Day 138 - Mandarin Massacre

Friday, June 24th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Somethings off...

There’s more traffic coming and going, actual guards directing it, and more non-teachers/students on campus. Just enough to be noticeable. Some of the students are also dressed in costumes, and non-uniform outfits.

Turns out it’s grade 6 graduation. Must be kind of sad, since I believe that’s when they finally part from their teacher who had been with them since grade 1.

Kid Humor

My classes are the same old. I’ve noticed that they all find it hilarious whenever one of the student’s names is read out in the stories. I’m not sure if this is just something kids find funny, or maybe because Chinese names will almost never be read out in a random story.

Chinese Names

I had asked a friend of mine what a common Chinese name was. Like “John,” or "Katie" in English. He said there wasn’t any. Chinese names are usually picked from the meaning of more than one character and put together. You take 2 words, put them together.. BAM! You got a name, son. If you’re anything like me, you started thinking of the dumbest ones you can imagine.* Point being: I include their names in stuff randomly and they love it.

The old folks, hanging out,
whiling away the day over a deck
of cards and raucaus conversation.
Hug Swarm

In the afternoon classes, I’m back with the grade ones. It’s different here because I normally teach two separate classes. It turns out that they’re sister classes, meaning they’re actually all in class together, but we split them in two for English. On my way to the class, I am hug swarmed. Normally when they latch on, I tickle them and they instinctively release enough for me to get away. This doesn’t work when there’s more than 3 of them. By the time two unlatch, more would cling on. I need to rethink that question of “How many 5 year olds can you beat in a fight?

Twice The Fun

Managing 20 grade 1’s is hard enough when you’re not the usual teacher, you don’t know all their names perfectly, and have no ideas about their discipline system. Double the quantity and it’s totally easier. No Joke. Just yell out the names of the troublemakers, go on the prowl and pounce on whoever is acting like a dummy. Eventually I was relieved by the supervisor who helped with my bathroom fix, leaving her and one of my Friday CoTeachers to hold down the fort. Good luck, I hope you’re able to hold off the hoard.

Mandarin Difficulties

Part of the School Zoo
Remember: Geese can't fly.
A friend sent me an article about how difficult Chinese is to learn, saying that “at best, a waste of time; at worst, futile.” The article makes a very good case, and I might be more discouraged if it didn’t focus almost exclusively on the characters and not the actual spoken language. Still, some valid points, and it’s quite entertaining - you can find it here.

Realize this: these kids are learning a second language, but haven’t fully mastered the characters of their own yet. They’re in grade 2! They don’t even have their own writing system down! They have ours down! What!

Article Reactions

After reading the article, I revert to my usual (false) approach to Chinese: I pretend not to know that only English has a wealth of inside jokes and spin off phrases, formal, flowery, and commonly spoken or written language. Further, I pretend "China is relatively isolated and probably hasn't sprawled out as much as the rest of the world." I then put my head down to learn the common word for leg or arm. This is the ONLY word for this thing, I tell myself. There, that's handled. Clap the dust off my hands and call it a day. Done and done.

I'll pull out the rest of my hair later when things are further complicated. I'll try to stop asking "why?!" when the seemingly nonsensical happens. English also makes no sense at times, but we overlook those slip ups. "It's the exception that proves the rule"; "I could care less"; "What you sayin'?" 

Dexter decided to tag along with me to the massage place tonight. We arrive at 10 and I try to say I don't have the coupon/purchase code. I show cash and she says no, saying something that I guess means purchase code or coupon. I try calling Shimou for help, but she was showering. They lead us to another guest who speaks English "you must wait until 10:30" he says. I reconstruct how one might say that: "shí diăn bàn." Damn it. That's exactly what she had been saying. Gotta stop copping out so quickly in the future. Like language-based functional fixedness

*Butthead (pìgu tóu), CarShoe (Chē xié), PigTree (zhū shù), ButtKiss (pìgu tóu)

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

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