March 12, 2009

Chinese morning, noon and night by Jess

The rest of us received our Chinese names yesterday. Jude's is on top. zhu is said like Ju except that the tongue curls up to the roof of your mouth when you say it (on the first tone) and du is said like duh (rising on the fourth tone). We all know Jude has such clever morals!

Ari's is next. ai is said in the descending second tone like "I". rui is also descending. I find the sound r extremely hard to make and it seems to change all the time. This is my secret, whenever I have to make this sound, I just make the most Chinese sound I can think of to make, and the instructor usually nods! So, the ui in rui is said like "way". Lucky in Love!

My name is like Jessie ("Jyuh" on the rising fourth tone, and "see" on the high constant first tone). jie xi

It turns out that I have a tougher instructor than James does. The way that my instructor tests me to see if I have been studying is to say a word to me and have me spell it out in Chinese with all of the tones in the right spot. That's right Chinese spelling lessons after three days! But it is very difficult to distinguish sounds. For example, "j" and "zh" make the same J sound, but one is said with the middle of the tongue and the other is said with the tongue curled. This is the same thing for "q" and "ch" (both making a ch sound on different parts of the tongue) and for "z" and "sh" (both making a sh sound).

They also have a way of ordering the vowels according to importance. You put the tone over the most important vowel. Now this would be relatively easy if we didn't have a similar system in English (a, e, i, o, u and somtimes y). Their system is a, o, e, i, u. It is insanely hard to remember. So you can imagine that "spelling lessons" are very intimidating.

James and I spent two hours after the boys were in bed last night studying together and giggling at ourselves in our attempts to have a simple conversation. Especially because it turns out that James finds speaking Chinese easier when he uses a voice that sounds like Yoda! Here is our conversation, tones omitted due to inability to type them.

Jessica - "Fu xiansheng, qingwen nin guixing?" - Mr. Fu, excuse me, what is your honorable surname?
James - "Fu taitai, wo xing Fu, jiao Fu Wei De" - Mrs. Fu, I am surnamed Fu, full name Fu Wei De.

Anyhow, I have to go now. Two hours last night was not enough, I still have a good six pages of studying to do so that I don't fail my spelling test today!

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