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Friday, March 14, 2014

7 (Chinese) Quick Takes

1. Here's "Let it go" from Disney's "Frozen" in 26 Chinese languages:



In China, each place has a local language. Sometimes they're called dialects- but they're different enough that you can't understand them if you only know Mandarin. Which, by the way, is the official language of China, and when I say "I speak Chinese" I mean I speak Mandarin.

Everyone I've met speaks Mandarin, and everything on tv is Mandarin, and everything important or official is in Mandarin, so it's not necessary to learn local languages. But wow, that video's pretty cool.

2. So a few days ago, I was traveling on the train, and when it arrived at the destination, I got off and went to wait for a bus. Of course, to get to the bus stop, I had to walk through a group of people asking in Chinese if I wanted a taxi, or occasionally in "English", "HELLO! TAXI!" Yeah, best to just ignore them- they're not the legitimate taxi drivers.

So I get to the bus stop, and I'm waiting, and this woman comes up and starts asking me in Chinese where I'm going and if I want a taxi, and I just shook my head and ignored her. And she keeps talking to me, like "Can you speak Chinese??? Can you speak Chinese???" and I can but if she knows that, she'll really never leave me alone, so I just ignored her.

Meanwhile I'm a bit confused about which number bus to wait for- it seems the one I was planning for was done for the evening. Hmm. I walked over to check the sign that said which bus route goes where, and there's a group of people around my age. They see that I'm white, so they start trying out some English sentences:

"YOU! Are beautiful!"

"Hello! How are you!"

And so on. And the taxi lady from earlier tells them "She can't speak Chinese."

So then they keep going on with practicing their favorite English sentences, and I just kind of smile, and then one of them asks "WHERE DO YOU! Come from!" and I realized okay, the game's over, I either talk to them in English and listen to their broken English, or I let them know I can speak Chinese.

So I said, "其实我会讲中文 [Actually, I can speak Chinese]" and everyone was shocked and laughed because that was unexpected, right? And then they all started asking me questions in Chinese and they were all so excited to talk to me.

Well that was ... interesting.

3. Recently, I've had several conversations in Chinese about zombies (僵尸 jiāng shī).

4. I like to wave my hand back and forth and watch my cat's eyes follow it. Haha, such a silly little animal, I can control his eye movements just by moving something around in front of him. He is so easily entertained.

And then I realize, I'm watching my cat's eyes move, and I'm incredibly entertained by that. Who's the silly one here?

5. Long long ago, I wondered how Chinese people type stuff. Do they have a massive keyboard with thousands of keys, because there are thousands of different characters?

No. Here's how it works. Suppose you want to type the character 冰 (bīng), which means "ice." All you do is type "bing," and if your keyboard (regular qwerty keyboard) is in Chinese mode, it will bring up a list of characters that are pronounced "bing." And you just pick which one you want.

Like this. The first one is the "bing" that means "ice."
In Chinese, there are finitely many possible pronunciations, so there are a TON of characters for each one. Sometimes you have to click through a long list before you find the right one.

6. On a related note, that's why my Chinese writing is horrible now. I usually just type Chinese, mostly when I'm texting on my phone, so I've forgotten how to write them by hand. When you type, all you need is a vague idea of what the character looks like. Kind of like how autocorrect ruins people's ability to spell, but much worse.

A lot of Chinese people have this problem too.

7. Chinese people are really good at drinking hot things.



"7 Quick Takes" linkup is here.

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