Busy Busy Busy

Yes, I know.  I haven’t been posting anything lately.  And I haven’t been returning e-mails.  I apologize.  The past 3 weeks have been very busy.   One of our American teachers  left on the 1st (his contract was up).  That means that the work of 3 teachers got pushed onto 2 of us.   To add to the burden, Jeffery was the teacher to reviewed and updated all of the lessons.  That task fell to me (for no extra pay).  That added several more hours of work to my schedule.  Then… one of the Chinese teachers left for 2 weeks, so the rest of us had to pick up some of that slack.

We had company for a week (the afore-mentioned Jeffery, who had to leave his company-supplied apartment, but couldn’t go to his new job for 5 days).   I’ve had several “networking dates” (going  out to dinner with people who have connections), I have side  projects that need my attention, I’m trying to walk 5km every day, and–to be perfectly honest–I’ve been treasuring my “me” time and ignoring the world.

We hired  a new English teacher (he’s actually English, not American, and has a very thick Liverpool accent), so a things are settling down a little bit.   Except, of course, that classes are getting bigger (that means more money for the school, so that’s good) and we’re about to hit summer–when all the high school and college students come in and the slow daytimes become very busy.


The Dangers of Free Software

So… as I said, I’ve been using a free website to help me learn Chinese vocabulary.   One of the words was “panel” (like a door panel).  It wasn’t written out in pinyin, so I couldn’t see what it said.  And the voice was a little off, so I couldn’t hear exactly what was said.

I could recognize “door” and “small” in the phrase–which makes sense–but I kept getting “specialized” when I would try to type it into the translator program.

I finally figured out the last word, and tried again.

专门    =    zhuan men  =  “specialized”

小组    =    xiao zu   =   “group”

The stupid software had the wrong “panel”…  It’s talking about a committee!


Ten Words a Day

I’ve started a “program” to learn Chinese.  It’s a website called KeeWords.  All they teach you is vocabulary, nothing about grammar or context.  You choose a language, pick a category (e.g. Home & Household or Technology), and a daily goal.  The site gives you a definition on a flashcard.  You can either type in the answer or flip the card over.   When you flip, it shows you the word and reads it out loud (this is important for Chinese).  As you learn, it randomizes the words, including ones that you have already learned.  It keeps track of how many you know, and if you get one wrong, it removes it from your score.

I’ve set my goal at ten words a day.  I spend about an hour in the morning learning the new words and reviewing the ones I’ve already learned.   I then write them down in a notebook (writing helps me to remember), and I review them throughout the day.  So far, it’s going okay–though I’ve run into some funny mistakes.  For example… the word was “light” in the category “Home and Household”.   My assumption was that it meant “light bulb”.    Nope.  It meant “not heavy”.   A student pointed out the mistake and gave me the word for light bulb.  So… bonus word for the day.  🙂

(The word for “not heavy” is qing 轻.  The word for “lamp/light bulb” is deng 灯)

Random Bits

Just a few random bits that have been floating around in my brain.

  • The USA is know as Mei Guo (美国).  It means “Beautiful Kingdom”.
  • China is Zhong Guo (中国).  It means “Middle Kingdom”.
  • The average young housewife in Kunshan, if moved to Madison, would probably be mistaken for a prostitute.
  • Learning Chinese is actually learning 2 different languages–one written, one spoken.  Because they use ideograms (each “character” represents a complete word or idea), you can’t “sound out” the words.  You have to learn the spoken and written versions separately.
  • The way the Chinese language “thinks”–for lack of a better word–is interesting.  The ideograph for “heart” (心), for example:  Xiao xin (小心), literally “little heart”, means “caution” or “beware”.  Zhong xin (中心), literally “middle heart”, means “center”–such as “city center” (市中心)
  • I learned a new idiom last weekend:  ren shan ren hai (人山人海).  Literally:  People mountain people sea.  It means “a lot of people, a big crowd”.  Our  version would be “a sea of people” or “people as far as the eye can see”.
  • “Long time no see”, almost certainly, came from Chinese.
  • I have been here for 9 months, and I still have not chosen a Chinese name.  I think I’ve finally decided:  Huo Long (火龙).  It means “Fire Dragon”.  A friend had suggested “Long”, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say “Hi, I’m Long” with a straight face.  🙂  I do, however, like the idea of the dragon.  Dragons are revered in China, and represent passion, wisdom, and strength.  Adding “fire” ties in with “Blaze”.  So… I’m thinking that “Huo Long” is a good name.  And.. it doesn’t hurt that it’s easy to write.  🙂