Sunday, April 09, 2006

Diary of Not a Rice Person: Progress in Cantonese

I have completed five classes so far. I'm going to have to take pictures of the school for you so that you can see what I'm talking about. On Thursday, the school decided to let two additional students enroll in my class, crowding our broom-closet sized classroom to six students and a teacher.

I walked in with a hot cup of coffee, which I had so proudly ordered, in Chinese, from the bakery next door. (If it had been a Chinese bakery, the counter clerk might have been impressed.) Anyway, to put down my bag, take off my coat, sit down and avoid scalding my classmates with hot coffee took about 6 minutes of detailed orchestration in which I had to be aided by two other students.

I thought about going out to the office to complain to Johnny, but I've decided to stop being a bitch for about five minutes, lest I develop a reputation. I sat down and just dealt with it.

Luckily, the two new students decided, halfway through the class, that we were too far ahead for them to catch up with us, so they left. Maybe this was my reward for not acting like a bitch.

We have finally moved beyond the bizarre phrases I discussed a few entries back, and have actually started to learn something useful. (Of course, I still committed most of the bizarre phrases to memory anyway. You never know when you might need to request three small bowls of tripe.)

I now regularly use my Cantonese in our neighborhood, where one can often see many Asians out walking around. I'm enjoying a fair amount of success. The other day I encountered a Cantonese family, and we enjoyed the following exchange:

Me: You all to be not to be China Person yes?

Them: To be! (Unintelligible)

Me: I not to be China Person! I to be America Person!

Them: (Unintelligible, and giggling)

Me: Good bye!

Them: (Giggling)

I am SO going to kick ass in China when we visit!

Even so, I have no idea how people deal with this language. It seems like there are only about twenty different words total, and they all mean different things depending on how you say them. For example, the word for Sir, even said with the exact same tone or inflection, can mean any of the following (and this is directly, verbatim, from my textbook):

To give birth to a baby child

To suffer from or to cause some sort of disease such as cancer or boils



Unfamiliar with

No wonder my mother-in-law is such an unhappy person!

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