Greetings from the Mainland!
I'm 19 pages into our textbook. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but believe me, every page is a mind-busting feat. So far, learning Mandarin has been a bit like the Gallipoli invasion: every inch forward is like crawling on your belly through ribbons of barbed wire. Ok, so maybe there are no Turks firing at you as you practice the four tones, but you get the point.
Speaking of Turks, I know a good (and inoffensive) joke. Here goes: What do you call a Turkish official at a baseball game? The Ottoman Umpire.
Sorry about that.
Anyhow, back to Mandarin. The program so far has focused on pronunciation and tones. The pronunciation is surprisingly not that difficult. Even the tones themselves are quite easy to make, in isolation. It's a bit like practicing the do-re-mi-fa-so's. In fact, a lot like it. Where it gets hard is when you try to string together a whole sequence of do-a-deers and female-deers together, add a few ray-a-drop-of-golden-suns, and garnish it with a needle-pulling-thread. That pretty much brings us right back to do.
I spent the evening yesterday practicing two sentences: Wo xi huan chi bocai; and Wo de erzi xi huan wan nitu. That is: I like to eat spinach (doesn't everyone?); and My son(s) like to play with soil. Pretty innocuous, right? Well, add the solfeggio and for a beginner like me it gets crazy. An hour later, my throat hurt.
But today I was rewarded for my efforts. Not only did I get a good laugh from my teacher, Yu Laoshi, when I said (in Mandarin) that my sons like to eat soil, but I now have a Chinese name!
Fu is the family name (an homage to the somewhat impossible to pronounce Frey) and is said with a rising tone. (Go on, try it!) Wei De means "Great Virtue". That's a lot to live up to! Jessica will probably receive a Chinese name today too! Something like "Iridescent Blue-eyed Princess" or "Jewelry Tower" (my favourite Chinese name).
But before you get all cozy with my new monicker, remember, its Fu Xiansheng to you! Mr. Fu! Better than Mr. T. Pity the poor Fu!