Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Liveblogging our Cantonese Lesson

6:06 p.m.: In an hour and 24 minutes, Serena will be coming to our house for our biweekly Cantonese lesson. She will be bringing a friend, and we will, as she calls it, "put our learning into practice."

(A note: We usually speak Mandarin with Serena, but sometimes we use English whenever she wants to work on her fluency or pronunciation. Her English is generally quite good; since she's a student at the Business Management school, though, she uses semi-awkward-cute fixed/formal expressions when we talk. We've been planning today's session for a while, and every time she talked about it, she would say (in English) that it would give us a chance to "put our learning into practice," with the fevor of someone who was looking to put her learning of the phrase "put your learning into practice" into practice. Incidentally, I looked at her English textbook last week and the dialogue I opened to started with, "Stephanie, did you properly input the packing information into the order form?" This is from a textbook she called "super interesting.")

The idea of putting our Cantonese learning "into practice" is laughable on face, not only because we know essentially no Cantonese but because putting it into practice would require that we use our Cantonese to complete some meaningful task, which is difficult when our lessons revolve around teaching us how to ask each other what time the football game is, which task is not only meaningless but also totally outside my experience as a human being. I've never asked that question in English.

7:33 p.m.: Serena just called to say she's going to be late because she coulnd't find a friend with free time to come chat with us. No wonder! They're all probably at the football game! Hey, what time was that, anyway?

7:40 p.m.: I'm working hard to memorize a passage from our textbook that for some reason I promised I would recite, but then failed to work on it at all during the week. It involves a three year old girl guessing how much candy a four year old boy has in his pocket. I find the sexual subtext distracting. I fail to remember the proper Cantonese measure word for a small piece of candy. (It's 粒, Cantonese pronunciation nap7.)

7:55 p.m.: OK, they're here.

8:37 p.m.: Gus is making tea. We have exhausted almost all of our Cantonese, having already asked Serena's friend (named Anita) how old she is, where she's from, and whether she likes to eat roast goose. Serena suggests that we act out the dialogues in the textbook. We accept.

9:20 p.m.: We officially end class after acting out the dialogues in our textbook. Both Serena and Anita ask me how much candy I have in my pocket; I have no choice but to tell them. After class ends, Anita immediately asks if we'd like to see some magic. We accept. She makes a coin appear from behind her subway card. Actually she was palming it the whole time. I tell her she's "awesome", because that's one of the few Cantonese words I can remember how to say.

9:38 p.m.: Serena tries to juggle.

10:15 p.m.: Serena and Anita decide they should probably go after having spent 35 minutes in our apartment throwing Gus's balls around. We walk them to the front gate; I can't help worrying that everyone we meet assumes that they are prostitutes. We pass two students who say hi and then just stare at us as we walk by. I'm sure they won't tell anyone about seeing their foreign teachers walking attractive young Chinese women out of their apartment.

12:21 p.m.: OK, I'm finally getting around to posting this record. Most of the time between 10:15 and now has been spent taking all of my clothes off and reading an article about organ donation in my underwear. I was in the middle of changing into my pajamas, but you know how it is with good organ donation articles. Hard to tear yourself away.