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Monday, October 26, 2009

Chopping Down a Tree

This past Saturday, I told my Mandarin teacher that I was chopping down a tree. She responded by asking me a question in Mandarin, then switching to English when she saw the blank look on my face. (It took all of my memorization skills to make the statement; no way could I understand and respond to a question ... but I digress.)

Her follow-up question, said first in Mandarin and then in English, seemed - to me - to appear from nowhere. "Were your trees damaged because of all the rain this week?" Another blank look and a rather eloquent response from yours truly, "Huh?" She started chuckling ... again ... and asked me, "What did you think you said?"

Sigh. I thought I told her that I was reading a book. I mixed up my tones as usual. Kan4 Shu1 -- reading a book. Kan3 Shu4 -- chopping down a tree. I doubt I'll ever master Mandarin, but I've definitely mastered the art of the blank stare.

32 comments:

Buckeroomama said...

Keep at it, TM. You just have to get the tones right. :)

Sherri said...

Don't worry--you've seen their English translations--they have just as much trouble with English!

When Sarah, my 21 year old was there last summer to "teach English", a man told her that her dress fits her just right. haha

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

You will get it!! Keep up the good work......as they say, "practice makes perfect"

Have a great week!

Lisa

bbmomof2boys said...

Welcome back TM!!

Keep going with the Mandarin, you can do it!

Chopping down a tree....bwhahahaha!!!

Hugs,
Carla

Aus said...

Welcome back - hope that you are well rested - you were missed! As for your attempt to master Mandarin (or any other non-native language for that matter) Proud of you - keep up the great work - and you are WAY stronger than me!

hugs - aus and co.

Dawn said...

Well, the next time you need to chop down a tree you'll know just what to say! LOL

Hope your week off was a good one! (But I'm glad you're back!!!)

thegypsymama said...

She's BAACCCKKKKKK! Missed you TM!

Kristi said...

Hehehe. Reminds me of the time my dad was trying out his "newly mastered" French up in Canada and ordered an egg in his pocket instead of a poached egg...
Good for you for stepping out there and trying!
Oh, and I'm glad you're back!

AmericanFamily said...

That is why I always try to do a lot of sign language to augment my terrible Chinese. The funniest mistake I ever made was trying to say little chicken, not knowing that is a euphemism for penis. I was singing a song about it, which made it even worse.

Johnny said...

Wait, you're chopping down a book?

Heh - you're way ahead of this Asian boy.

Myrnie said...

I chuckled when you said it took so much concentration to create that sentence, you were unprepared for a return question...YES! I do that every week in church :)

Aunt LoLo said...

HAHAHAHAH.

*ahem* Sorry. I didn't really mean that.

But PLEASE - I hope you're saving these gaffs somewhere. You'll forget you ever said it - trust me. (Like the day I told my mission partner I had to go shopping for a grave. Of course, I meant towel. "mou dei" "mou gan" Close, right?)

Super Mommy said...

At least you didn't insult her! I'm your your Chinese is better than mine!

Colin and Jill Canada said...

Gosh that's funny! You could have said worse. :)

I say hats off for trying. Good for you!

Jill

Mahmee said...

Hey, at least you can see 'chopping down a tree' in Mandarin. You are a goddess in my book!

Desiree' said...

Glad you're feeling better, pass some good cheer my way..please.

You do better than I at Mandarin. I can never get the tones right, no matter how hard I try. My teacher down in AL just laughed and told me to get a translator when I traveled...

day by day said...

oh, man...it is such a hard language isn't it? Those tones get me every time! Our Chinese teacher is quite used to the "huh" expression on my face. lol!

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

I feel for ya. My Spanish is beyond bad. I once tried to ask a Spanish-speaking stroke patient how her head was feeling. . .I asked how her beer was.

mumma to many said...

Oh dear all I can say is that Iw ould and did give up after a year and I can count badly in Mandarin and I have enough for my Children and they can learn it after spending years learning French and Maori and failing I should know better full immersion would be the only way for me! :)
Hugs Ruth in NZ

Wanda said...

We can only master one talent at a time. Give yourself a break!

I am impressed that you're at it. Good for you!

Marla said...

Hehe. I tried some Mandarin on Rosetta Stone before we traveled for Jacey and gave up quickly. Mandarin with a Texas accent just.doesn't.work. I applaud you for sticking with it!

Alece said...

i give you so much credit for working as hard on it as you do. i am NOT gifted in the area of linguistics, that is for sure!

when i first moved to africa, i tried very hard to learn afrikaans my soon-to-be-husband's first language. i learned quickly though that i shouldn't rely on his helpful input. i asked him how to say strawberry, and i memorized the word he told me. one day a pastor's wife came by with a homemade strawberry tart for me. i tried to impress her by thanking her in afrikaans. she stormed away in a fit.

i found out later that what i really said was: thank you for the snotberry tart.

that was the last time i asked niel to translate ANYTHING for me.

Kristin said...

Too funny! Hey, I had a hard enough time in French. There's no way I'd master Mandarin!

Sharie said...

I so admire you for trying. Amelia's Mandarin teacher was talking to me and another mom on Saturday about how we could learn easily and the other mom is thinking about taking private lessons. I know there is NO ROOM in my brain right now, and even the thought of learning a second language gives me hives...I just do not have an ear for it...and I've tried HARD!

Holly said...

I just wonder...do little kids in China chop down trees when they mean to read books? I'm being totally serious here.
Is it so difficult for us b/c we are older or is it just as difficult for little ones learning?
Anyone??

Annie said...

At least you are trying!!! Good for you, TM!!!

Suzy said...

Unless you are reading on a Kindel, a tree probably was chopped down for your book to be printed. So, not as inaccurate as it first sounded ; ) And we have lost several trees in the last two years thanks to too much rain. We're 22 inches above normal this year. Reminds me of Bill Cosby's Noah routine where Noah asks his neighbors how long they can tread water.

Donna said...

This is why I'll probably never get beyond Intro to Mandarin. I just don't have an ear for tones. (tone deaf?)

Donna

Donna said...

Ha! I just read the comment about Chinese translations into English. Funny!!! Yes, it does seem to be a two way street, huh!

:)

Donna

Mei-Ling said...

Ni bu hui jiang Zhongwen ne?

Shuo "kan4 shu1" bu hen nan! ;P

Seriously, the fourth and then first tone is one of THE easiest patterns in Mandarin. I can't even figure out how you manged to say "kan3"!

I have trouble with:
3-1
3-2

Of course, having been in Taiwan, it was easier once I was able to tell by facial expression if my tonal usage was way, way off. ;P

Patty O. said...

Aren't the tones the hardest? In Cantonese there are NINE tones and it was so difficult to get them right. I have so many funny stories about using the wrong tones and no one understanding me at all. So difficult! But I am sure you will learn it.

CC said...

bwhahahaha