The other day, the Vice Principal of my kindergarten gave me this lesson book. She even wrote my name on it, how sweet...
She wrote down all of the Chinese consonants and vowels (what they call Initials and Finals respectively) and had me practice with her. She made the sound, and I repeated the sound. Sometimes I repeated the sound multiple times until she was pleased with my sound-making. It looks easy, but some of the sounds are produced quite differently than how we would make them in English. And some sounds don't even exist in English.
Today, my Principal gave me a paper that she made for my first Chinese lesson. I figured something that may help me learn the intonations and Chinese characters faster is reproducing each lesson here on my blog, using translation sites to help find the same characters. Here's Lesson #1, in pinyin (pīnyīn - the phonetic system), the English translation, and the Chinese characters (called hanzi I think - hànzì)...
A: ní hǎo Hello
B: ní hǎo Hello
A: zǎo shàng hǎo Good morning
B: zǎo shàng hǎo Good morning
A: xiè xie Thank you
B: bú kè qi You're welcome
A: duì bù qi Excuse me / Sorry
B: méi guān xi That's ok / No problem
In around 2006 I started studying Mandarin on CDs just for the heck of it. I figured what better way to kill time in Los Angeles traffic than by learning a new language. A few reasons for choosing Mandarin came to mind... 1) I've always thought Mandarin to be a beautiful language, 2) Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, the only language spoken by more people than English, and 3) Since I was in the business world, it made practical sense to learn Mandarin for the future (was fairly certain I'd be interacting with Chinese companies or business people at some point in the future).
So I started playing the CDs in my car as I drove around Los Angeles to my various client's offices, practicing speaking the words and phrases after the man and woman on the CD, mimicking their intonations. I was pretty good about doing this on a somewhat regular basis for awhile, but dropped off in the last couple of years. I was surprised though at how much resurfaced as soon as I arrived in China. Something clicked and I was saying the phrases from the CDs as if I had been practicing them all along. I remembered how to say "Excuse me, please let me ask..." and "I speak English" "Do you speak English?" "I speak a little Mandarin" "I don't speak well" and most importantly, "I want to order two beers."