This made it onto the list of phrases in my first ever Chinese lesson. Repeat. First ever Chinese lesson. It had good company. Things like “I look at the bright side of things” and “hello everyone my name is Amy” and “I have been in China for a few years and I have five people in my family.” To illustrate my dismay, that last sentence in pinyin it looks like “wo lai zhongguo sheng huo le ji nian le. Wo jia li wu kou ren.” Then you add in the tones. I studied the paper incredulously, but when I looked up at my teachers there was nothing but cheerful good will there. Obviously it’s not just me who’s optimistic. I decided not to make an issue of it that night. First lesson and all. Surely I could cull some useful things from what they gave me.
However, after two more lessons of attempting to pronounce complete sentences correctly with tones I am feeling anything but optimistic. There seems to be a vast difference between slow Chinese and fast Chinese. The tones which are clear in slow Chinese are lost to me when things speed up. I want to argue with my teachers that when they say it fast it no longer sounds like a 2nd tone, but rather a 1st tone or a 4th tone. And though they’d given me the stamp of approval on my pronunciation of the Chinese alphabet and all the possible syllable combinations, these sounds change a great deal when placed in the context of a sentence.
I realized tonight that I must tell my teachers that I cannot do complete sentences. I need words. Phrases. My plan is butchered Chinese for the time being. Maybe in the future I can do better. But now is hardly the time for “I look at the bright side of things”.
And the irony is that I was feeling optimistic just the day before. I was recognizing numbers when people were talking. I had learned a few characters. I was making progress. Life was good. Then tonight. Oh wow.
I’m not giving up. I’m still going to learn some Chinese. Some Chinese. Illegitimi non carborundum, yeah?