27 January 2010

Language barrier

I do not speak Chinese.

Largely because there is no such thing. China's citizens speak anywhere from 30 to 300 different languages depending on your inclination towards pedantitude. Mandarin is the most spoken language, although it doesn't carry the same expectations and usefulness, say, as standard High German does throughout Europe.

Mandarin is not the primary language of Fujian (the area I will visit during the Horner Exchange). It's Min.  Yet, most language learning tools I've found only cover Mandarin.

Normally, before any trip, I study the language, dip my toes in the water at least enough to say Thank You and Where's the bathroom? I also rely on my, if I do say so myself, strong ability to learn a language in situ and communicate via a combination of clowning and telepathy.

But China... What I've heard from friends who have gone before me, is that no matter how much or how little they studied before the trip, once there, it was if they had done nothing. If that's the case, I'm seriously thinking about just winging it.



  1. I was going to suggest you contact the people I know who've gone to/live in China, but none of them are in that region. I think you're going to have to wing it.

    You'll have to teach me your telepathy skills. I've only got mild clairvoyance, which is mostly just annoying.

  2. Yep, probably going to trust the universe on this one. The first time I went to Bulgaria, with little prep and a phrasebook, Jacquie S. and I stayed awake on the the flight over while a Croatian dude sitting next to us taught us how to say all kinds of useful phrases. Enough that I could argue with taxi drivers trying to cheat us. ;)

  3. This is really good to know especially that I have only learned one word so far: Ni hao (Hello)
    Nancy Hoover