Friday, March 30, 2007

chinese language

Over the last 10 days I had my first 2 guests stay over in the Xi'an apartment: now more prove of how bad Xi'an is. Actually I do get a bit carried away. Xi'an is not THAT bad. I am just spoiled having lived in such great cities as London, Manchester and Beijing most of my life. Maybe I am just feeling Xi'an is getting better since it has risen above 20 degrees (though still rarely much sun to be seen!).

Work has been busy and my chinese lessons have been really interesting with discussions about China's feudal system and power/control structure, constant invasions, role of religion and confucianism and how this might impact the future. Of course the level of language used was quite basic and a few english words were used here and again; but such intellectual conversations are the only way to stay awake at 7.30 am after 5 hours sleep (we actually went to a Bar 1 night!).

I keep meaning to write more about these conversations, I will 1 day. I also keep meaning to write a bit more about the Chinese language -which I'll summarise incredibly briefly now. Chinese writing system has changed very little over 5,000 years, though the way words are pronounced varies: and there are at least 4 distinct 'languages' which are intelligible from each other. There are few rules. Most words can be nouns as well as verbs; no real fancy tenses to worry about or anything else that french, german and latin (my other experiences with languages) have. Characters are either pictographic or an addition of 2 parts of a character stuck together. Some examples are 'fu' -happiness which is a person, a mouth, a field and clothes (this person is pretty content) or 'hao' -good, which is a woman and a son. Some cool words include the word for pet which has 2 characters. 1 for animal and 1 made up of a dragon underneath a roof. This week I also learn what you get when you combine the character for movement and the character for strength: motivation (i.e. the ability to make someone move).

Just a taster, but you can see that it is a very interesting language to learn, with stories behind most characters and reasons for them being what they are. Unfortunately it is not always easy to work these out unless previously told, and the characters can be spoken in any of 4 tones (which totally alters the meaning).; plus the Chinese often shorten words (e.g. If -Ru Guo, but often just said and written as Ru), speak ridiculously fast in different accents, use lots of idioms ... and so on. Anyway my chinese is slowly getting better. Another couple of years should do it.

Now for some good news: Flights are booked back home for 26th April (staying possibly up to 6 weeks for work and pleasure), I played football tonight in Beijing and in 1 day's time I will be in 35 degree heat on a beach in Thailand.

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