I’m Back

My apologies for the long silence. I’ve been without internet for about a week. And the internet I do have right now is like using a telegraph. For the past month, I’ve had 8Mb service that would only work for about 2 hours a day–with constant disconnects. They came and “fixed” that on Friday. Now, my connection no longer drops. However, I have an average 11Kb/s transfer rate.

For those who don’t understand the tech stuff, let me explain: I’m paying for a “pipe” that will transmit 8,000 Kilobits per second. Don’t worry about what a “Kilobit” is, just know that I should be able to get 8,000 of them every second. What I’m getting is 11Kb/s with “peak” speeds of 25Kb/s. Paying for 8,000… getting 11.

This is, I’m finding, the biggest problem I have with China: I am entirely reliant on others to resolve my disputes for me because I can’t (yet) speak the language. You guys know me. You know how frustrating this is for me.

I’ve been slacking off with regards to learning Chinese, but now I’m getting more studious about it. The cute girl at the Buddy Chicken might have something to do with it. I’ve started collecting phrases and words in a little notebook and practicing them. I’m starting with just some common things: good night, I am a teacher, excuse me, pretty, I don’t want [that], etc. A couple Chinese co-workers were having a conversation today, and I caught the word “tomorrow”.

This is actually the hardest part of learning the language: hearing it. It’s fairly easy to learn words and phrases and parrot them (even if my accent is attrocious). It’s so much more difficult to hear the words when locals say them. This is made even more difficult by the fact that Kunshan is a polyglot city.

A little bit of history and context regarding China: China is not a unified country; it’s not all the same. There are over 50 separate dialects within China. Not just different accents, but completely different versions of the language. Because Kunshan is a big city with a lot of jobs, the people here come from all over–which means that there are a lot of different dialects and accents. I’ve had situations where I asked how to pronounce something, and two or more of Chinese staff will argue about it.

Anyway… A few more words in the book, a few more words in my brain… I’m getting there.

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