Monday, October 26, 2009

Crazy Chinese!

Last year there was an article in the New Yorker about Crazy English, the English-learning craze that's sweeping the nation (of China). In brief, it's English, but Crazy! Read the article if you want more info. There's a lot of shouting involved. It's pretty fascinating, if you're looking for info about how young Chinese people are being exposed to English these days.

Anyway, I had several good Chinese experience this weekend that I wanted to share with you.

The first: I successfully spoke a Cantonese sentence to someone other than Gus, Gristle, or our cantonese tutor SJ. Usually whenever we're on the street I'm too nervous to speak to anyone in Cantonese so I just chicken out and use Mandarin.* But we were walking around with SJ and a woman heard us speaking Cantonese with her and seemed shocked and asked SJ what was going on, and then I said: 佢系我哋嘅粤语老师。(Keoy hai ngodei ge jytju lousi.)

Mandarin translation: 她是我们的粤语老师。 (Ta shi women de yueyu laoshi.)
English translation: She's our Cantonese teacher.

Look, some of the words are the same as the words in Mandarin, but some of them are different. Plus they're all pronounced differently. So I had to do some work to produce this sentence. Someone give me an effing medal.

(*I never mentioned this on the blog, but when we were first looking for a Cantonese tutor we put out an ad and got 5 respondents, so we held interviews so we could find our favorite. Anyway during one interview, we said that we wanted to learn enough Cantonese to complete simple daily tasks like buying food and asking for directions. The lady cut in, "Why would you need to ask for directions? Just use Google Maps." I think this is when we decided that she was not the right tutor for us.)

The second: A friend of mine was in town yesterday shooting interviews with local Chinese people about their feelings on brand-name clothing. And since his Chinese is not good, I got to conduct the interviews. Which was really fun and very gratifying since it made me feel like my Chinese was actually useful for something. One of the interview subjects worked in government and he said my Chinese was very good, so, Wu Laoshi, you can take that B+ you gave me in Chinese 403 and shove it.

Also, we were filming in front of a store in the mall and one of the employees came and said we couldn't film there. But then she giggled and asked me for my phone number. When God closes a door, he opens a window. Or, she may have just wanted my phone number to submit to the police so that I could be hauled in for questioning.

So yeah, we hung out with her for a while. Not a lot of complaints, if you know what I mean. At least not from the girl. And he had to drive her home afterwards so I think I did pretty good. Pretty damn good. (Note: this is not true; it's a quote from Arrested Development. Obviously neither of us had to "drive her home afterwards," because everyone here takes the subway.)

One more thing: I learned that GeoCities is being shut down and all GeoCities sites will disappear today. This is sad news: the internet will be a little bit less useful without the StarCraft:Brood War-themed GeoCities page I made in 1998.