You might assume that as a language of pictograms, Chinese would have no acronyms. I always did. Turns out I was wrong. Chinese has a cleverly simple way to create standard abbreviations even with no phonetic alphabet.
I’ve been studying Khmer – the ninth language I’ve studied in a classroom. These days both English and Chinese grammar feel natural to me – neither is awkward. But Khmer falls so in between that I get confused. The feeling that I’m mixing two individually comfortable but different grammars gets me all turned around!
Of the three tonal languages I’ve studied Mandarin has the easiest tones to learn. What most English speakers don’t realise is that we also use tones every day! We use a rising tone to turn a statement into a question. One of the best examples I can think of to explain is the word “okay”.
To learn language well means going beyond translating English thoughts into Chinese, instead expressing myself in wholly Chinese thoughts – to see the world through that lens. To not be chained to “front” as “future” and “behind” as “past”.
Two of the first characters Chinese children are taught to write in school are 上 and 下. Both words are used all day, every day, in many different ways. 上 is on, over, above, up; 下 is under, below, down. But wait, there’s more!
Imagine you are at a party at someone’s house when suddenly a house plant starts talking to you. Perhaps you would ignore it, ask if the person next to you heard it, or try talking back while laughing at the situation. I am that house plant.
A large part of cultivating Good China Days is changing assumptions and expectations. Here are a bunch of things that help me adjust my attitude toward China – and create space for days that make me love this country, and its people.