Monday, November 15, 2010
China Update: Learning the Language
As Jon and I have been preparing for our trip to China we have been trying to learn the language. Whenever you travel to another country it is important to look at what language they speak in that country, because not everyone speaks English. The official language of the People's Republic of China is Standard Mandarin also known as Mandarin Chinese. The number of first language speakers of Mandarin is about 885 million. Total speakers is about 1,365,053,177.
To read more about Mandarin Chinese, please check it out at Wikipedia.
I want you to understand a few things. When I say, "learn" here is what I mean. Jon took four years of college level Mandarin when he lived in Chendgu, China. He can speak, read, and write Mandarin. It is a little rusty, because he has not lived in China for several years. However, when he is with his family he can quickly slide back into Mandarin and have a conversation with someone. So for Jon learn is not the right word, it is more like practice for him.
The opposite is true so me. I know English and that's about it. When I say that I need to learn Mandarin I mean it. I do not speak it or understand it very well. I try to learn what I can from Jon. I am grateful to have such a patient teacher. I am able to sing "Happy Birthday" and say I love you in Mandarin!
It gets really confusing when Jon teaches me the word for chopstick and Eva teaches me a different word for chopstick. The reason for this is that Jon speaks Chinese Mandarin, whereas Eva's Mandarin is more Sichuanese. Sichuanese Mandarin is s a branch of Southwestern Mandarin, spoken mainly in Sichuan.
Mandarin is an extremely challenging language to learn, because it is a tonal language. I have the utmost respect for my husband and his family, because they have been able to learn this language. It is a beautiful language to listen to. I do not always understand what they are saying, but I love to hear them talk in Mandarin.
If you are interested in learning Chinese there are some great books out there. Jon really likes the language books that Lonely Planet publishes.