Slices of Aladdin.
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Snippets of Xi’An
I’ve come to realize that one of the strongest language barriers I encounter on a daily basis with native Chinese speakers is humor. Mostly sarcasm. Like Mandarin, English is also an extremely tonal language, in which our emphasis and tonal placement frame our meaning. For us, it’s not always so much what we say, but rather how we say it that fully conveys our intended message. In contrast, Mandarin is a very literal language that leaves little room for flexibility. For instance in English, we can virtually say anything, including nonsense words, and call it slang. Mandarin has no such luxury. What you say is what you mean. Even if you laugh while (to us) obviously applying English sarcasm within Mandarin, it’s pretty likely a Chinese person will take you seriously.
I’ve often experienced this non-translation and it’s left me a little disheartened. The solution is to stop trying to apply English humor or syntax and start embracing sarcasm in Chinese. Easier said than done. How am I ever going to fully grasp what I can and cannot say, when it seems I’ll never fully understand how Chinese speakers think? What’s more, how can I bear to separate myself from something so true to my identity? To the root of my being? I’m not sure I know how to carry on an entire conversation without at least once instance of sarcasm, of a joke totally dependent on tone, on blatant irony!
As I watch blank and confused expressions on my teachers’ faces or internally sigh as they ask me why I’m always laughing I mourn the loss of my sense of humor. Useless. I swear guys, in English, I’m really funny.
This is the future of China
From a country commonly thought of as strictly censored and fixed in traditional culture, China has developed a highly driven youth generation whose values to a western population appear increasingly superficial. For Chinese young people finding a girlfriend or boyfriend is a very specific kind of jungle. At the starting gate, girls have the advantage as they greatly out number the men. The ladies get to be picky. Finding the man of your dreams only requires you to be two things: tall and pretty. For men, it’s competitive to attain the perfect TPCG (Tall Pretty Chinese Girl). However, the hierarchy of requirements may surprise you. We’ll start from the bottom: 4) He’s not ugly 3) He’s got a nice car 2) He, like you, must be Tall 1) Absolutely, positively must be LOADED.
And we thought we were bad.
Looks, which to me is the most common example of a superficial quality, barely makes the list! Romance is truly dead here in the Middle Kingdom, where money is the true bottom line.
What you see here is a TPCG having a photo shoot so she can paste her heavily photoshopped pictures all over cyberspace to tell all her perspective Porsche owners she’s out there waiting.
Why China is Great:
All of this for $2.30
上课 First Day of Classes （9／10）
Today was my first full day of class。 I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed being in class! So far, all of my teachers are very nice and (also) surprisingly understanding of our speaking struggles. Because let’s be real. Chinese teachers can be REALLY scary sometimes. Not the ones here. There must be some fine print requirement that all teachers on this program be ridiculously cute and perky. It’s hard not to smile when they talk and encourage you to tell them your mimi (secrets).
So here’s how it goes. There are four 1 hour classes everyday M-TH. We start of every morning 8am sharp with 大班课 (da ban ke) which is referred to as a lecture class with one teacher for 8-10 students. It’s less of a lecture than quasi-socratic method where the teacher asks questions regarding the text/grammar structures throughout the lesson. Then comes 小班课 (xiao ban ke) which is more of a drill session with one teacher to 5ish students. You go over sentence structures again in greater detail and receive more corrections in pronunciation. From here we go to 讨论课 (tao lun ke) with one teacher to 2-3 students. During this class we’re asked to discuss a given topic with our peers. The teacher is only present to correct/answer basic questions. She does not participate in the discussion. Finally, we end the day with 单班课 (dan ban ke) the one on one session. My experience with this today involved talking about myself a little and just chatting with my teacher about various topics while struggling to incorporate today’s new vocab and sentence structures.
I was relieved to discover I understood most of what my teachers were saying all day and wasn’t completely exhausted by the end of this collective 4 hours. Their method of teaching seems pretty effective. So far so good!