My Chinese Journey Begins
I am here! What a trip and a long one at that. I have never experienced travel outside of the United States. And to go it alone was not something I was looking forward to doing. But all is well. I survived the initial phase of my journey and now I am with Tai. I must admit, as tired as I was from the flight and the way I had imagined in my head of meeting Tai in the airport (which did not come to realization), I still had tears as the emotions were unleashed with the simple reality of us meeting after so long talking on Skype and QQ International as we shared our hearts and feelings for over a year.
Now that I have been here for about 3 weeks and settled in a bit, Tai and I are doing well. I will try my best to document this journey while here in China and with the blessing of God our relationship will be one of love and newness of life. I hope I will bring you some interesting stories, some insight of the Chinese culture, history, sights, and experiencing the transition from living an American way of life to living a simplified traditional Asian way of life. As we begin our journey we will have much to learn and discover about each other’s cultures. There is excitement in the days, weeks, and months ahead. However, for me, this giant leap of 9,000 miles from the United States to China has also left me feeling a new nervousness at this beginning of living here. I am sure this nervousness will pass as the days go by and I become more accustomed to life here.
It has been a bit like a step back in time here in China. The way of life, the traditions, the simplicity, and way of viewing things (life). Our most difficult obstacle is and will be communication. Learning Chinese or the Mandarin language is a challenge. Tai is doing better at learning English. The cell phones are great to have with the translation apps. Technology I can use! There is help with the pronunciation and hearing words spoken in Chinese and English. Each night we lie in bed practicing some of the daily words and phrases we use. Tai likes to put an “a” at the end of many words. For bread, it is breada… eat is eata… etc. So I am helping her on being more concise. We laugh at how we try and say things in each other’s language. She has a high-sounding voice to me and speaks fast. She knows the word “slow” very well now as I remind her I need to hear the words clearer…Slow down! LOL
There are times when we talk it gets a bit frustrating. Even with the translation ability we have on our cell phones, things have been inaccurate on Tai’s end and on my end it has been somewhat complex . Part of the difficulty is when Tai sends me a message, the Chinese language does not use past tense, gender, articles (a, the, and, etc.). Unlike English, Mandarin is a tone language. This means that it uses the pitch (highness or lowness) of a phoneme sound to distinguish word meaning. In English, changes in pitch are used to emphasize or express emotion, not to give a different word meaning to the sound. In English much information is carried by the use of auxiliaries and by verb inflections: is/are/were, eat/eats/ate/eaten/to be/I, he, she am, etc. Chinese, on the other hand, is an noninflected language and conveys meaning through word order, adverbials or shared understanding of the context. The concept of time in Mandarin is not handled through the use of different tenses and verb forms, as it is in English. It is interpret based on the sentence structure. Mandarin words are based on tones (how the word is said/almost like pitch). Saying the same word in mandarin with a different tone can change the word completely. As with most typed communication you can get the emotions or personality of what is being said sometimes. Therefore, it is frustrating when things are taken the wrong way. But we understand this is our journey of learning, experiencing what is a new world to both of us. For me it is also a practice in patience. Learning something new, especially the Chinese language is proving to be quiet a challenge. I have been able to download a Pinyin Keyboard on my laptop. Pinyin is like the alphabet in sounds for speaking Mandarin. It adds the tone marks in the words and translates the words into Chinese characters. I have started Mandarin lessons online at YoyoChinese.com. This provides a systematic process of learning the Mandarin language. Plus it is helpful in teaching Tai English.
We are making progress… slowly. Hand gestures are used a lot. We take so much for granted in our daily speaking to each other. The dialects, colloquialisms, slang and the manner we reference things in America. Tai is totally clueless… Does anyone watch the Big Bang Theory? Well it is like Shelton… he does not get the common sense and idioms many people say. For the most part I need to express myself in complete sentences when speaking to Tai using the cell phone translator app or she could be left scratching her head trying to figure out what the heck am I talking about.
This is Chinese pinyin… “Zhè shì yīgè hěn kù de qiūtiān zài zhōngguó” (how words are pronounced in Mandarin. Notice all the little marks above the letters. They are tone marks and represent how you need to say the word. This is what it looks like in Chinese characters… 这是一个很酷的秋天在中国. Now I guess you are curious what I just typed? Maybe I should save for the next post… Haha. Ok, I am not that cruel. I know it would drive me crazy if I did not know what that translated to. The “z and zh” are pronounced with a soft “g” instead of a “z” sound. The last Mandarin word zhōngguó in English means China. The English translation to the Mandarin sentence above is… “It is a cool fall day in China. “
Well I guess I will end here for now. More to come later.