Thursday, August 19, 2010


Wǒ bù gǎn xiāngxìn wǒ xué zhōngwén.
I can't believe I study Chinese.

Just though I'd write a quick note about Chinese. I simply can't believe that my path took me here. I never thought I'd study Chinese. I once a week walk out of my bedroom and to the dining room table for Chinese class (I live with my Chinese teacher now). I never really had much interest for Chinese either. But now, even though I can barely communicate with a nine year old, I am really fascinated to study the language. I'm pretty bad about speaking, but I read Chinese everywhere and I love learning a new character and then seeing it around the city. I've gotten to the point where my Chinese teacher and I will have conversations only in Chinese (but it's not a real candid conversation because she's acutely aware of which words I know, and I know she speaks slowly and clearly for me to understand). Still pretty fun, though.

Sometimes I look back on the crazy thoughts I had when I first got here. I actually thought my students would be grateful to be introduced to English. I thought they would be happy to study a language that looks like it sounds. Looking back, it's a really stupid thought. It's stupid because I didn't realize the extent to which English breaks its rules. To them, English is as mysterious as we think Chinese is.

I love listening to people describing a character. 個大裡面一口. There's a big in a mouth. Like we have compound words, they have compound characters. A complex character could be made of 5 or 6 smaller versions of other characters. And the characters are combined in a way that makes sense or tells a story. Or sometimes I just see a story that makes sense to me without knowing if it's how the character evolved or not. Like garden:

:土,口 and in a 口.

The character for garden is enclosed and has the character for earth, mouth, and clothes inside. And what is a garden but an enclosure where our food and clothes come from. SO cool. I love it.


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