Tuesday, 17 November 2009

China. Day 6. Sun 8th Nov

A morning given back to my neglected Mandarin studies. (Plus a little DIY, in the course of which I managed to electrocute myself twice through improper use of my own saliva - but that’s a tale for another time). It’s ironic that being surrounded by Chinese people and the whole panoply of here has been such a distraction that I’ve somehow not found time to keep working at Mandarin. Foolish too, because not only is it my lifeline, it is also a subtle mirror for China itself, another lens to see by. But, the jetlag and the culture jump caused such a flutter of panic in me that I reverted to one-word sentences and pointing. So the morning was spent on the sofa in the apartment, listening to variants on ‘He does not want to see you now because he is watching television’, a state I sympathise with.

I am learning to build sentence structures, rather than memorising a few handy tourist phrases. This is slow work, but long-term rewarding. My big pleasure is actually writing the Chinese characters, however spoken communication is the priority right now. My guide thru this is Harold, a thickly accented New Yorker, who is the course leader on the Michel Thomas Mandarin learner CDs. Julia plays them on her work commute and with that phenomenal memory of hers, comes home chatting in Chinese. I’d recommend this set of CDs to any English person who is learning Mandarin – Dr. Harold cracks jokes so excruciating that you remember them and with the pain comes the mnemonic.

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