Posts Tagged ‘Mandarin’

Behold, pumplings!

November 20, 2012

Busy! That’s this week’s excuse! Four times a year I’m hit with a pretty hefty publication deadline, and yes you guessed it, this is one of those times. As I have been completing my course programming for Summer 2013, I have also been completing my Cert IV in Training & Assessment, while continuing to study Mandarin.

Last night marked my final Chinese class of the year, so the class hit Chinatown to a place called the Red Emperor and got our dumplings on. Funnily enough, since moving into the city, I have felt a bit disconnected. I haven’t had a regular dumpling haunt and it’s phased me a little bit. We’ve tried a number, including an awesome Japanese cafe’ named Yoyogi on Swanston Street, but hey, I miss Ramen King!

I am also fairly certain that the Red Emperor is where we had a farewell dinner with friends and family back before we moved to China. It’s been a few years now, and my perception of Chinese restaurants has changed somewhat. Back then it would have been oooer ahhh a Chinese restaurant in the city! Prestigious! These days it’s just eh, another cheap eatery with passable dumplings. That’s not to say the food there wasn’t good, it was quite hao chi actually.

I ordered a few of our regular dishes, trying to covert my classmates to the cucumber (+soy/garlic/chilli) salad that Courtney and I always order, and the shredded Sichuan style potato dish (+vinegar/chilli etc) which were both hits. Along with a range of dumplings I also came across a dish I don’t believe I had ever eaten before – but it was one of those dishes that has you saying, how the HELL did I not know about these?

These were pumpkin cakes – or pumpkin dumplings – hell, I don’t know what they’re called. One guy jokingly said they were called Pump Dumps – while his girlfriend called them Pumplings! PUMPLINGS! HAHA I freakin’ love it!

Anyhow, I am not normally a fan of pumpkin, but these PUMPLINGS are bloody delicious! They’re like small, deep fried cakes of puree’ pumpkin, and they’re sweet. They’re actually a dessert, so you wouldn’t go dipping them in your soy or chilli oil or what not. But god, are they delicious. I only managed to get two of them in total, but I swear, had the others not been there, I would have destroyed the entire plate. You can be assured I will be ordering them on a very regular basis.

In other news, I am thoroughly loving living in the city. It is without doubt one of the best decisions we have ever made. But more on that later 🙂

MMmmmm pumplings!

It’s not a hill but a mountain, when you start out climbing…

March 28, 2011

I have decided that I am going to continue my Mandarin study. It’s not that I actually stopped or anything, but I have been going through increasingly large spurts where my motivation to actually study language is at an all time low. This may come as a surprise to some people but…Language study is hard work!

There are two things that constantly come to mind when I think about my Chinese study. On the positive, the Lao Tzu quote, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Funnily enough, I have always taken a degree of motivation from that line. A language like Chinese feels like an impossibly large endeavour. If you think too much about it, if you concentrate on being fluent as opposed to getting there, it just kills your desire to continue. I have been studying the language for years now, but on a casual basis, and largely via self-study.

Which brings me to the second point which is now that I have several years of Chinese under my belt, I still feel like my progress is nowhere near where I would hope to be. If I listen to native Chinese speakers conversing in mandarin – such as on the Chinese news, in a Chinese movie or somewhere around Box Hill, I can barely understand the individual words, let alone ascertain their meaning. If I was to write down what they were saying, even completely without comprehension, I couldn’t even begin to guess. I am quite good at hearing pinyin, but man, when native speakers speak, it’s not only fast, but it blurs together into something incomprehensible. No amount of hearing it seems to change that either.

So while I intend on enrolling into a Mandarin class in May, I swear, finding the motivation to continue is a constant, uphill battle.

My ultimate goal is to become conversational, ideally fluent, but at the very least conversational. I want to be able to speak to someone in Chinese and then understand their answer…or most of it. Right now, while living in a town where the majority is actually Chinese, I too hesitant to try. I would rather be back in China speaking to someone who does not speak English as you simply have to have a crack at it. Here, it feels silly speaking another language when you don’t need to, even for the sake of questioning. Worse, if I do use basic Chinese, they then assume I can speak the language which ultimately ends in my feeling like an absolute tool when I can’t understand their reply.

Mandarin Chinese – Frustrating fulfillment

February 2, 2010

I am trying my hardest to learn Mandarin. Years ago when I was in school, I studied French for over three years, and now, some fifteen years later, I can barely speak a handful of words in that particular language. With Mandarin however, I would say I have been learning now for at least two years, and while my progress has increased, I am still very much a beginner.

Unlike my French tuition; which were proper classes, my Chinese study has been purely based on my own initiative. I haven’t had to feel the need to endure classes and to do homework – and probably as a result have learnt a lot less. Though I know a range of different things, I feel that the all important conversation is still frustratingly elusive in that, every time I learn a few more phrases, they don’t seem particularly conversational. It is my goal to achieve a small degree of fluency – at least enough that I can hold a proper conversation and stumble on through it, rather than comprehending next to nothing.

My original incentive to learn Chinese was because of the fact we were going to live in China – hell, it doesn’t get much more logical than that. During the process of learning, both myself and Courtney developed a keen interest in the language itself, which has continued until present – some 12+ months after returning home. While we live in a suburb that has a particularly large Chinese population (one of the things that drew us here), and hear people speaking Chinese practically every day, we still feel too shy to actually use it.

The main problem is, we do not know enough to actually respond. While I might be able to surprise a Chinese person with my good accent and pronunciation with the initial question – when they actually respond they are rewarded with a blank look – not unlike a stunned mullet.

The bulk of my learning has been done via audio courses, where I will listen and learn in places like the car or train. We have also attended various classes – even some in China – though I find other students to be particularly annoying, as with Chinese it is critical to pronounce things properly, and when the whole class is saying it at once, you can hardly tell if you’re even close. It’s hard enough to pronounce most Chinese words even solo.

We also paid a local Chinese woman some money to teach us for a few weeks, though she moved away which took that particular aspect away. We sorely wanted someone to hear us speak, to help us speak, and to give us feedback. Recently I have discovered via a webpage a great online community which is full to the brim of people looking for language partners. Here people use Skype to communicate with each other, and you can practically pick any language and find someone to practice with. I have tried this multiple times now and while it is immensely satisfying to converse in Chinese, it also shows me precisely how little I actually know. Nothing clears the head faster than being presented with a real live native speaker! I am developing a knack for forgetting precisely everything I have learned each time I attempt it.

Regardless of all of the above, I absolutely love learning this language. If anything, I wish I had started years ago, so that now I would be at a much higher level. It is challenging, and feels like an unscaleable mountain, but with each little chip away at its side, I make small amounts of progress.

Laoshi hao

May 12, 2009

Tonight we have our first lesson with a Chinese tutor of whom we met briefly last Tuesday night. Her name is Ying (said: Ing) and she is a mother living in Box Hill North who has been in Australia for approximately 1 year. Her english is good but she was quick to point out, not that good. To us her english was completely fine. This was precisely the type of person we were looking for.

To date we have had really no trouble communicating with non-english speakers – particularly when they are trying to teach us Chinese. It can be difficult getting a point across sometimes, or explaining something intricate, but when it comes to language learning we would rather someone who actually has a true to life Chinese accent and is sometimes difficult to understand as it makes the learning experience that much better.

So tonight we have our first lesson and I am keen to see what we are taught. I often think back to a lesson we had with Mr Pan where he tried to teach us a few simple phrases. The funny thing about that lesson was that both Courtney and myself remember what he taught us perfectly to this day. Thanks to Mr Pan we can say, “Is that your pen?” “That pen is mine!” which we adapted into, “Is that your cat?” As you can see, highly worthwhile knowledge! In return for him teaching this, we taught him the word ‘Short-cut’, and how and when to use it – to which he must have used it at least once every time we saw him from that point forward.

I wish to continue learning Chinese as I feel I already know enough to form a platform from which to learn more. I am highly interested in foreign languages, and while I find it considerably hard to stay focused and motivated, I have a real desire to be able to hold a conversation. I find myself constantly wanting to be around Mandarin speakers, my ears pricking up at each and every recognisable word. I find myself in shopping centre massage stores more intent on listening to them speak than the actual massage.

Courtney likewise has a keen interest but also the additional factor that she is returning to China for several weeks in August and in order to impress her bosses with her language ability, wishes to build on that. She’s going to primarily Cantonese speaking areas – such as Hong Kong and Macau, but they’ll also be visiting GuangZhou on the mainland, where Mandarin is freely spoken.


April 29, 2009

We have decided in the past few days that we’re going to find ourselves a tutor to continue learning Mandarin. In so many situations we find ourselves listening intently to Chinese people speaking the language and our ears prick up at each and every recognisable word.

We learned a large amount of Chinese prior to living in China and even more while in the country. While we can piece together quite a large number of words and phrases and also navigate the country quite comfortably, we are still nowhere near being conversational.

So the short-term goal is to pay a Chinese tutor once a week at first and continue learning the language that really interests us. It’s difficult, but so very interesting.

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