongguolen a lot, which I find mildly confusing.  Chinese has an ideal (if perhaps nonexistent) standard dialect of 普通话, and I find it frustrating when my teachers don’t speak properly.  It’s fine if vendors and waitresses mix up ‘shi’ and ‘si’, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for those responsible for teaching me to speak Mandarin to be able to pronounce the language correctly. 

A few days ago, I read a discussion on a blog about racism in China, and one of the examples offered was the bias against hiring blacks (even American native speakers) as English teachers.  Someone defended the practice because of the typical “black accent”, saying that no one wants to learn to speak English like that.  I don’t think it’s fair (or quite accurate) to exclude an entire group of people like that, but on the other hand I can kind of understand.  Even though there’s no official ‘standard’ English (as there is with Chinese), British and American English are more widely studied and understood.  At any rate, it does raise an interesting question of accents in language teaching.

I love front-loading my weeks.  Here I sit, Wednesday night, with only three classes between me and the weekend, which starts at 9:30 Friday morning.  Sweet.  I did homework this afternoon, though (an event that is actually rare enough to warrant mention).  We’re supposed to share with the class a legend from our country.  Most of our stories seem to be imported, so I went with the only truly American legend I could think of: Paul Bunyan.

一百多年以前,有一个巨人(非常大的人),他叫Paul Bunyan. 他住在美国中北,我的家乡。他真的很大,一岁就能每天把20牛的奶喝完。他睡觉时,翻来倒去就会破坏森林。他用轮当纽扣。有一次,他将水杯洒出来;洒的水成为密西西比河。他还有一只牛,叫Babe, 他也很大。他们一起走路以后,他们的足迹成为很多湖;一直到现在,我的州叫“一万湖的地区”。 他长大后,但伐木人。有一次,他拖着斧走路,引起了大峡谷。他死后,埋的地方成为一所山。

Over a hundred years ago, there was a giant named Paul Bunyan.  He lived in the middle of America, which is where I’m from.  He really was very big; by the age of one he could drink the milk of 20 cows every day.  He would destroy forests as he tossed and turned in his sleep.  He used wheels as buttons.  One time, he spilled his cup and the spilled water became the Mississippi River.  He had a cow who was also very large, named Babe.  When they went walking together, their footprints became many lakes; even now, my state is called “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”  He grew up to become a woodcutter.  One time, when he was dragging his axe as he walked, he created the Grand Canyon.  When he died, the place where they buried him became a mountain. 

I also studied my flashcards, but I do that everyday.  Anki (the flashcard program I use) is really a lifesaver.  I’ve been using it since last June when I started actually studying Chinese, and in the time since then have become convinced of its effectiveness.  I find the discipline of daily reviews very useful, and should credit it for my ability to write most of the characters I know.  It’s not the best way to learn massive amounts of new things, but I think it’s the best way to maintain knowledge already acquired – so I’ve decided to try it on some other applications.  I’ve started another deck of flashcards with math equations, to which I plan to add useful constants, methods, definitions, etc., as I review my notes from previous engineering classes in preparation for senior year.  I also downloaded someone else’s deck of Spanish sentences, which I attempted today.  It was pretty demoralizing; I believe I got 1 out of 20 correct of the first try.  I can successfully say “I need a notebook to write my notes” in Spanish (Necesito un cuaderno para escribir mis notas), but apparently that’s about it.  The good news is, I probably could have said all 20 in Chinese . . .

I went dancing tonight, and was joined by Lester, XuLei, and LiXiang.  Lester isn’t supposed to dance for three weeks, but he’s not being a very good patient . . . In other news, I weigh nearly as much as XuLei.  At first I thought it was perhaps a matter of units, because the discussion took place using pounds, kilos, and jin (which is a half kilo, or 1.1 pounds), but after straightening the numbers out it was still true.  I weigh almost as many kilos as she does jin.  In my defense, she’s like impossibly skinny.

My friend Kristina is currently writing her thesis on body image in China and the West.  We’ve had some interesting discussions on pants shopping and other challenges we giant foreigners face here, and the body image issues that may or may not come up.  While I don’t think there’s too much danger of developing an eating disorder or something from living here, I do think I wouldn’t recommend anyone with a history of such problems to come live in China.

See, this is just what I mean – I just wrote whatever came into my head about today and, at the end, realized that there was a theme to it – Paul Bunyan, me, and other giants.

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