Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learning Mandarin

Sign outside Shanghai #3 Girls'School
What do you think this old Chinese pictograph means?
Mandarin Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, almost a billion people speak it!  Chinese is written using characters, a language of pictographs. Lucky for us, Pinyin is also a way of writing Chinese using the Roman alphabet. Because the pinyin system was officially adopted in China in 1958, we can read the letters and understand the written sounds of Mandarin when it is written in Pinyin.  Learning how to pronounce the words and using the right tones is the challenge.

Ni hao  (nee how) Hello  We can understand the consonant sounds, we just need to know how to pronounce the vowels and blend sounds correctly and of course we need to study vocabulary and sentence structure.
 Xin nian kuai le! (sheen nee-ehn kwaee-luh)  Happy New Year!

The subway  is packed!

Leaving the subway is also crowded.
 I, Jeanie,  started taking Mandarin classes six weeks ago.  I go every weekday from 9:00-12:30.  I can either take the subway (takes 20 min.),

  Or I can walk to school through Jingan Temple Park! 
Dancing in large or small groups is a daily sight in the park
People in the park doing their eye exercises, really!
Jingan Temple a midst high rises

Shanghai Center

I-Mandarin is the name of my Chinese Program.  We meet at the Shanghai Center.

 My group class consists of Charlie from Australia and me.  Our teacher is fantastic!  She is energetic, explains things well in English, expects us to converse in Chinese, and holds us to high standards.

Charlie and Laoshi (teacher)

Laoshi, Ling Yen

Jeanie's essay in pinyin about where she lives.

Ling Yen gives us homework every night and we write three essays per week, not with Chinese characters, but in Pinyin (Roman alphabet).

Learning Chinese has been fun, yet challenging.  The minute I think I know something, I practice it with a shopkeeper, and most times, they don't understand what I'm saying. The four tones to the Chinese language are really difficult.

 However, I am beginning to make a little sense, so I keep trying!  Ken had success yesterday when he asked the waiter, Qing, maidan  (Cheeng, my dahn.)  Bill, please! He indeed got the bill.

I will continue to take Mandarin lessons through out 2013.  The cost is about $15 per hour for a group class, only 2 of us in the group, sort of like private tutoring


Ni Hao Ma? ( Nee how ma) How are you?
Most people respond:  Hen hao  (hen how)  = very well
or try this fun word:

Mamahuhu  (mamahoohoo)= so, so (direct translation is horse, horse, tiger, tiger:)

Another useful phrase is:
Duo shao qian?  (doo oh shaow chee-en)  How much is it?
If you don't understand the response, just point to shopkeeper's big calculator. And then punch in a price that is much less than the asked price.  From there, your bargaining begins!

Much of Mandarin is very logical:
Dian= electricity
Dianti= elevator (electric ladder)
Diannao= laptop (electric brain)
Dianying= movie (electric shadow)

Confucius Temple  Neighborhood  in Nanjing
It's been a privilege to be able to spend my days learning another language and culture. It's exciting and frustrating all at the same time.

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."  ~Chinese proverb

Nanjing, former Chinese capital, at night
Zai jian (zy jee -en)  See you again,

Lanterns of Nanjing

Next time:  Chinese New Year, the year of the Snake

Saturday, January 5, 2013


 Thailand in December:  4 hour flight from Shanghai, $500 per person round trip. So many places to visit, so little time.
Water taxi to many tourist sights

First Stop:  Bangkok for two nights 

Stayed for two nights at The Shangri La Hotel

Chao Praya River, view from hotel room

Ornate facade of the Grand Palace

Fairy-tale like compound of the Grand Palace,
 includes the former residence of the Thai monarch

Wat Phra Kaew, temple of the Emerald Buddha
Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Second Stop:  Island of Koh Samet, 3 hour bus ride from Bangkok ($5.00 per person round trip) and 30 minute ferry ride away ($3.00 round trip), three nights

Warm evening on Koh Samet

Koh Samet is surprisingly underdeveloped.  Thick jungles, wooded trails, warm, clear aquamarine water, ideal place to relax.
Ken reaches the second highest point on island
Jeanie barely reaches high point

We could never do this in America...
restaurants move their tables right onto the sand
Grand View Resort Cabin, $128 per night
Fun place to sit and relax!
Amazing December Sunset

Thai and foreigners gather on the beach to eat seafood and watch fire shows
Third Stop:  Back to Bangkok for two more nights
Jeanie celebrates her 53rd birthday, December 31, in Bangkok
Hotel Restaurant, Ramada Inn on the River, $104 per night

Night View from Banyan Tree Hotel
Sunset at the roof top bar, Banyan Tree Hotel 

  We enjoyed a canal Long-Tail Boat ride past the floating weekend market.

What we loved about Thailand:  the people, the smiles, the food, the warmth. Come visit us in Shanghai, and take a trip to Thailand. 

Up Next:  Learning Mandarin...

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