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Learning Chinese the Hard Way

by Jason on October 24, 2010

Have you ever had to learn a language the hard way?  In the street, when you don’t know anything, when you’re trying to pronounce something for the first time, when you actually need to perform a function like getting food so you can eat?  And might I add I have never taken a Chinese class before.  I just have the beginners’ books and CD’s.

So I went out to the morning market to get some fresh fruit and veggies.  I thought I was doing pretty good when the lady got that I wanted a pineapple – ‘feng li.’  I also thought I was doing good when I got across that I wanted a papaya – ‘mu gua.’  I thought I was superb when I was able to get across the idea of the day after tomorrow and learn two new words in the process.  ‘Mintien’ means tomorrow and ‘hotien’ means the day after tomorrow.

I was riding on top of the world until I tried to get across that I wanted five oranges.  I think he understood oranges.  But I don’t know if he got five.  I had to put up my hand so he could get it.  Then he tried to teach me some more words which I was eager to learn.

I think he was trying to say something about ‘some’ and ‘a few,’ or a way of counting.  But I wasn’t getting a lick of what he was saying.  So I smiled and said ‘xiexie,’ which means thank you.  I walked away with my tail between my legs.

I was happy I had learned a few words.  I was humbled because I have a long way to go.

But there’s nothing that will help you learn Chinese quicker than needing to eat.

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