Friday, August 29, 2008

speak-uh chinese

"ai-yuh! miss-uh may-gun speak chinese!"

my friend karen, who is probably the most studious person you would ever meet, is a serious student of english. i help her with her english homework and she teaches me some chinese. she is a far, far, FAR better student of english than i am of chinese. i can count, and i am learning to tell time and dates. that's about it.

karen, who has been studying english for a mere year, is already onto the kind of grammar that i tried to wrap my mind around in 10th and 11th grade. how's that to make you feel humble, eh?

karen invites me to her parents' place every week to do a language exchange. our first meeting, we talked about the foreign languages that americans tend to learn. i said that i thought that americans feel that chinese is an intimidating language to learn. apparently, that was the funniest thing i could have said because it left her and her father in stiches. it seems to me that the chinese are taught in school that chinese is an easy language, and english is necessary. who knew?

the nice thing about learning chinese though, is that is makes some of the chinglish idioms that my children tend to yell make more sense. for instance, when my kindergarden kids used to still have to think about what day of the week it was, they would give a number for it. for example, "if yesterday was tuesday, what day is it today?" "today is number three!" the chinese word for "wednesday" actually has the chinese number three in it: "lee-bai-sahn" (something-something else-three).

karen is a very sweet friend and a wonderful person. and today is her birthday. here's to you karen!


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